But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will.
~ Daniel 5:20-21
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
~ Galatians 2:20
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
~ 1 John 2:15-17
I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.
~ 2 Corinthians 11:16
Glorying Only in the Cross, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
~ Galatians 6:14
We would almost think at this stage that we have seen all the glories which Paul saw in the cross, but that is not so—their number is not exhausted, there is more for us to see, as the Apostle still goes on glorying in it. He does so because it is to him the source and the centre out of which, and from which, come all the blessings that he has ever enjoyed as a Christian man. Now this is the thing I want to emphasize at this point. There is nothing ultimately possible for us in the way of good, apart from the cross. The cross is the source, the origin, and the centre of every blessing. There is no Christian blessing possible to anyone apart from the cross. It is impossible for anyone to be blessed by God in any way ultimately, apart from the cross. The cross is the key that opens, if I may so put it, the heart of God.And without the cross we know no blessings at all. This is a most important point. Why did the Apostle not say: ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ’? Now that is what some of us would like him to say, is it not? That is what the modern man would like him to say. The modern man admires the Sermon on the Mount. He says that that is what we need, that there is the most wonderful ethical, moral, standard that has ever been invented and thought of by man, and that is what we want. There are many people who are not Christians who praise the Sermon on the Mount. The late Mr Gandhi, who died a Hindu, praised it. And there are many others who do the same. There are many infidels today who praise the Sermon on the Mount. They like Jesus, the teacher, the religious teacher, the political agitator, as they regard him, and they are ready to laud his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. They say that is the very thing the world needs. If only every body practised that, all our problems would be solved.
Why does the Apostle not say, therefore, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the Sermon on the Mount? God forbid that I should glory, save in the teaching, the incomparable teaching, of the Son of God? There is, as we have seen, a perfectly simple and obvious answer to this question. It is not the teaching of the Son of God that saves us. Indeed we can say this with reverence—the actual teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ was a failure, a complete failure. His teaching did not reform anybody. His teaching did not even penetrate into the minds and the hearts of his own chosen disciples. They stumbled. Read the gospel. You find that they stumbled, especially when he talked about his death. They could not take it. But look at it like this. Take the Sermon on the Mount that people praise so much. Where is the man who can live and practise the Sermon on the Mount? There is all the difference in the world between praising the Sermon on the Mount and practising it. There is all the difference in the world between applauding it and applying it. It is impossible for man to keep the Sermon on the Mount in his own strength. Man cannot even keep the Ten Commandments. And yet he talks glibly about keeping the Sermon on the Mount, and of imitating Christ. We have shown how there is nothing that so condemns us as the Sermon on the Mount, and the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Jews were a race of people to whom God had already given his law through his servant Moses, and they could not keep it. They could not keep the Ten Commandments. Nobody has ever kept them perfectly, because the Ten Commandments includes this sentence: ‘Thou shalt not covet’, which means that thou shalt not desire. And if man Commandments as they have they of keeping the have been interpreted by who so hated him and Lord Jesus Christ?
That was the whole trouble with the Pharisees, who finally crucified him. They thought that they were keeping the Ten Commandments and the moral law. Our Lord convinced them and convicted them of the fact that they were not doing so. They claimed that they had never committed murder. Wait a minute, said our Lord. Have you ever said to your brother, ‘Thou fool’? If you have, you are guilty of murder. Murder does not only mean actually, physically, killing a man, it means that bitterness and hatred in your heart. You say, ‘You fool’—and you are really killing him with your mouth. And you are guilty of murder…
…taught the same, you remember, with regard to adultery. They claimed that they were guiltless. But wait a minute, says our Lord, you say you have never committed adultery? ‘But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart’ (Mt 5:28). He is guilty. He has coveted; he has desired. You see, as our Lord comes to interpret the law, he shows that an evil desire is as damnable as a deed. And a thought and an imagination are as reprehensible in the sight of God as the act committed. So nobody can keep the Sermon on the Mount.
And that is why the Apostle does not say: ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the Sermon on the Mount, or in the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ The teaching of Christ condemned everybody, the Pharisees included, and showed everybody to be a complete and entire and hopeless failure. So you do not glory in that. No, Paul glories in the cross, because it is through and from the cross that everything becomes possible, and all the blessings of the Christian life are laid open before us. The cross is the door that leads to all blessings. Without it there is nothing. Without the cross and all it means, we have no blessings from God at all. But the cross opens the possibility to all of the endless blessings of the glorious God.
