Many start in the way, and this is the right thing to do. But by not properly estimating the force against them nor their power to meet it, they do not prosper in the way as they should, nor as they expected. They do not rightly estimate the power of sin, nor their power to meet it successfully. In a little while they find themselves failing repeatedly, and then, after many "ups and downs," they begin to think that that is the way, and then begin to excuse sin, and apologize for it, and try to strike conditions of peace in that sort of experience. But this will never do. Victory can never come that way.
No; sit down first, and "consult" as to what are the forces against you, and whether you are able to meet them, and if not able to meet them, then what to do in order to meet them successfully; for no apology, no compromise, no peace, must ever be sought or allowed with sin. "Consult" the chart of the field of battle, the Bible. "Consult" the One who knows, as to the power of the enemy. "Consult" the Great Commander in the field, as to what equipment and what power are essential to assure victory, not only "at last" but at first. Time, even much time, spent in this consultation at the beginning, would be always a gain rather than in any sense a loss.
The difficulty does not lie with any one, in any failure to acknowledge the fact of sin. With every one the whole difficulty lies in failure to acknowledge the power of sin. Everybody is willing to admit that he has done wrong,-- that he has aimed to do right, but has missed the mark; and this is only to acknowledge the fact of sin; for to sin is only to miss the mark. Many are willing to be specific, and to say that they have actually sinned, and are altogether sinners, and to confess it to the Lord. It is well, it is right, to do all this; and yet all this can be done, and in fact, is done by many without their acknowledging or confessing the power of sin.
Many do all this, and yet depend upon themselves and what is of themselves, to defeat sin. They insist that they could do better if only they had a better chance; but circumstances are unfavorable-- the neighbors are bad; the church-members are not all converted, and therefore matters of church or Sabbath-school work are unpleasant and "trying;" their own family relations are not the best. All these things and such as these are counted hindrances to progress in the Christian life; and they themselves could do better and be better Christians if circumstances were only as favorable as they should be. These persons hold that inside they are all right, the good is there; it is outside where the evil lies, and the good that is in them does not have a chance to show itself. If only all the evil influences without, and all opposing circumstances were taken away, then, Ah! Then, they could easily enough be Christians of just the right kind.
But this is all a deception. It is but an argument presented by the deceitfulness of sin. It is not anything outside of us nor around us, but only what is in us, that can hinder us from being Christians of just the right kind. It is only the power of sin working in us that can ever hinder us in the least from being straight-forward Christians. And until that power is recognized and confessed, we cannot be delivered from it. But when it is recognized and confessed, we can be delivered from it; and just as constantly and just as thoroughly as it is recognized and confessed, just so constantly and so thoroughly can we be delivered from it. And deliverance from the power of sin is Christianity. The life that is delivered from the power of sin is a Christian life in truth, and it cannot be anything else.
The word of God has made this as plain as anything can be made. The whole thought of Scripture is to show that there is power in sin. The Scripture does not want men to entertain any other view of sin than that there is power in it, and that this power is absolute so far as man himself is concerned. The statements of Scripture, and the very terms in which these statements are framed, show this.
There is power in grace as certainly as there is power in sin. And there is "much more" power in grace than there is in sin. For "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Rom. 5:20.
We have found that there is power in sin to reign over man, and hold him under its dominion. And just as certainly there is power in grace to reign over sin, and hold man under the dominion of grace against all the power of sin. For ":where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that [in order that] as sin hath reigned,...even so might grace reign. "Rom. 5:20.
The word "reign" here applied to grace, is the same word precisely that is applied to sin. It means as to grace precisely what it means as to sin. The definition of "reign" is just as true when referring to grace as when applied to sin: "To hold and exercise sovereign power; to exercise commanding influence; to dominate; to prevail irresistibly; exist widely, or to the exclusion of something else."
All this is true of grace as certainly as it is true of sin. As certainly as sin holds and exercises sovereign power, and prevails irresistibly to the exclusion of everything else where it reigns, so certainly grace will hold and exercise sovereign power, and will prevail irresistibly to the exclusion of sin, where it is allowed to reign. For "as sin hath reigned,...even so might grace reign." "As" and "even so"-- think of these expressions. "As" and "even so"-- what do these words mean?-- They have no other meaning than "to the same extent or degree; in the same way; like as; even as; just as." Like as sin hath reigned,-- just as sin hath reigned,-- to just that same degree it is intended that grace shall reign, and to that degree grace will reign wherever it is allowed to do so.
