"Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:1,2).
There is nothing so hard for our hearts as to abide in the sense of grace, to continue practically conscious that "we are not under law, but under grace." It is by grace that the heart is established; but then there is nothing more difficult for us really to comprehend than the fulness of grace--that "grace of God wherein we stand," and to walk in the power and consciousness of it.
It is only in the presence of our Father that we can truly know grace, and there it is our privilege to be. The moment we get away from His presence (not in fact), there will always be certain workings of our own thoughts within us; and our own thoughts can never reach up to His thoughts about us, to the "grace of God."
Even after we have "tasted that the Lord is gracious," it is all too natural for our own thoughts to work as soon as we leave the presence of the Father; and the moment we do so, whether it be about our sins, or about His grace, or anything else that we are occupied with, we lose the sense of grace, and we no longer reckon upon it.
This getting out of our Father's presence is the source of all our weakness as saints, for in His strength we can do anything: "if God be for us, who can be against us?" The consciousness of our being in His presence makes us "more than conquerors." Then, whether our thoughts be about ourselves, or about circumstances around us, everything becomes easy. But it is alone, when in fellowship with the Father and the Son, that we are able thus to measure everything according to grace.
Are our thoughts about ourselves? When in our Father's presence we rest in His grace, and nothing can trouble us. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" "Who is he that condemneth?" "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" But when we get out of our Father's presence, we cannot any longer rest in His grace as when in fellowship with Him.
Lack of peace may be caused by either of two things; my never having been fully brought to trust in grace, or my having through carelessness (or worse) lost the sense of grace, which is easily done. The grace of God is so unlimited, so full, so perfect, that, if we get out of our Father's presence, we cannot have the true consciousness of grace--we have no strength to apprehend it; and if we attempt to know it out of His presence, we shall only turn it into licentiousness.
If we look at the simple fact of what grace is, it has no limit, no bounds. Be we what we may (and we cannot be worse than we are), in spite of all that, what our Father is towards us is love. Neither our joy nor our peace is dependent on what we are to God, but on what He is to us, and this is grace.
Grace supposes all the sin and evil that is in us, and is the blessed revelation that through our Lord Jesus all this sin and evil have been put away. A single sin is more horrible to God than a thousand sins--nay, than all the sins in the world--are to us; and yet, with the fullest consciousness of what we are in ourselves, all that God is pleased to be towards us is love!
It is vain to look at any extent of evil: a person may be (speaking after the manner of man) a great sinner, or a little sinner; but this is not the question at all: grace has reference to what God is, and not to what we are; except indeed that the very greatness of our sins does but magnify the extent of the grace of our Father. At the same time, we must remember that the object and necessary effect of grace is to bring our souls to know Him and to love Him. Therefore the knowledge of grace is the true source of growth.
How am I to know what is my father's mind towards me? Is it from judging of it from what I find in myself? Surely not! Supposing that I even found some good in myself, if I expected the Father to look at me on that account, would that be grace? There may be a measure of truth in this kind of reasoning; for, if there be life in my soul, fruit will be apparent; but this is not to give me peace any more than the evil that is in me is to hinder my having peace.
Grace first makes us children of God, and then gives us the knowledge of it, and that we are heirs of God. But what is the extent of this grace towards us? It has given us the same position that the Lord Jesus has. "We are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." It is not only certain that grace has visited us, has found us when we were "in our sins," but it is also certain that it has set us where the Lord Jesus Christ is; that we are identified with Him in all but His essential glory as God. The soul is placed thus in the consciousness of the Father's perfect love.
I have got off the ground of grace if I have the slightest doubt or hesitation about my Father's love for me. I shall then be saying, I am unhappy, because I am not what I should like to be. But, dear friend, this is not the question: the real question is, whether the Father is what we should like Him to be, whether the Lord Jesus is all we could ever wish.
If the consciousness of what we are, of what we find in ourselves, has any other effect than, while it humbles us, to increase our adoration of what our Father is, we are off the ground of grace. The immediate effect of such consciousness should be to make our hearts reach out to our Father and to His grace as abounding over all.
Sometimes perhaps the looking at our evil may be a partial instrument in teaching us it; but still even this is not all that is needed. In looking upon the risen Lord Jesus it is our privilege to forget ourselves. True humility does not so much consist in thinking badly of ourselves as in not thinking of ourselves at all. I am too bad to be worth thinking about. What I want is, to forget myself and to look at the Lord Jesus Christ who is indeed worthy of all my thoughts.
If we can say that "in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing," we have thought quite long enough about ourselves. Let us then think about our Father, who thought about us with "thoughts of good and not of evil" long before we had thought of ourselves at all. Let us see what His thoughts of grace about us are, and take up the words of faith, "If God be for us, who can be against us?"
When the heart is made full with the rich blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ, it will not turn back to gnaw upon itself.
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