What are they? Let me note some of them to you here. The Apostle Paul never got tired of saying these things. Read what he says at the beginning o f Romans. He puts it like this: ‘Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom 5:1). Justified by faith means that the moment you believe in what happened on the cross, and see that that is God’s way of reconciling you unto himself, you are immediately regarded as just, your sins are all forgiven and blotted out, and you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. ‘Therefore,’ says Paul, ‘being justified by faith we have peace with God.’ That is the first thing that comes out of this belief. Now, I have often said, and I say it again now, that there is no more important word, especially in these letters of the apostle Paul than the word therefore. Note it. He always brings this word ‘therefore’ in at a point of this kind. He has been laying down the doctrine, and especially the doctrine of the cross, and then he says, ‘therefore’—in the light of that, because of that, this is what follows.
And here is the first thing that follows. Being justified by faith we have peace with God. Do you realize what that means? Do you realize that that is the most important and the most wonderful thing that can ever happen to you, that you are given peace and made at peace with God? We have shown how all our troubles in this life as human beings are due to the fact that we are in the wrong relationship to God. It is as simple as that. All the varied and complicated problems of the human race today, as they have always been throughout the running centuries, all emanate from just one thing, that man is in the wrong relationship to God. He is alienated from God. There is a state of warfare between man and God. That is the cause of all our troubles. Trouble came into this world as the direct and immediate result of man’s rebellion against God, and it has continued ever since.
And we have tried so much, and civilization has been so busy in trying to bring order into the chaos, in trying to arrive at peace. Everybody wants peace —but do what we may, we cannot find it. Why not? Because we will never find it until we are at peace with God. God himself said it through the prophet Isaiah: ‘There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked’ (57:21), and if ever the world were proving that, it is proving it today. It does not matter how much money you have, or how much learning, how much understanding, how much influence, or how much power, you will never know peace while you are wicked, which means while you are not subservient to God and living to his glory and to his praise. You can have all the money and the wealth of the greatest millionaire in the world, but you can be as restless and as unhappy as the poorest pauper.
‘There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.’ And there is no hope for man until he arrives at peace with God. Why is this so important? Well the answer is, of course, that we are in the hands of God, whether we like it or not. Let me put it like this. Here is the position of man as he is by nature. Here is the position of every man and woman who is not a Christian, who does not believe in the cross of Christ, and does not glory in it. As we are by nature, God is displeased with us, and his wrath is upon us. He is displeased with us because he has made us, and he made us with a given end and object in view. But we are not fulfilling that. We are not living and behaving as he intended us to. And so God is displeased with us.
Now it is inevitable that God should be displeased. The great Almighty God in all his wisdom and justice and love and compassion, who made this world and all men and women, never made the world that you and I know today. The thing is monstrous. The world as you and I see it and know it is not God’s world as he made it. It is what man has made of God’s world that you and I are familiar with. And that is not well pleasing to God. He made everything at the beginning. He made it perfect, and we are told that he looked at his creation and he saw that it was good. He was pleased with it. But God is displeased with the world as it is today, and he has said so repeatedly. His wrath is upon it, and he is determined to punish it, and more than that, he is punishing it.
There is a great argument in the New Testament. This is not the place to develop it, though it seems to me to be vitally important at this present juncture in the history of the human race. But there is an argument to this effect, that God manifests his wrath against the sin of man by just allowing man to reap the consequences of his own actions. God does not always punish directly, he sometimes punishes indirectly. We have all done it with somebody else at some time or another. You may be trying to persuade a child to behave and to do things in the right way. You know that if the child puts its finger on some little electric machine, that it is going to get a shock. But the very fact that you tell the child not to touch that machine makes the child want to touch it more and more. You may keep on saying to the child: ‘Do not touch it, or you’ll be sorry’, but the child is determined. ‘All right then,’ you say, and you pretend you are not looking. So the little rebel puts his finger on it and gets the electric shock. God does that with mankind.
I believe that explains this present century, with its two world wars, and all the present chaos and confusion. God is saying to man: You have said that you can get on without me. Very well, get on without me. But do not expect people to be loyal to their marriage vows, do not expect them not to fight and not to build up armaments. They will not listen, because once they have left me, they are governed by their own lusts and passions and desires, and reap the consequences. That is what is happening in the modern world, the wrath of God is upon it. God is not smiling upon the world today, or blessing it. The world hates him and rebels against him and blasphemes him, and God withdraws his own blessings. You are seeing a world unblessed by God. That is the wrath of God.
