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Matt. 22:36-39 ''Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.''
We can actually perform all the duties of holiness and righteousness required in the law. The first thing we need is to learn how we may accomplish this goal. The entire purpose of the Gospel of Christ is to bring mankind into a loving relationship and union with God through Christ that produces total obedience and conformity to the law. This obedience is not just a form of outward performance of rituals or religious ceremonies. True holiness consists in holy thoughts, imaginations and love within the heart. The greatest command is that we have a pure love of God that flows from and within the heart.
Love is the foundation, which has to exist before a person can perform any good works that are acceptable to God. Not only must we perform outward works of obedience, but we must have holy thoughts, imaginations and true affection for God in doing them. They must flow out of pure love or they are not acceptable to God. Holiness consists mainly in love for God in the heart. We must not only give up practicing any sinful acts and thoughts, but we also need a longing and delighting within our heart to do all the will of God.
We must learn how we may walk in holiness, righteousness, or godliness, obedience and true religion, which God requires of us. When we truly love God rightly we will truly long and desire to do God's will. Our obedience will be cheerful and joyful. With love in our heart, we do not see our obedience to God as hard, grievous, or a heavy burden. We will perform all our duty without resenting, complaining, or grumbling. Nothing less than a total conformity of all our thoughts and actions to the law is acceptable to God. Not only is this obedience possible, God expects it.
Matt. 5:48 ''Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.''
1 Peter 1:16 ''Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.''
John 14:15, 21a, 24. ''If you love me, keep my commands. The person that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me. The person who does not keep my sayings, loves me not.''
1 John 5:2-3 ''By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God we keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandment and his commandments are not grievous.
1 John 2:3-5 ''And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth not in him. But whosoever keeps his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.''
1 John 2:29 ''If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that does righteousness is born of him.''
1 John 3:6-10 ''Whosoever abides in Him sins not: whosoever sins has not seen Him. Little children, let no one deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sins from the beginning, for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother.'' 2 Cor. 5:15 "And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again."
Any teaching or doctrine that does away with your personal obedience to God and the law is false. The grace of God is designed to bring you into complete conformity to the law. A true Christian will produce good deeds and accomplish the complete will of God.
Luke 6:43-49 ''For a good tree brings not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by its fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: For of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. And why do ye call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and hears my sayings, and does them, I will show you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built a house, and dug 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 hears, and does not, is like a man that without a foundation built a house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.''
God's requirement is to love Him totally and completely. When a person truly loves God they will keep all the commandments. Do you really love God? There is a way to find out if your love for Him is self-deception or REAL. If you LOVE Him -- you will OBEY Him. If you do not obey Him -- you do not love Him.
John 14:15 ''If ye love Me, keep My Commandments''.
1 John 2:3-5 ''And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whosoever keeps his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
John 14:23-24 ''Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loves me not keeps not my sayings.''
John 15:10 ''If ye keep My Commandments, ye shall abide in My love''
John 14:21 ''He that hath my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.''
1 John 5:2-3 ''By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His Commandments: and His Commandments are not grievous. [literally, not burdensome]
1 John 3:24 ''And he that keeps his commandments dwells in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.''
Jude 1:21 ''Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our LORD Jesus Christ unto Eternal Life''.
Many people do not love God correctly or give Him the love that is due to Him as Lord of all. He must be loved with all our heart, spirit and might. We are to love everything in Him, His justice, holiness, sovereign authority, all-seeing eye, His commands, judgments, and all His doings. We are to love Him, not only better than any other thing, but as the only good. We are to reject all fleshly and worldly enjoyments, even our own lives, as if we hated them, when they stand in competition with our enjoyment of Him, or our duty towards Him. We must love Him as to yield ourselves completely up to His constant assistance in all things, and to His control of us as our absolute Lord. We are to love our neighbor - even all men, whether they are friends or foes to us. This spiritual universal obedience is the aim of the whole gospel. Do not reject this holiness of heart as impossible.
