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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Dead works and works of righteousness—what is the difference?

“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the Law [its power of guilt and our reaction in sin] by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.” (Rom. 7:4,5).

This goes along with Paul’s statement, “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Cor. 15:56,57).

“Now we are delivered from the Law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom. 7:6). The slain body of Christ delivers us from the Law and “dead works” (Heb. 6:1), “the motions of sins”. We are no longer married to the Law, a law, an impersonal force, but to Christ, the living God who risked His eternal life for us and also loves righteousness. “And I gave them My statutes, and shewed them My judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Moreover also I gave them My sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.” (Eze. 20:11,12).

“Convinced of the necessity of holiness of heart, as well as correctness of outward deportment, they [the Wesleys] set out in earnest upon a new life. By the most diligent and prayerful efforts they endeavored to subdue the evils of the natural heart. They lived a life of self-denial, charity, and humiliation, observing with great rigor and exactness every measure which they thought could be helpful to them in obtaining what they most desired—that holiness which could secure the favor of God. But they did not obtain the object which they sought. In vain were their endeavors to free themselves from the condemnation of sin or to break its power. It was the same struggle which Luther had experienced in his cell at Erfurt. It was the same question which had tortured his soul—‘How should man be just before God?’ Job 9:2.” Great Controversy, p. 254.
   
“When Charles Wesley at one time fell ill, and anticipated that death was approaching, he was asked upon what he rested his hope of eternal life. His answer was: ‘I have used my best endeavors to serve God.’ As the friend who had put the question seemed not to be fully satisfied with his answer, Wesley thought: ‘What! are not my endeavors a sufficient ground of hope? Would he rob me of my endeavors? I have nothing else to trust to.’—John Whitehead, Life of the Rev. Charles Wesley, page 102. Such was the dense darkness that had settled down on the church, hiding the atonement, robbing Christ of His glory, and turning the minds of men from their only hope of salvation--the blood of the crucified Redeemer.” Great Controversy, p. 253.
   
“What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone.” (Rom. 9:30-32).

“Present truth churches” are striving for self-denial, charity, holiness, striving to prepare for standing before God without a Mediator, to perfectly reproducing the character of Jesus so that He can come and claim us as His own. As it is written,

“Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69.

Yet, what are we actually reproducing?  We are perfectly reproducing the history of the Jews—we have not attained to the character of Jesus, as it is written. “Wherefore?” “Because [we] sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For [we] stumbled at that stumblingstone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.” (Rom. 9:32,33).
G4102 pistis From G3982; persuasion that is credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly constancy in such profession; by extension the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself: -assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.

“So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:19).
G570 apistia From G571; faithlessness, that is (negatively) disbelief (want of Christian fiath), or (positively) unfaithfulness (disobedience): -unbelief

Pistis and apistia are antonyms, the “a” prefixing apistia giving the reverse meaning of pistis. Unbelief is the opposite of faith, therefore unbelief in Christ means to be devoid of faith in Christ, as “atheism” is the total absence of faith in “theos”, God—“theism”.

But, the unbelievers tried. They tried hard to protect present truth. They were striving hard for holiness. They were working hard at preparing to stand before God without a Mediator. They were eeking out the perfect reproduction of Jesus’ character in order for Him to come and claim them as His own.

But, alas, just like the Wesleys, convinced of the necessity of holiness of heart, as well as correctness of outward deportment, the Present Truthers set out in earnest upon a new life. By the most diligent and prayerful efforts they endeavor to subdue the evils of the natural heart. They live a life of self-denial, charity, and humiliation, observing with great rigor and exactness every measure which they think could be helpful to them in obtaining what they most desire—that holiness which can secure the favor of God. But they do not obtain the object which they seek. In vain have been their endeavors to free themselves from the condemnation of sin or to break its power.

What are they missing? What is the difference between the protectors of Present Truth and the apostles?

Have they bowed their souls before the Most High God, before whom every mouth is stopped and all the world is made guilty? Have they been prostrated in their shame and horror for dishonoring God before unbelievers? Have they desired to be blotted out of existence for the exceeding sinfulness of their sins?

Then, have they hoped in the mercy of Christ? And then, have they sought His face for signs of acceptance? Have they yearned for that union with Him that would give them the wisdom and righteousness and sanctification that could keep them from falling back into gross foolishness and self-centeredness?

Have they been a soul petrified before God when their sins come to mind? Has the word of God been to them “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow” (Heb. 4:12)? Has it been the living word of God—“a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”, the power of the Highest—the power of God unto salvation? Or has the word of God only been lifeless, Christless words and dead letters that they turn into “dead works” (Heb. 9:14)?

If the Schoolmaster—God, and His great Representative, His Law—has desolated us, then He brings us to Christ to be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). No one can be sanctified and prepared for Christ’s return who is not presently justified. And no one can be justified who has not fallen on his face and received the gift of deep repentance. And no one has deeply repented who has not experienced the abject fear and conviction of sin from the Schoolmaster. They are humbled into the dust, fully humbled and speechless. “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.” (Job 40:4). “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6). “Now I … praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.” (Dan. 4:37).

They are dead to the Law and alive unto their Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Son of the Highest.

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified….
For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Gal. 2:16,19-21).

“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor” (Gal. 2:17,18), and “sin is the transgression of the Law.” (1Jn. 3:4).

Are we back to the beginning of a big circle? Which is our salvation—the grace of Christ or the Law of God? Should our focus be justification or sanctification? We can only know the answer to that dilemma if we start with an honest disposition toward the Law, between a conviction of sin in our conscience and the great Judge of all the earth. The experience of honesty with the Law and conviction of sin in our conscience will end in the sure truth. We must trust ourselves in the hands of the Father and Son to be fair in Their judgment of us. We must trust Them to take everything into account. We must trust Them, if They will, to err on the side of mercy. If it is our first go at it, total conviction and repentance feels like a real shot in the dark. “If I subject myself to God's condemnation of my sin, will He find my sin unpardonable? Will He find me unacceptable, unable to be reconciled with?” All we can do is enter into our chamber and see that we have a right “before the face of the most High.” (Lam. 3:35).

“Come, My people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.” (Isa. 26:20).

“For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
But through He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.
For He doeth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,
To subvert a man in his cause the Lord approveth not.
Who is he that said, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?” (Lam. 3:31-37).

“It is God that justifieth. Who is he that comdemneth?” (Rom. 8:33,34).

But, when we have been pummeled into the dust by this world, then there is no other option than God and His judgment. We have to go for it, even with all of its potential liabilities—abject humiliation and total surrender and dependence on God’s mercy.

“What is justification by faith? -- It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are prepared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. When they begin to praise and exalt God all the day long, then by beholding they are becoming changed into the same image. What is regeneration? -- It is revealing to man what is his own real nature, that in himself he is worthless.” E. G. White. Recopied Nov. 22, 1896. Special Testimony, A09, p. 62.

When there is no human who will forgive us for all the wrongs that we’ve done, only God is left to help us. And it is a fair assumption that He will make the situation more dreadfully revealing than any human or earthly institution ever could. We will see our nothingness, our unprofitableness and worthlessness, and will want to be blotted out of existence. But, He will make us feel like nothing because our seeing our own nothingness, which means seeing ourselves as we really are, will bring us a more wonderful blessing than the world could ever give us. He will give us perfect freedom from bondage by His free Spirit. He promises the greatest rewards for obedience to His call to humiliation and admission of our unworthiness. 

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