But there is another side. Look at it from man’s side. Man by nature, man without God, is restless. We know that, every one of us, everybody is restless. It is one of the greatest problems in life, is it not? Oh, how to find peace. Where can we find peace? Where can we find tranquillity? Where can we find rest and peace of mind and of heart and of spirit? Where can we find the point, where all is well and nothing troubles? Where is it? Man cannot find it, he is restless. Why? I have already been giving you the answer. Man, though he does not know it, was made by God, and he was made in such a way that he is dependent upon God. There is the highest thing in man which can only be satisfied by God. Nothing else can satisfy it.
Now man has tried to find satisfaction elsewhere. Read the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, and there you will see the whole thing laid out before you. Man tries to find satisfaction in wealth, in dancing, in drinking, in women and wine. He tries everything, but he cannot find peace. It is impossible. Man is too big for that. Some people have thought that if you give a man a new house, it will make him perfectly happy. They say, ‘What we want is a housing scheme.’ ‘Education,’ says another. We have tried them all. Man still cannot find peace. We are better housed that we have ever been, we are better educated, better everything, but there is no peace. Man is still restless. Why? Because he is too big. You do not change a man by changing his house, or by giving him a little more knowledge and information and education. The man remains the same. Yes —‘The rank is but the guinea’s stamp; … A man’s a man for a’ that.’
Of course he is. It does not matter what his title is; it does not matter what his clothes are like. A man’s a man for all that, and he is restless, he is not at peace, because, I say, he has been made in such a way that he can only get peace when he conforms to the laws of his own being and his own nature. And he does not do that. He does not want to do it, and he is restless, he is dissatisfied. He hates the notion of God, and at the same time he is filled with fear. He is afraid of the unknown. He is afraid of ill-health. He is afraid of death. He is afraid of that unknown bourne from which no traveller returns. He spends his time in fear. He says, of course, that he is not afraid. He pretends he is not, but he is, he is restless, and he is unhappy. Why should he be afraid of all these things? There is only one adequate answer, the Bible has it. ‘The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law’ (1 Cor 15:56). Man, though he denies God, has a guilt complex, he feels guilty. He cannot get rid of it. His psychologists have got it themselves. They cannot explain it away, and they suffer from it in their own lives. Man has a sense of guilt. Though he does not believe in God, he still has the sense of guilt in the presence of God.
Before man can ever know peace, and, in particular, peace with God, the two sides must be dealt with. Man is at enmity with God, and God’s wrath is upon man. Something has to happen on God’s side, and the message of the cross is that that has happened. When our Lord died upon the cross he was fulfilling every demand of God’s holy law. The righteousness and the justice and the holiness of God were fully satisfied. God poured out his wrath upon sin in the body of his own Son. His soul was made an offering for sin, and all the demands of God in his holiness were satisfied there. And, thank God, it works on our side also. We have a feeling that God is against us. We think of God as some great ogre, or monster, waiting to pounce upon us and to punish us; we feel that he hates us and that he is against us, and spoiling our lives. We do not want to be bothered by him, and want to go our own way.
Then the moment comes when we look at that cross, and see that God sent his only begotten, dearly beloved Son into this world in order that he might go to the cross. It was God who sent him to it. ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself ….’ It was God who ‘laid on him the iniquity of us all’. It is God who smote him and struck him and gave him the punishment that we deserved. As you look at the cross, I say again, your whole attitude towards God, and our whole opinion of God, changes completely. There we see that God is love and full of mercy and of compassion; that God loves us with an everlasting love. So you see that by the cross, God’s wrath is satisfied and appeased, and our folly and our rebellion are taken away, and God and man are brought together, and our peace is made with God.
The great Saint Augustine of Hippo has put it all in a memorable phrase: ‘Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.’ Man can find peace, but he only finds it when he is put at peace with God. It is only by the death of Christ on the cross that the warfare and the rebellion and the antagonism and the wrath of God are all dealt with, and all is removed. And God looks down upon us in loving compassion and forgiveness and smiles upon us, ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.’
