This is from something I read in SF recently, and I thought it well worth plagarising for those who have not yet read it:
You say, “I am not satisfied with my love.” What! Did you expect to be so? Is it your love to Christ, or his love to you, that is to bring you peace? God’s free love to sinners, as such, is our resting place. There are two kinds of love in God, – his love of compassion to the unbelieving sinner, and his love of delight and complacency to his believing children. A father’s love to a prodigal child is quite as sincere as his love to his obedient, loving child at home, though it be a different kind. God cannot love you as a believer till you are such. But he loves you as a poor sinner. And it is this love of his to the unloving and unlovable that affords the sinner his first resting place. This free love of God satisfies and attracts him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” “We love him because he first loved us.” “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.”
“I am not satisfied with my repentance,” you say. It is well. What should you have thought of yourself had you been so? What pride and self-righteousness would it indicate, were you saying, “I am satisfied with my repentance, – it is of the proper quality and amount.” If satisfied with it, what would you do with it? Would you ground your peace upon it? Would you pacify your conscience with it? Would you go with it instead of the blood to a holy God? If not, what do you mean by the desire to be satisfied with your repentance before having peace with God?
In short, you are not satisfied with any of your religious feelings; and it is well that you are not; for, if you were, you must have a very high idea of yourself, and a very low idea of what both law and gospel expect of you. You are, I doubt not, right in not being satisfied with the state of your feelings; but what has this to do with the great duty of immediately believing on the Son of God? If the gospel is nothing to you till you have got your feelings all set right, it is no gospel for the sinner at all. But this is its special fitness and glory, that it takes you up at the very point where you are at this moment, and brings you glad tidings in spite of your feelings being altogether wrong.
All these difficulties of yours have their root in the self esteem of our natures, which makes us refuse to be counted altogether sinners, and which shrinks from going to God save with some personal recommendation to make acceptance likely. Utter want of goodness is what we are slow to acknowledge. Give up these attempts to be satisfied with yourself in anything, great or small, faith, feeling, or action. The Holy Spirit’s work in convincing you of sin, is to make you dissatisfied with yourself; and will you pursue a course which can only grieve him away? God can never be satisfied with you on account of any goodness about you; and why should you attempt to be satisfied with anything which will not satisfy him? There is but one thing with which he is entirely satisfied, – the person and work of his only begotten Son. It is with Him that he wants you to be satisfied, not with yourself. How much better would it be to take God’s way at once, and be satisfied with Christ? Then would pardon and peace be given without delay. Then would the favor of God rest upon you. For God has declared, that whoever is satisfied with Christ shall find favor with him. His desire is that you should come to be as one with him in this great thing. He asks nothing of you, save this. But with nothing else than this will he be content, nor will he receive you on any other footing, save that of one who has come to be satisfied with Christ, and with what Christ has done.
Surely all this is simple enough. Does it exactly meet your case? Satisfaction with yourself, even could you get it, would do nothing for you. Satisfaction with Christ would do everything; for Christ is ALL. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Be pleased with him in whom the Father is pleased, and all is well.
I suspect that some of those difficulties of yours arise from the secret idea that the gospel is just a sort of modified law, by keeping which you are to be saved. You know that the old law is far above your reach, and that it condemns, but cannot save you. But you think, perhaps, that Christ came to make the law easier, to lower its demands, to make it (as some say) an evangelical law, with milder terms, suited to the sinner’s weakness. That this is blasphemy, a moment’s thought will show you. For it means that the former law was too strict; that is, it was not holy, and just, and good. It denies also Christ’s words, that he came not to destroy but to fulfill the law. God has but one law, and it is perfect; its substance is love to God and man. A milder law must mean an imperfect one; a law that makes God’s one law unnecessary; a law that gives countenance to sin. Will obedience to an imperfect law save the breaker of the perfect law? But faith does not make void the law; it establishes it.
It is by a perfect law that we are saved; else it would be an unholy salvation. It is by a perfect law, fulfilled in every “jot and tittle,” that we are saved; else it would be an unrighteous salvation. The Son of God has kept the law for us; he has magnified it and made it honorable; and thus we have a holy and righteous salvation. Though above law in himself, he was made under the law for us; and by the vicarious law keeping of his spotless life, as well as by endurance unto death of that law’s awful penalties, we are redeemed from the curse of the law. “Christ is the end (the fulfilling and exhausting) of the law, for righteousness to every one that believeth.” FOR CHRIST IS NOT A HELPER, BUT A SAVIOUR. He has not come to enable us to save ourselves, by keeping a mitigated law; but to keep the unmitigated law in our room, that the law might have no claim for penalty, upon any sinner who will only consent to be indebted to the law keeping and law enduring of the divine Surety.
Others of your difficulties spring from confounding the work of the Spirit in us with the work of Christ for us. These two must be kept distinct; for the intermingling of them is the subversion of both. Beware of overlooking either; beware of keeping them at a distance from each other. Though quite distinct, they go hand in hand, inseparably linked together, yet each having its own place and its own office. Your medicine and your physician are not the same, yet they go together. Christ is your medicine, the Spirit is your physician. Do not take the two works as if they were one compounded work; nor try to build your peace upon some mystic gospel which is made up of a strange mixture of the two. Realize both, the outward and the inward; the objective and the subjective; Christ for us, and the Holy Spirit in us.
As at the first, so to the last, must this distinctiveness be observed, lest, having found peace in believing, you lose it by not holding the beginning of your confidence steadfast unto the end. “When I begin to doubt,” writes one, “I quiet my doubts by going back to the place where I got them first quieted; I go and get peace again where I got it at the beginning; I do not sit down gloomily to must over my own faith or unbelief, but over the finished work of Immanuel; I don’t try to reckon up my experiences, to prove that I once was a believer, but I believe again as I did before; I don’t examine the evidence of the Spirit’s work in me, but I think of the sure evidences which I have of Christ’s work for me, in his death, and burial, and resurrection. This is the restoration of my peace. I had begun to look at other objects; I am now recalled from my wanderings to look at Jesus only.”
I don’t try to reckon up my experiences, to prove that I once was a believer, but I believe again as I did before;
I don’t agree with that. I keep a journal, and when the doubts come, I find it very helpful to go back through it and remind myself just how often God does work in my life…
Kate, at the back of my mind is a saying that goes something like, “believing but not yet converted.” For example, someone believes that a financial depression is coming but has not yet taken the steps to convert his equities into something more bullet proof to withstand the depression that is believed to be coming and thus preserve most of his investments. Perhaps someone can recall that old expression more accurately?
But keeping a journal is a great idea. I don’t have any doubts about the faith myself just doubts about my beliefs and actions every time I learn something new. A bit like my plumber who learning something new stands looking at his latest project wondering whether to do it this way or that way.
Onwards and upwards.
Consider yourself fortunate. I’m just coming out of a seven year desert time.
I think what I most appreciated about this article was the concentration on Christ alone, that the only satisfaction to be found is in Him…..
Yes, well. The desert was partially self inflicted, because I didn’t want to see that…