Johnny was being troublesome.
At least that is the way the story went, fragments of which I heard on the radio the other day.
Johnny was not only standing up on the back seat of the car while his father was speeding through the busy traffic, but Johnny also on occasion jumped up and down on the springs of the back seat.
Johnny’s father told him to sit down!
No response from Johnny, who felt quite safe beyond the reach of his father’s hand and aware that his father could not and would not stop in the midst of the stream of traffic. Children can sense such situations and are quick to take, advantage of them.
A sudden stop or application of the brakes, and, Johnny would come crashing through the windshield.
His father shouted at him again! And being preoccupied with the traffic his father called to him, “Johnny are you sitting down?”
Johnny’s reply was, “Yes, but inside I am still standing up.”
How true that is of us so much of the time. We conformto the law. Because we fear the punishment and not because we fear the Lord, we will avoid this or do that. Outwardly we are like the Pharisees, sitting down in “perfect” obedience. Yet inside we are still standing up and doing our own will. Is the end of our faith nothing more than getting us to do as Johnny did?
Still standing up! That is the pride of man. And when we are forced to comply with the law, we do so while standing yet in our hearts in open rebellion against God. And that means, of course, that we might just as well be standing up outside as well. For as Solomon declared in his wisdom, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7. And, as we pointed out last time, such shall not see the Lord. For we do not see Him without holiness. And holiness is the condition of the whole man. The whole man is holy, or the man is wholly unholy.
To be holy is to be cut off from sin. The word “holy” in Scripture means literally “to be cut off, to be separate.” In that respect also we can speak of objects being holy. Only man, of course, is ethically and morally perfect and holy in that sense of the word. Sin is not in the thing, and therefore you can neither speak of an unholy or of a holy building, if what you have in mind is ethical holiness. Unholy works may be performed in one building while holy deeds are practiced in another. They may both have been built with their specific uses in mind. That does not make the one holy or unholy in an ethical sense. An edifice may be erected for worship of the living God, and we call it a holy place. Another structure may be built to serve the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. Yet the holy work of worshipping God can be performed in both, and likewise immorality can be practiced in both. The Greeks in Athens had Mars Hill where they satisfied their sinful natures. Yet Paul preached the Word of God there. And on many a pulpit today sins are committed, and sin is upheld. There are places which are called holy where very unholy deeds are performed.
Nevertheless, we can speak of certain places and precincts as holy in that basic sense of the word. These places and areas have been set aside, set apart, separated from other regions for special work. Such was the Temple of Solomon, which also had holy precincts within it. There was the holy place and the holy of holies. That inner area of the temple was not more holy actually in an ethical sense than the holy place or outer court. But it surely was more separate, cut off more distinctly from any other area in the whole world. Its very veil made it the most cut-off place in the world. Only one man might ever enter it, and that only once a year with the blood of a lamb. Only the priests might enter the holy place. And that temple was built only for God’s people. All this taught us that our hearts must be set aside for only one activity. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, mind, and strength. That is what it means that our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost. For God is holy. He is that because only He is Creator and God. There is none like unto Him. He is not even in a class by Himself. He is above all classification. He is God, and therefore He is holy. Therefore we pray, “Hallowed be Thy name.” By that we must mean that it is our sincere and unchanging desire that HE be GOD ALONE. And He is holy also in that ethical sense that there is no darkness in Him or even a shadow of turning.