These expressions emphasize the necessity, before pointed out, that the reign of sin shall be recognized as absolute. The reign of grace must be absolute, or else its purpose will be frustrated. But the reign of sin must be recognized as absolute, or else the reign of grace cannot be so; for just as sin reigned, even so grace. Therefore it is perfectly plain that not to recognize the power and reign of sin as absolute, is to frustrate the grace of God.
This is why it is that the Scriptures insist so strongly upon the fact of the power and reign of sin over men. This is why the Lord wants that fact recognized and ever held in mind. The Lord wants men to be absolutely free from sin, and to be the servants of righteousness. But this cannot be, so long as men fail fully to recognize the power and reign of sin. Therefore he tells men over and over and always insists that of themselves they have no power at all against sin; that they are slaves to a power which keeps them from doing the good that they would, and compels them to do the evil which they hate. This the Lord tells to men because it is all true; and he wants men to believe what he tells them as to the power and reign of sin, so that they may know the power and reign of grace.
For grace is to reign as fully as ever sin did. The power of sin is to be so broken that the slave is free, and no more serves sin. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Rom.6:6. Men have served sin; they do serve sin. But God has provided that henceforth they shall not serve sin; that they shall be free from sin, and the servants of righteousness only, as formerly they were free from righteousness and the servants of sin only. "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Rom. 6:14. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom.5:21.
It is therefore perfectly plain that to obtain the reign of grace in our behalf, it is essential that we confess the reign of sin. To know the power of grace, it is essential to confess the power of sin. And to insure the continued power and reign of grace, it is essential that there be a continued confession of the power of sin. To insure the absolute reign of grace, it is essential that we continually confess our absolute weakness and helplessness in the presence of the power of sin; to confess that in us "dwells no good thing; "Rom. 7:18. and that we have "no confidence in the flesh." Phil. 3:3. Then the way is clear for grace to manifest itself. And there being nothing to hinder the power of grace, its reign will be complete.
We are constantly to confess our weakness, our absolute helpless-ness; but we are not do deplore it. Just here is where many miss the right way. They do feel their weakness, they confess that they do; but they do this only to deplore it and fairly to work themselves into discouragement and even despair over it. This is all wrong; this is to take the wrong road entirely. It is right, yea, it is essential, that we confess always our weakness, our absolute helplessness. This is the key of the whole situation. But instead of deploring it, thank God for it; for Christ says: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:9. Instead of being discouraged by your weakness, glory in it; for it is written, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Cor. 12:9. So long as we feel that we have any strength to cope with sin, we depend upon this instead of upon grace, and so we are defeated; we depend upon ourselves instead of upon the Lord, and so we fail. But when we constantly confess our absolute weakness, and recognize the fixed fact that there is no power, no help, no good thing, in us against the power of sin, then we shall depend wholly upon the Lord: all our hope will be in grace. And the way being thus fully opened and held unhindered to the work of grace, grace will fully occupy the place, and will reign against all the power of sin. And then "sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Rom. 6:14.
Thus it is that "when I am weak, then am I strong." 2 Cor.12:10. It is only when we are weak, that we can possibly be strong. No Christian wants to feel any other way than weak, because then he knows that the way is open for grace to reign; and thus when he is weak, then he is strong-- "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." Eph. 6:10. When you feel strong, you are certainly weak; for strength is not of yourself that you can feel it, but of the Lord, that you may believe it. When you feel strong, you think you can stand; but "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." I Cor.10:12. But when you feel weak and know that you cannot stand, then "he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand." Rom. 14:4. Thank the Lord that you do feel your weakness, and even then believe that your weakness is greater than you feel. And then believe in the Lord's strength for you, and in his abiding grace to impart this strength to your life, and reign there over all the power of sin-- reigning through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Then as it is the truth of God that "as sin hath reigned...even so might grace reign," Rom. 5:21. and "sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are...under grace," Rom. 6:14-- then, under the reign of grace, it will be found just as easy to do right, as under the reign of sin it was easy to do wrong. Then it will be found, indeed, that His yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
"Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger." Take your place on the Lord's side without reserve. Cut loose from the world; follow its ways no more. Turn to God with all your heart, and he will make with you a covenant of peace; his truth will become your shield and buckler.