#241, THE NATURE OF SAVING FAITH, #17
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory, COL 1:27.
Let's consider the preceding verse. COL 1:26 says, "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints." The Old Testament church had the ceremonies, burnt offerings, and all the types and shadows which were to reflect the satisfaction of God in the offering of Christ. They were to reflect in the covenant of circumcision, the perfect obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ becoming a debtor to do the whole law for His church. The burnt offerings were a type of the sacrifice whereby Christ was to come and take the penalty of the law. All of these types and shadows and reflections were a mystery.
Now our text speaks of the mystery among the Gentiles to whom God would make known the riches of glory. What is that mystery? It is Christ formed in you. It is Christ in us that becomes the hope of glory.
Satan has his counterfeit. The assurance of faith set forth in the gospel is the direct opposite of carnal presumption. Many suffer from carnal presumption; they think they have faith. They think they have salvation, but the assurance of faith in direct opposition carnal presumption or to unbelieving doubts, yet it is not opposed to thorough examination of self.
It is not in opposition of the gospel that we examine ourselves to determine whether or not the root of the matter lays within us. There is a need for a proper balance of truth here as in all other gospel truths. We must be very careful for Satan would have us in one barrow pit or the other. He doesn't care which side of the road we are on as long as we are off the road. We can have so many doubts and fears, so much self-examination that we have no faith at all, or we can have so much faith that it is nothing but vain presumption. We must examine ourselves, but we must do it by scriptural principles, not by frames, feelings, or by a given experience. I have repeatedly pointed out that we can have rich experiences, but still not have faith. We can be prophesying, speaking in tongues, or have great experiences and still miss the root of the matter.
The root of the matter is Christ formed in you, the hope of glory. Is Christ formed in you? We don't need a given check list of experiences, but we do need saving faith in lieu of presumption. We must watch that we don't have too many doubts and fears whereby depression follows. Depression is not godliness. There is no salvation in that. It is Christ in you which becomes the hope of glory.
The principle is commonly taught that it is wrong, or at least very injurious, to question our faith. We admit one can become unfruitful by this as we see in HEB 5:12; "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." We can become so cautious that we keep coming back to the first principles. We question whether or not we have the first beginning of faith in us. If we always keep coming back to that, we will never get beyond it. We "become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." We never grow.
So there is that danger, but on the other hand we must watch that we do not become so presumptuous that we don't examine the question, "Is Christ formed in me?". In other words, as we go forward in the work of grace, one thing never changes. Charity abides. If charity has been instilled in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, it will abide in us always, even into eternity. Charity should never be missing. We must constantly examine our heart to be sure it is there.
The apostles exhortation on this is found in HEB 6:1-3; he cautions us against always going back to the first oracles. "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit." We must go on to a holy life, seeking perfection with Christ formed in us.
However, it runs against Scripture's clear teaching to say that one is never to examine his heart to make sure the root of the matter is within him as we see in JOB 19:23-28. Job makes a powerful profession of faith, very powerful, but in Verse 28 he concludes with self-examination. "Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. But ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?" There is still matter of examining of the heart.
The regeneration of the Spirit is a progressive work in the soul. If we see that the root of the matter is found in us, we must not keep going back to all the things from the beginning. We do not need to reconfirm and reconfirm that we do have the beginning. We must go forward to grow. Yes, it does behoove us to examine our hearts whether or not the root of the matter is in us, this miracle has been wrought in us. Do we know what it is for Christ to be formed in us? PHI 1:6 says, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
When we may believe the Holy Spirit has given us the work of regeneration, we may by faith go on knowing that where He has begun, He will carry it on. We do not have to go back continually with doubts and fears about having the root of the matter in us.
The Apostle Paul could find no rest until he could see the beginning of this good work in the Galatians. He wanted to see something there that accompanies salvation, that the root of the matter was there. See his statement in GAL 4:19-20, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, [Paul was yearning to see Christ formed in them.] I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you." In other words, he hoped he could change his concern for them. He was examining them because he did not see the things that accompany salvation. He saw bitterness, fighting, envy, and other evils. Therefore, he wrote to the church to show them the difference between those who serve the flesh and those who have the fruits of the Spirit. He was watching the church at Galatia for evidence that Christ was formed in them instead of their serving the prince of the power of the air. It is not possible to serve both.
Our text refers to this forming of Christ in the soul as the mystery of the gospel which is the assurance of faith. The great mystery is to see that you and I, who are corrupt and self centered and serving the prince of the power of the air by nature, become Christlike, become a new creature. That new creature has new desires and a new heart; that which we loved we hate and that which we hated we now love. We learn to hate sin; charity takes on a new meaning. Loving God with one's heart, soul, and mind and loving our neighbour as ourselves is Christ formed in us.
