Sunday, March 18, 2012

On a Fruitful Life.3




"Do you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from among thistles? A healthy tree cannot produce unhealthy fruit; nor does a rotten tree produce healthy fruit. Likewise, every good tree produces good fruit, and every rotten tree produces rotten fruit. The unhealthy tree is cut down and used as wood for the fire. Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. " -- Jesus

I ran into a friend at Walmart; a friend who's husband has been battling a stage four cancer that has turned their world upside down.  Chronicling her struggles on facebook I've followed their journey from the shock of discovery, to the anguish of uncertainty, the anger of unfairness, the stress in diagnosis and prescription for healing, the pain in process of cure, the dawning of hope in their hearts.  And in our conversation I noted a growing confidence in the Goodness of God!  Like so many fellow travelers who've had to endure intense suffering only to discover a greater outcome than they could have possibly imagined in oneness with each other and their Creator, they are quick to testify to His faithfulness!  It is this testimony that verifies the truth of  this insight into the work of Jesus in every human being's life:


"The Lord never came to deliver men from the consequences of their sins while yet those sins remained: that would be to cast out of window the medicine of cure while yet the man lay sick; to go dead against the very laws of being. Yet men, loving their sins, and feeling nothing of their dread hatefulness, have, consistently with their low condition, constantly taken this word concerning the Lord to mean that he came to save them from the punishment of their sins. This idea-the miserable fancy rather-has terribly corrupted the preaching of the gospel. The message of the good news has not been truly delivered.

It is the indwelling badness, ready to produce bad actions, that we need to be delivered from. Against this badness if a man will not strive, he is left to commit evil and reap the consequences. To be saved from these consequences, would be no deliverance; it would be an immediate, ever deepening damnation.

It is the evil in our being-no essential part of it, thank God! -the miserable fact that the very child of God does not care for his father and will not obey him, causing us to desire wrongly, act wrongly, or, where we try not to act wrongly, yet making it impossible for us not to feel wrongly-this is what he came to deliver us from;-not the things we have done, but the possibility of doing such things any more.

With the departure of this possibility, and with the hope of confession hereafter to those we have wronged, will depart also the power over us of the evil things we have done, and so we shall be saved from them also. The bad that lives in us, our evil judgments, our unjust desires, our hate and pride and envy and greed and self-satisfaction-these are the souls of our sins, our live sins, more terrible than the bodies of our sins, namely the deeds we do, inasmuch as they not only produce these loathsome things, but make us loathsome as they.

Our wrong deeds are our dead works; our evil thoughts are our live sins. These, the essential opposites of faith and love, the sins that dwell and work in us, are the sins from which Jesus came to deliver us. When we turn against them and refuse to obey them, they rise in fierce insistence, but the same moment begin to die. We are then on the Lord's side, as he has always been on ours, and he begins to deliver us from them.

The mission of Jesus was from the same source and with the same object as the punishment of our sins. He came to work along with our punishment. He came to side with it, and set us free from our sins.

No man is safe from hell until he is free from his sins; but a man to whom his sins, that is the evil things in him, are a burden, while he may indeed sometimes feel as if he were in hell, will soon have forgotten that ever he had any other hell to think of than that of his sinful condition. For to him his sins are hell; he would go to the other hell to be free of them; free of them, hell itself would be endurable to him.

For hell is God's and not the devil's. Hell is on the side of God and man, to free the child of God from the corruption of death. Not one soul will ever be redeemed from hell but by being saved from his sins, from the evil in him. If hell be needful to save him, hell will blaze, and the worm will writhe and bite, until he takes refuge in the will of the Father. 'Salvation from hell, is salvation as conceived by such to whom hell and not evil is the terror. But if even for dread of hell a poor soul seek the Father, he will be heard of him in his terror, and, taught of him to seek the immeasurably greater gift, will in the greater receive the less.

The message of Jesus and his messengers is of forgiveness, not of vengeance; of deliverance, not of evil to come. Not for anything he has committed do they threaten a man with the outer darkness. Not for any or all of his sins that are past shall a man be condemned; not for the worst of them needs he dread remaining unforgiven. The sin he dwells in, the sin he will not come out of, is the sole ruin of a man. His present, his live sins-those pervading his thoughts and ruling his conduct; the sins he keeps doing, and will not give up; the sins he is called to abandon, and clings to; the same sins which are the cause of his misery, though he may not know it-these are they for which he is even now condemned.

It is true the memory of the wrongs we have done is, or willed to do become very bitter; but not for those is condemnation; and if that in our character which made them possible were abolished, remorse would lose its worst bitterness in the hope of future amends. 'This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.'"  

But I would not be supposed, from what I have said, to imagine the Lord without sympathy for the sorrows and pains which reveal what sin is, and by means of which he would make men sick of sin. With everything human he sympathizes. Evil is not human; it is the defect and opposite of the human; but the suffering that follows it is human, belonging of necessity to the human that has sinned: while it is by cause of sin, suffering is for the sinner, that he may be delivered from his sin.

Jesus is in himself aware of every human pain. He feels it also. In him too it is pain. With the energy of tenderest love he wills his brothers and sisters free, that he may fill them to overflowing with that essential thing, joy. For that they were indeed created. But the moment they exist, truth becomes the first thing, not happiness; and he must make them true.

Were it possible, however, for pain to continue after evil was gone, he would never rest while one ache was yet in the world. Perfect in sympathy, he feels in himself, I say, the tortured presence of every nerve that lacks its repose. The man may recognize the evil in him only as pain; he may know little and care nothing about his sins; yet is the Lord sorry for his pain. He cries aloud, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' He does not say, 'Come unto me, all ye that feel the burden of your sins;' he opens his arms to all weary enough to come to him in the poorest hope of rest.

Right gladly would he free them from their misery-but he knows only one way: he will teach them to be like himself, meek and lowly, bearing with gladness the yoke of his father's will. This is the one, the only right, the only possible way of freeing them from their sins, the cause of their unrest. With them the weariness comes first; with him the sins: there is but one cure for both-the will of the Father.

That which is his joy will be their deliverance!

(The Hope of the Gospel, Salvation From Sins, George MacDonald.)