The salvation of our souls, which Peter declares is the end of our faith, is exactly that. We will have our souls cleansed from all evil. We will not simply sit down outwardly, as Johnny did in fear. We shall sit down from the heart and soul outwardly through the whole being. It will be a matter of displaying salvation from the center of our being to the outward manifestations of our external deeds. At the moment, and through our entire earthly life it will be a matter of working OUT that salvation, Perhaps a better translation of Philippians 2:12would be, “Work through your own salvation.” But the point is that, even as the next verse indicates, God has worked IN us to will and to do of His good pleasure. Holiness and salvation are not some whitewash or rouge that God applies to the outward surface. Salvation is a work of God that begins in the very depth of our being. God touches the heart of the matter,—He touches our hearts,—when He begins the work of salvation in His child. It is, in the first place, a matter of the salvation of the soul and not of the body. The body will soon die. If the soul has not been saved, and if salvation has not begun in that soul, so that we will and in principle are able to do God’s good pleasure, there is nothing at death that can enter the glory of heaven. Even though we may through carnal fear be sitting down outside, that which is still standing up inside must be cast from God’s presence. Remember that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Oh, he shall see Him in His wrath, and he will then have the fear of the Lord that terrifies. But He shall not see Him in His love and live with Him in His house of many mansions.
As we stated a moment ago, in this life it will be a. matter of working out our own salvation: It will be work. And we will not attain to perfection. What God implanted in us is perfect. The salvation of our souls is a complete deliverance from all evil. The whole man must be and will be delivered before we see God. In this life, and in His fear, we work out of that center of our being the salvation which God implanted there, so that it takes hold of all our members and all our faculties. It is there because God worked, it in. And you may note that, in both instances the word “work” is used. God works in it, because it is contrary to our nature. We do not reach out and accept it. We do not open our hearts and. let Jesus come in. God works it in, that is, God with His irresistible grace forces it in contrary to our desires, as we are by nature. We put up opposition. To us also it must be stated, as to the apostle Paul, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” The dumb mule will do that, and so will the ox. When he is goaded with the iron-pronged stick because in his stubbornness he will not pull the plow, he often kicks back at the pricks and gets himself in a worse mess than before. He hurts himself. So we kick against the truth, against the Spirit, oppose the admonitions and exhortations, rise up in rebellion against those whom God uses to point out our errors, and kick at the pricks. Nevertheless, in His own God works both to will and to do. He overcomes our fiercest opposition and the wonder of salvation is wrought within us.
And we work that salvation out. It is hard work because of the opposition that the flesh still gives us every step of our earthly way. We have received the seed of that new life, which is perfect and holy, as John declares when he states that he that is born of God doth not commit sin and cannot sin because His seed remaineth in him. I John 3:9. He takes hold of our members and subdues them for the glory of God. He works out that salvation so that it permeates the whole man. The end of our faith is the moment when man according to body and soul is holy, and when the child of God has the victory over all sin and its consequences.
It is for that very reason also that God brings His child into death. Then for the first we are to see God. Through death God severs us from the old man of sin and all the motions of sin. Indeed, death is a work of God’s grace as well as life. “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those that fear Him.” Psalm 103:17. His mercy and grace are upon us then when He brings us into death. The work of holiness of the soul is complete. There is then no. more working out of that salvation but a glorious and joyful working of that salvation. And we are brought to that of which faith is the God-given means.
Meanwhile, while we still are here to work out our salvation, it is by faith that we receive strength to do so. Not only is there the opposition of the flesh; there is also the opposition, of the ungodly world. And what we see with the natural eye will frighten us rather than encourage us to work out our salvation. What good can it do? What is there in it for us? The more we become like the Christ, the more we will be hated of men. The fear of the Lord brings the world upon our necks! Shall we go on? Shall we invite more persecution and, tribulation? Indeed! We shall go on. The fear of the Lord, or if you will, faith, has for its end salvation full and free. There may be momentary misery and torment. But fear not those who can only destroy the body. Rather fear Him who can cast body and soul into hell. In His fear is life and peace and joy. For read the whole expression of Peter, “Whom (Jesus Christ) having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now, ye see Him not, yet believing ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” That salvation of the soul brings joy and glory to the believer. He sits down in love and faith and hope. And he enjoys the consciousness of God’s love for him. And fighting against the flesh that still wants to stand up, he has the assurance that in principle he is holy and shall see the Lord. In the fear of men that moves to hiding our faith, we will only know God’s wrath. In His fear that fights against sin and evil within as well as without, we are sure of the goal of our faith.