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31 October, 2013

The Scriptures & Obedience - Part 2/2

by Arthur W. Pink

4. We profit from the Word when we not only see it is our bounden duty to obey God, but when there is wrought in us a love for His commandments. The "blessed" man is the one whose "delight is in the law of the Lord" (Ps. 1:2).And again we read, "Blessed is the man that fears the Lord, that delights greatly in his commandments" (Ps. 112:1). It affords a real test for our hearts to face honestly the questions, Do I really value His "commandments" as much as I do His promises? Ought I not to do so? Assuredly, for the one proceeds as truly from His love as does the other. The heart’s compliance with the voice of Christ is the foundation for all practical holiness.

Here again we would earnestly and lovingly beg the reader to attend closely to this detail. Any man who supposes that he is saved and yet has no genuine love for God’s commandment is deceiving himself. Said the Psalmist, "O how love I your law!" (Ps. 119:97). And again, "Therefore I love your commandments above gold; yes, above fine gold" (Ps. 119:127). Should someone object that that was under the Old Testament, we ask, Do you intimate that the Holy Spirit produces a lesser change in the hearts of those whom He now regenerates than He did of old? But a New Testament saint also placed on record, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Rom. 7:22). And, my reader, unless your heart delights in the "law of God" there is something radically wrong with you; yes, it is greatly to be feared that you are spiritually dead.

5. A man profits from the Word when his heart and will are yielded to all God’s commandments. Partial obedience is no obedience at all. A holy mind declines whatever God forbids, and chooses to practice all He requires, without any exception. If our minds submit not unto God in all His commandments, we submit not to His authority in anything He enjoins. If we do not approve of our duty in its full extent, we are greatly mistaken if we imagine that we have any liking unto any part of it. A person who has no principle of holiness in him may yet be disinclined to many vices and be pleased to practice many virtues, as he perceives the former are unfit actions and the latter are, in themselves, lovely actions, but his disapprobation of vice and approbation of virtue do not arise from any disposition to submit to the will of God.

True spiritual obedience is impartial. A renewed heart does not pick and choose from God’s commandments: the man who does so is not performing God’s will, but his own. Make no mistake upon this point; if we do not sincerely desire to please God in all things, then we do not truly wish to do so in anything. Self must be denied; not merely some of the things which may be craved, but self itself! A willful allowance of any known sin breaks the whole law (James 2:10, 11). "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all your commandments" (Ps. 119:6). Said the Lord Jesus, "You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14): if I am not His friend, then I must be His enemy, for there is no other alternative-see Luke 19:27.

6. We profit from the Word when the soul is moved to pray earnestly for enabling grace. In regeneration the Holy Spirit communicates a nature which is fitted for obedience according to the Word. The heart has been won by God. There is now a deep and sincere desire to please Him. But the new nature possesses no inherent power, and the old nature or "flesh" strives against it, and the Devil opposes. Thus, the Christian exclaims, "To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not" (Rom. 7:18). This does not mean that he is the slave of sin, as he was before conversion; but it means that he finds not how fully to realize his spiritual aspirations. Therefore does he pray, "Make me to go in the path of Your commandments; for therein do I delight" (Ps. 119:35). And again, "Order my steps in Your word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me" (Ps. 119:133).

Here we would reply to a question which the above statements have probably raised in many minds: Are you affirming that God requires perfect obedience from us in this life? We answer, Yes! God will not set any lower standard before us than that (see 1 Pet. 1:15). Then does the real Christian measure up to that standard? Yes and no! Yes, in his heart, and it is at the heart that God looks (I Sam. 16:7). In his heart every regenerated person has a real love for God’s commandments, and genuinely desires to keep all of them completely. It is in this sense, and this alone, that the Christian is experimentally "perfect." The word "perfect," both in the Old Testament (Job 1:1, and Ps. 37:37) and in the new Testament (Phil. 3:15), means "upright", "sincere", in contrast with "hypocritical".

"Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble" (Ps. 10:17). The "desires" of the saint are the language of his soul, and the promise is, "He will fulfil the desire of those who fear him" (Ps. 145:19). The Christian’s desire is to obey God in all things, to be completely conformed to the image of Christ. But this will only be realized in the resurrection. Meanwhile, God for Christ’s sake graciously accepts the will for the deed (1 Pet. 2:5). He knows our hearts and see in His child a genuine love for and a sincere desire to keep all His commandments, and He accepts the fervent longing and cordial endeavor in lieu of an exact performance (2 Cor. 8:12). But let none who are living in willful disobedience draw false peace and pervert to their own destruction what has just been said for the comfort of those who are heartily desirous of seeking to please God in all the details of their lives.

If any ask, How am I to know that my "desires" are really those of a regenerate soul? we answer, Saving grace is the communication to the heart of an habitual disposition unto holy acts. The "desires" of the reader are to be tested thus: Are they constant and continuous, or only by fits and starts? Are they earnest and serious, so that you really hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matt. 5:6) and pant "after God" (Ps. 42:1)? Are they operative and efficacious? Many desire to escape from hell, yet their desires are not sufficiently strong to bring them to hate and turn from that which must inevitably bring them to hell, namely, willful sinning against God. Many desire to go to heaven, but not so that they enter upon and follow that "narrow way" which alone leads there. True spiritual desires use the means of grace and spare no pains to realize them, and continue prayerfully pressing forward unto the mark set before them.

7. We profit from the Word when we are, even now, enjoying the reward of obedience. "Godliness is profitable unto all things" (1 Tim. 4:8). By obedience we purify our souls (1 Pet. 1:21). By obedience we obtain the ear of God (1 John 3:22), just as disobedience is a barrier to our prayers (Isa. 59:2; Jer. 5:25). By obedience we obtain precious and intimate manifestations of Christ unto the soul (John 14:21). As we tread the path of wisdom (complete subjection to God) we discover that "her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace" (Prov. 3:17). "His commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:3), and "in keeping of them there is great reward" (Ps. 19:11).