Please consider the command to truly love God before you try to preform any other duty. Love to God is the central requirement where all the other duties flow, and is the greatest work. Love is the chief work for which we were at first made in the image of God. True love for God is more than sufficient to make us holy in all manner of living. There can be no holiness of heart and life possible without the fruit which love brings forth. The purpose of the gospel is to conform us to God's image. This is the only true morality, which God approves of, consisting in conformity of all our thoughts and actions to the moral law. Love in the heart is the principal part of true religion, and the test of all other parts. Without love, faith is dead and all other religious performances are a empty show and mere hypocrisy. Christ, Himself stated, concerning the two great moral commandments of love to God and our neighbor, that there is no other commandment greater than these, and that on them hang all the law and the prophets.
We must learn the method by which this great excellent goal may be accomplished, and of making this the first work to be done, before we can expect success in any attempt for the accomplishment of it. Many are apt to skip over this lesson concerning the methods as useless. When once they know the nature and excellency of the duties of the law, they think that they only lack its diligent performance. They rush blindly on in the attempt to practice the law, making more haste than good speed. They are quick in promising, that all the Lord has spoken, they will do, without sitting down and counting the cost. They look on holiness as only the goal, of eternal salvation, but not as a goal itself, requiring any great assistance for attaining the practice of it. The question of most, when they begin to have an idea of what religion, is to ask, 'What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' not, 'How shall I be enabled to do anything that is good?' Many preachers spend all their effort and energy in the passionate pressing and urging people to the immediate practice of the law, without showing the way to truly perform it. They preach performance of the law as if the works of righteousness were very simple and that they need no skill and strategy at all. They give the wrong idea that we only lack diligence and activity. They teach that we only need to apply ourselves a little harder and be even be more dilligent to be successful. That you may not stumble at the doorway of a religious life by this common wicked error, I shall try to make it plain that it is not enough for you to know the matter and reason of your duty. You must also learn the powerful and effectual methods of performance before you can successfully apply yourselves to immediate practice of holiness. It is impossible to walk in true holiness by just knowing the duties of the law alone.
All of us have actually committed sin and have received a corrupted sinful nature. The sinner is dead to God and godliness by making himself a willing slave to the performance of sin until the Son of God makes him free. This corrupted sinful nature consists in a tendency and inclination of the heart towards sin, and a rebellious and unwilling heart against true holiness. All sinners have become slaves and captives to the service of sin. All of mankind has sinned and now we are totally void within our own selves of any strength and ability to perform acceptably the holiness and righteousness that the law requires. If we believe this to be true, we cannot logically encourage ourselves to attempt to walk in holiness, until we receive some powerful and effective Godly assistance to enable us to do it. Many may confess their sins in prayers, and yet urge on themselves and others the practice of the law. They do this without the consideration of any strengthening, enlivening assistance - as if there were no lack of ability within their own flesh, but only of activity.
We should all realize (if our conscience is not blind) that the justice of God is against us because of our sin. We should also know that we are under the curse of God and a sentence of death for our actual deeds. This knowledge alone is not enough to help us or guide us to holiness. It is possible for a person to remain in his sins and truly know the facts of his crime and rebellion of sin. This person has not yet learned the way of getting out his sin. Without this knowledge he will forever fail and to love God. He totally misses seeing the love, mercy and grace of God that He so richly and freely offers. No one can receive the assistance of God if all they see is God's wrath and judgment against them. No one will ever yield himself willingly to the control of God without seeing His great love, grace mercy and His offer to forgive them and set them free.
Though sinners might know much of the work of the law by the light of natural reason and understanding, yet the effective assistance of God to perform it cannot be discovered by that light alone. God's love and grace must be learned by the teaching of supernatural revelation. Human wisdom and understanding are not enough to direct or give anyone the ability to walk in holiness. The law has set nothing but death and punishment before the sinner's eyes in the case of his transgression. He will expect no favor or mercy from God. He will only be afraid of God and His judgment. He will try hiding himself from God, like Adam did when the shame of his nakedness appeared. We are like sheep gone astray, and do not know which way to return, until we hear the Shepherd's voice. Can these dry bones live to God in holiness? O Lord, You know; and we cannot know it, except we learn it of You.
Sanctification, by which our hearts and lives are conformed to the law, is a grace of God communicated to us by God by His word. Justification, and forgiveness are also something that we cannot see without the word. There are several things pertaining to life and godliness that are given through knowledge from God and His Holy Spirit. There is a form of doctrine that God uses to make people free from sin, and servants of righteousness. There are several pieces of the whole armor of God necessary to be known and put on, that we may stand against sin and Satan in the evil day. Shall we disregard and overlook the way of sanctification, when learning the way of justification has been considered worthy by so many detailed scriptures?