COL 1:27 says, "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." The mystery is Christ formed in us, and therein lays our assurance of salvation and hope of glory. I can go through a great list of experiences, and experiences can be precious, but they are not a basis on which we found the hope of our salvation. Balaam had rich experiences; he was widely known as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord spoke to him, He gave him many directions. but Balaam never had Christ formed in him. He still wanted the wages of unrighteousness. We must analyze where our desire lays. Do we desire to serve God or flesh? Therein lays the mystery and the assurance of faith which is Christ in you.
Unbelief is far more than an error in judgment; we must understand the distinction between believing and unbelief. Unbelief is enmity against the sovereign authority of God. Believing is surrender to the sovereign authority of God. Unbelief is rebellion against the will of God.
HEB 3:17-18 tells us, "But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?" [or obeyed not as in the margin] During the forty years those in rebellion against His authority perished. They refused to submit; Christ was not formed in them. They still lived in rebellion.
When we go into the original, the words believed not have two definitions. The first is unbelief; the second meaning is contempt against judicial authority. It is as if one had been summoned to appear before the court and refused to do so. Can Christ be formed in a person who has never come to a total, unconditional surrender to the authority of God's sovereignty? No!
While in his natural state, man shuns the light of Christ lest it should pierce his conscience and disturb his false peace. Notice that coming to Christ is coming into the Light. Those who flee from the light lest their deeds should become known do not have Christ formed in them. If Christ is formed in a person, the light is in them; they come to the light so their deeds might be made manifest that they are wrought in God, cf., JON 3: 19-21. Christ is in those who come to the light because their desire is for knowledge of where they have offended so they may repent. Is the Light in you? Are you shunning the Light or do you come to the Light that you might know if your deeds are wrought in God? If Christ is formed in you, you want to know wherein you have offended so you might repent of it.
JOH 3:19 says, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." Herein lays the great mystery of the gospel! Herein lays the contrast between the regenerate and the unregenerate, between the believing and the unbelieving.
If you are looking for the assurance of your faith, the nature of that faith is Christ formed in you. When that is missing, and you are claiming faith, you are presumptuous. When it is there, you must not think that depression is godliness. The distinguishing mark of regeneration is the desire to know and do the will of God.
Those whom the Spirit has quickened come to the light, sincerely desiring to know and do the will of God. We see this in LUK 8:15 where Jesus gave the parable about the good seed. Some landed on stony ground, "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." An honest and good heart desires the truth; they hear the Word and keep it and do it. This is not legalism. This is not teaching merit in works. It is the evidence of Christ formed in you. When Christ is formed in a person, it becomes their chief desire to do His will because they love Him. The fact that we hear His Word, and keep it, is the fruit of righteousness and saving faith; it brings forth fruit with patience. This is evidence that the seed has fallen on good ground rather than gaining something based on the merits of works.
It is the heart desire and prayer of those who truly fear the Lord to know and do the will of God with a godly desire to please Him. If sons and daughters returned home only with their hands up, coming so they might get some inheritance out of it, the parents probable reaction would be that they could just as well go the other way. However, if those children came back to the parents without any thought of inheritance because they loved and wanted to be around the parents, they are coming to do what is pleasing to the parent. Then they are very apt to get the inheritance because they are their children and the motive is love and a desire to please. If our only motive of coming before the Lord is to seize upon the death of the Son for the inheritance, the Lord has no pleasure in such selfishness.
In COL 1:9-10 Paul is speaking about the mystery of Christ being formed in us; "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." Paul was praying the church would be filled with the knowledge of His will they "might walk worthy of the Lord," worthy of His pleasure and notice.
This is the mystery of the gospel spoken of in ROM 16:25b-26, "...which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith." Do you see that the whole mystery of the gospel is that our will is totally dissolved in the will of God? Rebellion and being self-centered human beings that fell in Adam have a hard heart and a rebellious spirit against God. That is the will which is now reconciled with the will of God. How did it happen? It is the mystery of the gospel. It was in Jesus Christ; in His circumcision pledge He came to fulfill the whole law in our behalf. In His baptism pledge He stepped into the wrath of the Father to take away the penalty of our sins. In His resurrection He raised again from the dead; He died to sin once, that He might now live unto God, cf., ROM 6:10. With Christ in me I become dissolved in the perfect will of God, and therein lies our hope of glory.
