Phi_2:12-13 : “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
“Salvation.” “Work out your own salvation.” There is a sense in which salvation is finished. There is another sense in which it is in process. Finished by Christ when He died, and yet in process by the Holy Ghost in our heart.
Salvation is a great prize, with two termini. The first terminus is on the cross, where Jesus saved from the guilt, the penalty of sin; the second terminus is in His second Advent, when the body will be raised and married to the spirit, and salvation will be complete. But between His cross where Jesus put away guilt, and the second Advent where the body is married to the spirit, between these two there is the process of being saved from the power and the love of sin.
In Act_2:47, and 1Co_1:18, the Revised version in each case speaks of people being saved. “The Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved.” “The word of the cross is to them that are perishing, foolishness: but unto us which are being saved it is the power of God.”
A man says to me; “Are you saved?”
I reply: “I was saved when I trusted Christ; I shall be saved when my body is raised; but I am being saved all the time.” Aye, we are being saved.
Remember that sin is a parasite. Your little babe has got measles, scarlatina, scarlet-fever; but measles, scarlatina, scarlet-fever are not native to it-they are parasites; and it is possible that in a few days they will pass, and your child’s skin will be better. So sin is not necessary to human nature. Adam was created without it. Christ, a man, lived without it, and we men and women some day will have got over our mumps and measles and bronchitis, and we shall be whole.
Sin is a parasite. Thank God, the day will come when I shall stand up before my God without a stick or stone of sin. I may carry some scar that sin has left, but sin itself will be gone forever.
Next: God comes into your heart to take your side against the parasite sin.
A dear friend of mine told me that her boy came back from school with scarlet-fever, He came home in a carriage, wrapped in blankets. As he was brought into the hall, she met him and said:
“My boy, mother has got a room upstairs for you and herself, and mother is going to sit down by your bed, and she is never going to leave it till you are well, and mother is going to help you fight against the fever.”
And she shut herself up in the bed-room with him. Do you think she loved the boy less because he was so long getting well? Once he said to her:
“Mother, you have not kissed me lately. Don’t you love me quite so much because I have got all these marks?”
She kissed him, and said: “I loved you before, but I think I love you better now.”
So, dear soul, cursed with the sin which thou hast taken into thy heart, God hates the sin, but He loves thee! He knew all about it before He chose thee. He will never be suprised. He will never be disappointed. He will never love you less. But the more sinful you are, the weaker you are, the more often you have a relapse and go back, the more often you fall, the mother in God,–for there is mother as well as father in God,–the mother in God who has come into your heart will fight sin step by step with you. Your weakness will command His strongest love.
He sits down beside you. The fever is on your head and body. He knows it will take long vigil, long care, long patience. He has counted the cost; He is prepared for a long sickness. He has taken you in hand, your passions, your impurity, your garrulous gossip, your sulkiness, your jealousy, your vainglory, your love of money, your love of sin; God knows it all. But He has come, and will never leave you for a moment. If you will let Him, He will make short work. If you resist Him, you will make the work longer. But He will never leave you, He will never give you up, and however often you fall, go back to Him again.
Suppose some mother had a boy with scarlet fever, and in the fever he got delirous, and instead of keeping in bed he kept getting out; it would be very trying, very disappointing. He would throw his recovery back, but the mother would still cling to him. She would be sorry, and disappointed, and wish he had not done it; but she would love him, she could not give the boy up, she would bring him through.
O soul, thou hast thought ill of thy God! Thou hast thought because thou didst so often fall that God was tired of thee. Ah! thou knowest not that His tender mercy is infinite, and He will never let you go, NEVER, until in heaven He kisses your face, out of which the fever and the brand of sin have gone forever. O, my God, thou wilt kiss my soul into health!
Remember further that His purpose is to deliver from the power of sin. The guilt is gone, but the power remains, and He can only deliver from this gradually. Now, understand me. People ask if I believe in progressive or instantaneous sanctification. I reply–first, I do not believe in sanctification, I believe in the Sanctifier; I do not believe in holiness, I believe in the Holy One. Not an it, but a person; not an attribute, but Christ in my heart. Instantaneous? Yes, in this way: that in a moment I can take up the true attitude toward Christ; but progressive, because stage after stage He will carry on His work within me, weaning me, saving me from the love and the power of sin, deeper, deeper, deeper down into my heart. I take up the position suddenly, but I apply the position all along my life.
Is not this true? To-day you see things to be wrong which five years ago you permitted, and five years from to-day you will see things wrong which you now permit. Evidently the work is progressive. God sheds light upon our life. It is but the twilight at first. In the twilight I can see a chair and a table and a piano and a chiffonier: that is all. But the twilight merges into morning, and in the morning light I can see smaller things: the ornaments, the pictures that are on the wall. But morning becomes noon, and now I see the dust which has gathered. I could not see that in the twilight, but I see it at noon.
So God deals with yon and me. He does not turn the heart upside down, and empty it of every sin at once. First the twilight, and we put away obvious sin; then morning, and we put away other sins not seen before; then eleven o’clock in the morning, and we put away deeper sins that we had missed; until it comes toward meridian, and in the perfect light we put away more sins, the small dust we had missed. We see deeper, deeper down, and every year a man is saved more completely from the power of known sin. So it is gradual.
I think it is perfectly absurd for a man to say he is perfectly sanctified. He is not within a thousand miles of it. Once, when in Leicester, I was paying parochial calls, and dropped in on a washerwoman who had just got out a line of clothes. I congratulated my friend because they looked so white. So, very much encouraged by her pastor’s kind words, she asked him to have a cup of tea, and we sat down. Whilst we were taking the tea, the sky clouded and there was a snow storm; and as I came out the white snow lay everywhere, and I said to her:
“Your washing does not look quite so clean as it did.” “Ah,” she said, ” the washing is right enough; but what can stand against God Almighty’s white?”
So you may think that you are clean, because you have never seen God. When you see God, your holiest day will seem to be imperfect; you will abhor yourself and repent in dust and ashes, and you will need to say:
“Forgive me my debts as I forgive my debtors.”