There, then, is the first thing, but let me hurry on. There are many other things that proceed from this cross. I start with the peace because it is the most important of them all. But let me now say just a word or two about the second thing. I do not mean to be insulting when I put this question to you. Can you follow? Can you understand that portion of scripture which you find in chapter 5 of Romans and the first half of chapter 6. Those words were written, just over 1900 years ago, to the Christian people in Rome, and most of them were slaves or servants in Caesar’s household. And when Paul wrote those words to them, he obviously meant them to understand them, and he assumed that they would. But I am asking you twentieth century men and women who are proud of your learning and of your knowledge and sophistication — do you understand them? First century serfs and slaves could understand this. Can we? This is what Paul said. He said that we should glory in the cross because when the Son of God died upon that cross, all who believe in him, died with him. ‘Knowing this,’ says Romans 6:6, ‘that our old man is crucified with him.’ He says: ‘For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection’ (6:5). What does all this mean?
Let me try to explain it. The great argument of the Apostle there in that portion of scripture beginning at Romans 5:12 and going on almost to the beginning of Romans 8, is just this: the most important thing that we can ever understand about ourselves in this world is our position, and that is that we are, all of us, the descendants of Adam. God created a man, he called him Adam, and everybody has come out of that first man and the first woman, Eve. And the explanation of the state of the world is that we are all involved in that original fall and sin of Adam and Eve. Some of you, I know, do not believe that. Can you explain the universality of sin apart from that? Can you explain, in any way except this, the human race as it is, in spite of all the efforts of civilization to improve it? There is no other explanation. You see it is like this. Adam was our representative. He was the first of the human race, and God made him the representative of the human race, so that everything that he did involves the whole of his posterity. And we know well what happened. He sinned, and he fell, and he died, and the Apostle says that because of that we all died: ‘Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned’ (Rom 5:12 RV).
We were all involved in that act of Adam. We were all, as it were, in Adam. Adam was the head and the representative and the focus of the whole of humanity, and when he fell, we all fell with him. The punishment of sin is death. He died, we have all died ever since. Everybody, he says, dies. Even children die. Death came into the world and all die as the result of the sin of Adam. All the consequences of his sin and fall have fallen upon the whole of the human race. We are born with corrupted minds; we are born with perverted minds; we are born sinners. We try to toy with imaginary thought, in order to make ourselves feel happy for a while. We indulge in our fancies and fantasies, we paint our pictures with our imaginations, but they are not true. There is no such thing as an innocent babe. The first thing we all want to do is something that we are told not to do. We have all been born the children of Adam, and we are in him and tied to him, and there we all are by nature. He was miserable after he fell, and we have been miserable ever since, and we can do nothing about it.
And then comes the message of the gospel. Christ, who is he? He is the Son of God. But why did he come on earth? He came on earth to start a new humanity. He is the second Adam, he is the second man. The first man was Adam; the second man is the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven’ (1 Cor 15:48).
Here, then, is this wonderful thing, that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ he becomes your representative. And everything that he did, he did for you, so that you have done it in him. We all fell in Adam, argues Paul. We can all be raised in Christ. And if you believe in him, it means that you have died with him, you have borne your punishment, you have finished with that old man that you once were. You no longer belong to Adam, you belong to Christ. You have a new start, a new beginning, and a new nature. You are in Christ, and no longer in Adam. This is a tremendous thing, so tremendous that none of us can understand it, and those of us who have known it for many years feel that we are only at the beginning of it, and this is the most wonderful thing of all.
You see, this is where the glory of the gospel comes in. ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?’ The world says no—what a man is, so he remains. You cannot start a fresh, you cannot have a new beginning. You will always be what you were. It is no use pretending, it cannot be done. Man is what he is and will remain what he is. No, says the gospel. It is possible for a man to become dead to what he was. He can cease to belong to Adam. He can cease to be in Adam; he can be in Christ. He can have undergone a death. He can have an entirely new birth, a new start, a new nature, a new life. He dies with Christ; he rises with Christ. He is in Christ. And so he becomes a new man.
Now, this is, of course, the very thing that had happened to the apostle Paul. In his old life he was a self-satisfied, proud Pharisee, a religious and highly moral man; a very good man, and a very nationalistic Jew, despising everybody else and proud of himself. That is what he was, and yet he was miserable and wretched and unhappy and disturbed. But once he realized the meaning of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, he made an absolutely new start. Saul of Tarsus died, and the apostle Paul began to live. He says ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new’ (2 Cor 5:17). He is a new man in a new universe. He is delivered from that old Adamic state and nature and he is in Christ, alive unto God. It is the cross that does that. There is nothing that will get rid of the old man that we all are by nature, but the death on the cross. But if you believe in him and in the purpose of that death, and what that death accomplished, you are truly dead to your old Adamic nature. You know that your old man was crucified with Christ, and that he has gone, and that he has gone forever. And as a result of this, our whole position and status is entirely changed. The Apostle put that in this great statement: ‘For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace’ (Rom 6:14).