God has given, in the Holy Scriptures by His inspiration, plentiful instruction in righteousness that we may be throughly furnished for every good work. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself can guide our feet in the way of peace. If God has came down to us in the form of human flesh, to teach us this way in the Scriptures and by Christ, then it must be completely necessary for us to sit down at His feet and learn it.
The way of walking in godliness is so far from being known without learning from His word that, when it is here plainly revealed, we cannot learn it so easily as the duties of the law. The way by which the dead are brought to live righteous lives for God is far above all the thoughts and theories of human wisdom. It is the way of salvation, in which God will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the wise. His Spirit will teach the truth that the natural man does not receive, for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Great is the mystery of godliness. The learning of it requires double work. We must unlearn many of our past deeply rooted opinions and become fools, that we may be wise. We must pray earnestly to the Lord to teach us, as well as search the Scriptures, that we may get this knowledge. 'O that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!' 'Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes; and I will keep it to the end'. 'Teach me to do Your will'. 'The Lord direct your hearts to the love of God'. Surely these believers did not so much lack teaching and instructions concerning the duties of the law to be done, as concerning the way and method by which they might do them.
The certain knowledge of these powerful and effective instruments and tools is of the greatest importance and necessity for our establishment in the true faith and avoiding errors contrary to them. We cannot logically doubt that the moral duties of love to God and our neighbor are absolutely necessary to true religion, so that it cannot submit without them. From this principle, we may firmly conclude that nothing undesirable to the practice of these holy duties ought to be received as a point of faith, delivered to us by the most holy God. Whatever is truly necessary, powerful and effectual to bring us to the practice of them ought to be believed, as proceeding from God, because it has the image of His holiness and righteousness engraved on it. This is a sure test and standard, which those that are seriously religious will use to try the spirits and other doctrines, whether they are of God or not. They cannot logically approve any doctrine as religious, that is not according to godliness. By this standard Christ proves His doctrine to be of God, because in this He seeks the glory of God. He teaches us to know false prophets by their fruits. It appears that, until we know what are the effective tools and instruments of holiness, and what are not, we lack a necessary standard of divine truth. Without this standard we may be easily deceived by false doctrine. If you mistake and think those tools to be effective that are not, and those that are effective to be weak, or of a contrary effect, your error in this will be a false standard to try other doctrines, by which you will easily approve of errors and refuse the truth. Many have made this fatal error in religion in these last days. Get the true standard, by learning this lesson, and you will be able to try the various doctrines of today and discover the truth and hold to it, with much satisfaction to your judgment, among all the controversies of these times.
Understanding the way of holiness is also of great importance and necessity for our establishment in holy practice. We must have some faith concerning God's divine assistance before we can apply ourselves to the practice of holiness with any hope of success. We can have no reason to expect to walk in holiness if we do not use the instruments and tools that God has appointed and designed for us to walk in holiness. He has chosen and ordained the method of sanctification and salvation and this is the only way by which we may walk in holiness. He crowns no man that strives, unless he strives lawfully.
History has shown that multitudes of people have a deadly ignorance, or mistaken idea of the way of holiness. Many people usually fall short of an acceptable performance of the duties of the law, which they knew, because of their ignorance in these following points:
Many think religion is just the performance of external rules and duties. They fail to realize that they lack the true love in the heart that is required before they can accomplish any true spiritual service.
Many reject the way of holiness because they think it is harsh and unpleasant. They do not know how to cut off a right hand, or pluck out a right eye, without extreme pain. They would find the ways of wisdom (if they knew them) to be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths to be peace.
Many others start to practice holiness with a eager zeal, and run very fast; but do not walk a step in the right way. They find themselves frequently disappointed and overcome by their lusts. When this happens they give up on holiness and return to wallow again in the mire. Most of these never truly started down the right path of holiness because they never knew the right way, nor walk one step right in it, for, there are few that find it.
Some of the more spiritual blind fanatics waste their bodies away with fasting and other strictness in the attempt to kill their lusts. Some when they see their lusts are still too hard for them, fall into despair and are driven, by disgust of conscience, to kill themselves to the dishonor of religion.