This voluntary crucifying of that ugly monster, "self," is such a mystery to the unregenerate. ROM 12:1-2 says, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
It is not unbelief to examine our own hearts to see if we have been transformed by the renewing of our mind. Do we understand what it is that we have such a desire to do the will of God? It means our will is dissolved in His will. When God's dear children see by coming to the light of God's Word how much indwelling sin still remains in their hearts, it causes much soul exercise. We may see that we have the root of the matter; we may see where the new man has been formed in us, but we may still have that old man striving against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. We see this warfare going on; it can bring us to such a struggle. It is not a matter of whether or not we are perfect; the essence of the issue is the presence of a desire to do His will. Have we been renewed in the spirit of our minds? Is it our desire to do His will? We find we come short.
David cultivates and examines his heart in PSA 4:4-5; "Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD." David instructs us to meditate upon the events of our day. Did they please the Lord or did we sin against Him. Did we have a wrong attitude or a right spirit? We must commune with our heart. We are not able to walk in perfection, so we must place our trust in the perfect work of Jesus Christ. It is in His perfect obedience that we see imputed to us, but we also want it to be imparted in us. In other words, it becomes instilled in our heart and our walk of life. We cannot base our hope upon having Christ's righteousness imputed to us so we can escape the responsibility to walk in Christ's footsteps. No. Rather, the meditation and examining of our heart is to learn how we can conform to Christs walk of life. It becomes our desire to please the Lord; everything we do to the contrary is a grief to us. Then we must come before the Lord pleading for Him to work in us to will and do His good pleasure.
David turns to the light of Holy Writ anxiously scrutinizing his character and conduct to prove whether they proceed from self-love or true love for God. We must analyze our character. Do we resemble the character of God or the character of Satan? What are our motives? What is there in our heart that motivates us to do what we do? We see that in PSA 77:3-7 David was scrutinizing his character and his conduct to prove whether they proceeded from self or from a true love for God; "I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. [David saw how far short he comes of doing His delight--doing the will of God. Sometimes one stands before the Lord unable to even raise the eyes for the desire of the heart is so strong to do the will of God, but spiritual warfare rages inside. The flesh still strives against the Spirit.] I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?"
I am not a stranger to this. There have been times when the Lord filled my heart with songs and His blessings. His Spirit was so over- whelming in my soul, but there were also the other times when it seemed that He withdrew Himself. Why? He withdraws Himself when we have been foolish and not walked worthy of the Lord. Then we can go among the people of God to ask if they have the nearness of God. Is it just me?
"I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?" Do you see how David is scrutinizing his own character and conduct. Why has the Lord withdrawn Himself? This is the same thing Paul was saying to the Colossians, i.e., that they would walk worthy of the Lord. If we do not walk worthy of the Lord, He will withdraw Himself.
There is a great contrast between unbelief, and examining our hearts to see if Christ is formed in us. David was examining his heart, but that is very different from unbelief as we see in 1CO 11:28; "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." Examine yourself, but don't fall in unbelief. Examine yourself so that if you identify sin in your heart, you can repent of it. You are not to give up your hope or your consolation of Christ being formed in you, but you examine yourself to see if there is an evil way within you; if you know there is, you can turn from it and repent of it. That is why you come to the Light.
As the true believer faithfully examines his heart in the light of Scripture, he finds that much corruption remains. We will never come to the point where we see ourselves in perfection when we examine our heart. The older we get the more we see that our heart is such a cage of unclean birds. We never come to the point of having a perfect heart. This is the source of the spiritual warfare spoken of in GAL 5:17. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."
It is the Holy Spirit in us that is bringing about that warfare which helps us to identify the sin that is still in our heart. That is what generates the holy warfare. If it wasn't for the Holy Spirit working in our heart, we would be under the rule of sin without knowing it. It is the work of grace in the heart that causes the spiritual warfare. It is a two-edged sword; "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do," ROM 7:19. However, the things that I would do with perfection, I find I cannot do, but I am restrained by the grace of God from doing many things that I would have done wickedly.
These are the two armies spoken of in SON 6:13 which show it is a continual struggle. How do we know we have the root of the matter? Is Christ formed in us? Is there a hope of glory based on Christ that has been formed in us and in our heart? "Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies." One army pulls one way and the other army pulls the other way in an ongoing warfare and continuous struggle against the power of sin. This is a good evidence of our saving faith because if we didn't have the work of grace in our heart, we wouldn't understand that spiritual warfare. It is the new desire and new man of the heart that generates the warfare against the old man of sin.
