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The Manifestation Of The Law Of Life
Let us seek to make this practical. We touched earlier on the matter of our will in relation to the things of God. Even older Christians do not realize how great a part will-power plays in their lives. That was part of Paul’s trouble in Romans 7. His will was good, but all his actions contradicted it, and however much he made up his mind and set himself to please God, it led him only into worse darkness. ‘I would do good’, but “I am carnal, sold under sin”. That is the point. Like a car without petrol, that has to be pushed and that stops as soon as it is left alone, many Christians endeavour to drive themselves by will-power, and then think the Christian life a most exhausting and bitter one. Some even force themselves to say ‘Hallelujah!’ because others do it, while admitting there is no meaning in it to them. They force themselves to be what they are not, and it is worse than trying to make water run up-hill. For after all, the very highest point the will can reach is that of willingness (Matt. 26:41).
If we have to exert so much effort in our Christian living, it simply says that we are not really like that at all. We don’t need to force ourselves to speak our native language. In fact we only have to exert will-power in order to do things we do not do naturally. We may do them for a time, but the law of sin and death wins in the end. We may be able to say: ‘To will is present with me, and I perform that which is good for two weeks’, but eventually we shall have to confess: ‘How to perform it I know not’. No, what I already am I do not long to be. If I “would” it is because I am not.
You ask, Why do men use will-power to try to please God? There may be two reasons. They may of course never have experienced the new birth, in which case they have no new life to draw upon; or they may have been born again and the life be there, but they have not learned to trust in that life. It is this lack of understanding that results in habitual failure and sinning, bringing them to the place where they almost cease to believe in the possibility of anything better.
But because we have not believed fully, that does not mean that the feeble life we intermittently experience is all God has given us. Romans 6:23 states that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”, and now in Romans 8:2 we read that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” has come to our aid. So Romans 8:2 speaks not of a new gift but of the life already referred to in Romans 6:23. In other words, it is a new revelation of what we already have. I feel I cannot emphasize this too much. It is not something fresh from God’s hand, but a new unveiling of what He has already given. It is a new discovery of a work already done in Christ, for the words “made me free” are in the past tense. If I really see this and put my faith in Him, there is no absolute necessity for Romans 7 to be repeated in me—either the experience or the conduct, and certainly not the tremendous display of will-power.
If we will let go our own wills and trust Him, we shall not fall to the ground and break, but we shall fall into a different law, the law of the Spirit of life. For He has given us not only life but a law of life. And just as the law of gravity is a natural law and not the result of human legislation, so the law of life is a ‘natural’ law, similar in principle to the law that keeps our heart beating or that controls the movement of our eyelids. There is no need for us to think about our eyes, or to decide that we must blink every so often to keep them cleansed; and still less do we bring our will to bear upon our heart. Indeed to do so might rather harm than help it. No, so long as it has life it works spontaneously. Our wills only interfere with the law of life. I discovered that fact once in the following way.
I used to suffer from sleeplessness. Once after several sleepless nights, when I had prayed much about it and exhausted all my resources, I confessed at length to God that the fault must lie with me and asked to be shown where. I said to God: ‘I demand an explanation’. He answer was: ‘Believe in nature’s laws’. Sleep is as much a law as hunger is, and I realized that though I had never thought of worrying whether I would get hungry or not, I had been worrying about sleeping. I had been trying to help nature, and that is the chief trouble with most sufferers from sleeplessness. But now I trusted not only God but God’s law of nature, and slept well.
Should we not read the Bible? Of course we should or our spiritual life will suffer. But that should not mean forcing ourselves to read. There is a new law in us which gives us a hunger for it. Then half an hour can be more profitable than five hours of forced reading. And it is the same with giving, with preaching, with testimony. Forced preaching is apt to result in preaching a warm gospel with a cold heart, and we all know what men mean by ‘cold charity’.
If we will let ourselves live in the new law we shall be less conscious of the old law. It is still there, but it is no longer governing and we are no longer in its grip. That is why the Lord says in Matthew 6: “Behold the birds... Consider the lilies”. If we could ask the birds whether they were not afraid of the law of gravity, how would they reply? They would say: ‘We never heard the name of Newton. We know nothing about his law. We fly because it is the law of our life to fly.’ Not only is there in them a life with the power of flight, but that life has a law which enables these living creatures quite spontaneously and consistently to overcome the law of gravity. Yet gravity remains. If you get up early one morning when the cold is intense and the snow thick on the ground, and there is a dead sparrow in the courtyard, you are reminded at once of the persistence of that law. But while birds live they overcome it, and the life within them is what dominates their consciousness.
God has been truly gracious to us. He has given us this new law of the Spirit, and for us to ‘fly’ is no longer a question of our will but of His life. Have you noticed what a trial it is to make an impatient Christian patient? To require patience of him is enough to make him ill with depression. But God has never told us to force ourselves to be what we are not naturally: to try by taking thought to add to our spiritual stature. Worrying may possibly decrease a man’s height, but it certainly never added anything to it. “Be not anxious”, are His words. “Consider the lilies, ... they grow.” He is directing our attention to the new law of life in us. Oh, for a new appreciation of the life that is ours!
What a precious discovery this is! It can make altogether new men of us, for it operates in the smallest things as well as in the bigger ones. It checks us when, for example, we put out a hand to look at a book in someone else’s room, reminding us that we have not asked permission and have no right to do so. We cannot, the Holy Spirit tells us, encroach thus upon the rights of others.
Once I was talking to a Christian friend and he turned to me and said: ‘Do you know, I believe that if anyone is willing to live by the law of the Spirit of life, such a man will become truly refined.’ ‘What do you mean?’ I asked. He replied: ‘That law has the power to make a man a perfect gentleman. Some scornfully say: “you can’t blame those people for the way they act; they are just country folk and have no educational advantages”. But the real question is, Have they the life of the Lord within? For I tell you, that life can say to them: “Your voice is too loud”, or, “That laughter was not right”, or, “Your motive in passing that remark was wrong.” In a thousand details the Spirit of life can tell them how to act, so producing in them a true refinement. There is no such inherent power in education.’ And yet my friend was himself an educationalist!
But it is true. Take the example of talkativeness. Are you a person of too many words? When you stay with people, do you say to yourself: ‘What shall I do? I am a Christian; but if I am to glorify the name of the Lord, I simple must not talk so much. So today let me be extra careful to hold myself in check.’? And for an hour or two you succeed—until on some pretext you loose control and, before you know where you are, find yourself once again in difficulty with your garrulous tongue. Yes, let us be fully assured that the will is useless here. For me to exhort you to exercise your will in this matter would be but to offer you the vain religion of the world, not the life in Christ Jesus. For consider again: a talkative person remains just that, though he keep silent all day, for there is a ‘natural’ law of talkativeness governing him (or her!), just as a peach tree is a peach tree whether or not it bears peaches. But as Christians we discover a new law in us, the law of the spirit of life, which transcends all else and which has already delivered us from the ‘law’ of our talkativeness. If, believing the Lord’s Word, we yield ourselves to that new law, it will tell us when we should stop talking—or not start!—and it will empower us to do so. On that basis you can go to your friend’s house for two or three hours, or stay for two or three days, and experience no difficulty. On your return you will just thank God for His new law of life.
It is this spontaneous life that is the Christian life. It manifests itself in love for the unlovely—for the brother whom on natural grounds we would not like and certainly could not love. It works on the basis of what the Lord sees of possibility in that brother. ‘Lord, You see he is lovable and You love him. Love him, now, through me!’ And it manifests itself in reality of life—in a true genuineness of moral character. There is too much hypocrisy in the lives of Christians, too much play-acting. Nothing takes away from the effectiveness of Christian witness as does a pretense of something that is not really there, for the man in the street unfailingly penetrates such a disguise in the end and finds us out for what we are. Yes, pretense gives way to reality when we trust the law of life.
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