The true nature of saving faith is a tried faith. Do you know what it is to have true saving faith? Then you know what it is to have your faith tried. 1PE 1:7 says, "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." That is speaking of a faith that is tried with fire; it is in the furnace of affliction that severe trials come upon us. If there is no temptation to sin, faith doesn't get much of a trial. However, when powerful temptations to sin come against us, and the trial becomes more than we are able to withstand, and it brings us to the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e., it causes us to flee to the Lord Jesus to preserve us. Now, that fiery trial brings us to the point where the trial purges us; we become afraid of sin, our greatest enemy.
As a result of these trials of faith the real Christian comes to the light of God's Word to prove himself; as Satan comes with these trials, it causes us to flee to the Scriptures to discover the truth. It is to prove ourselves, but it is also to reveal any iniquity within us, so we can repented of it. Sometimes our heart becomes faint and we feel as if sin has gained power over us to the point where we have no might against it. It seems to rule over us with wrong attitudes and emotions. Then the Psalmist says in PSA 26:2-5, "Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart. For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth. I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evildoers; and will not sit with the wicked."
David fell with Bathsheba and Uriah, but he had not departed wickedly from the Lord's commandments. David acted against his hearts desire to do the will of God. Therefore, he could honestly say he hated evil. He examines his own conduct and heart by coming to the light of the Word so he might repent of the iniquities within his heart and mind. Read PSA 51 and see the remorse David had over his sin against Bathsheba.
Those who are filled with a carnal assurance, i.e., a fleshly confidence or vain presumption, scoff at any need for self- examination. They do not want to hear about it. "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" ISA 5:20-21. They are presumptuous; they have it all figured out and do not have a need to examine themselves.
One sure characteristic of those who have received the work of regeneration of the Spirit is that they frequently cry with David in PSA 139:23-24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." They have a desire to come to the light so the Lord might search them, work in them, to will in them to do His good pleasure. That is Christ formed in you, your hope of glory, and the work of regeneration.
Many in our day rest upon JOH 5:24, but let's closely examine who it is that Jesus was speaking to. Many take Gods Word out of context and build a presumptuous faith on, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." To whom is this message preached? This "heareth my word" is not a reference to a mere hearing of words with the natural ear, but it is a reference to the response of the heart. We must take Scripture in its full context to understand what it means.
MAT 13:13-15 explains, "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. [We can hear with the natural ear, but not hear with the heart.] And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." It is the new heart that is the result of hearing; then they are converted and healed.
To hear savingly is to heed what was said, i.e., if you hear the gospel, you must heed it. Another example of hearing and heeding is given in MAT 18:15; "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." Again, it is not a matter of merely listening to what is said; he has heard if his response is tender to what was said. In other words, if he acted upon the words he heard, he is reconciled.
We read the same thing in JOH 10:27; "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." They hear and they act upon it. Then what do they do? They follow Him.
HEB 3:7-8 says, "Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness." Turn from your rebellion and turn to the Lord. Act upon what you hear.
To rightly understand what Jesus meant in JOH 5:24 when He said "He that heareth my word," we must keep it in context with LUK 6:46-49; "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great."
Those who claim salvation under JOH 5:24 are walking in presumption if you see no change in their lives for they have never turned from serving the power of sin. Christ has not been formed in them. They are walking in presumption. When a person says they have heard, they have a desire to dig deep into the Word, to know the whole truth, and lay a foundation upon the Rock, Christ. It is arrogance to build a faith upon JOH 5:24 based only on a literal hearing with the ear.
Any person who has not been brought into the service of Christ with a delight in His holy scepter cannot claim they believe in Him with a saving faith. Until we come to the point where it is a delight reach out and touch His scepter, and to bow under His kingship, we have no saving faith.
See what we read in LUK 19:27; "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." Those who will not bow to His kingship or come into His service will perish. There is no such thing as having salvation outside of godly fear.
There is no merit in any of our works, frames, or feelings, but a holy reverence for God and His Word, a true godly fear, is one of the surest evidences we can have of God's grace in our soul. PSA 37:30-31 says, "The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide." Why? The law of God is in his heart; it is his desire to do that which is pleasing to the Lord.
There is such a blessed security as well as assurance for those who delight in the will of God. We see this in 1PE 3:10-13; "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous [Who are the righteous? They are the ones who do the things above. Those who abide by the second table of the law to love their fellow man as themselves], and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?"
The Lord is over it all, and He stands above all. What greater security could we have than to know that the Lord's ear is open to our prayers? It comes only to those who walk in godly fear for they walk according to His will with delight. Christ is formed in them, the hope of glory; the Spirit of Christ is instilled in the soul by the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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