Oh, that men and women might understand what that means. You know, people will think of Christianity as just that which offers pardon for our sin, that God says: ‘Very well, I forgive’, but that then you remain exactly where you were, and you go back into the same old world with your same old weakness. And there you are as you always were, and you fail and you sin again, and you ask forgiveness again, and up and down you go, back and forth, and you are exactly the same, except that now God forgives you when you forgive him. But that is not Christianity. That may be the beginning of it, and the essential beginning of it, but it is nothing but the beginning. This is the essential thing—that my whole position is changed, my whole relationship to God is changed. I am not only at peace with him, I am in an entirely new relationship. This is the difference.
‘Ye,’ says the Apostle, ‘are not under the law, but under grace’ (Rom 6:15), by which he means that all of us by nature are under law, under the law of God. If you are not reconciled to God, if you do not believe in Christ and his death upon the cross, if you are not a forgiven person because of that belief, I will tell you exactly what your position is. You are under the law of God. God deals with you as a law giver. He says, here are my Commandments, keep them. If you can keep them I will be satisfied. If you cannot, I will punish you. That is to be under the law. We are all under the law of England and that is the position. The law lays down its commandments. It says if you break them you will be prosecuted, and if you are found guilty, you will suffer the punishment that fits that particular crime. We are under law. And the whole of the human race, apart from Christ, is in that position of being under law.
And you know what the law of God demands of you? The Ten Commandments. Have no other God beside him; make no graven image of him; nor take his name in vain; nor take his day in vain. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife or his ox or his ass or his man servant, or his maid servant. And there is much more. And then Christ sums it all up like this: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself (Lk 10:27).
That is the law of God, that is what you and I have got to keep by nature. God says there is my law, there is my demand, that is what I am going to judge you by, and if you do not keep it, I will punish you. That is being under law. There is the task for you. And it offers you no help whatsoever to keep it. Of course, you say you do not want help. You are confident in your will power, in your knowledge and your education, and your moralisms. You do not want help. Very well, you are not given any either, and that is the life you have got to live without any help. And the result is, of course, that you cannot do it. ‘For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,’ says the Apostle. It is impossible. No man can keep the law of God, no man ever has kept it. The whole world lieth guilty before God, there is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
So there you are, you are still under law. You cannot keep it, you are helpless, you are a failure, you are miserable, you are getting older, you are going to die, and after death you stand before God in the judgement and you can do nothing, and you are left in utter despair. That is what it means by being under law. And it is so hopeless that it makes many a man say, ‘Very well, if I am already damned in any case, I am going to make the best of it. I am going to get my fill of sinning, while I am here!’ It makes you sin all the more. And then the guilt comes all the more, and there you are in utter hopelessness and helplessness, under law.
But this cross, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, makes an entire change. You are not under law, he says, but under grace. You, who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and his death upon the cross, you have been taken from that position, you are in an entirely new position. You are under grace, and grace is unmerited favour. It is kindness shown to people who deserve nothing but punishment. Grace is God, because he is God, looking upon us with favour when we do not deserve anything at all. That is what ‘under grace’ means. It means that God is no longer just a law- giver to you, he is your Father. He is your Father who loves you with an everlasting love. He is your Father who looks upon you and desires to bless you. He is one who says, ‘You are my child, I am your Father, I will give you my own nature. I will count the very hairs of your head. I will number them all. Nothing shall happen to you apart from me.’ That is to be under grace.
You see the difference? It is the difference between being in a relationship of law and a relationship of love. You are in an entirely new position and the cross puts you there. You are under grace, and you do not tremble before God with a craven fear. You know that though you are unworthy, he is your Father, and you say, ‘My Father, who art in heaven, hallow ed be thy name, thy kingdom come.’ And you know that he looks upon you with a smile. You know that he is patient, that he is long- suffering. You know that he is determined to bring you back to the perfection in which he originally made you, and that all the forces of his love and grace and compassion are working in your favour.
Let me put my last point to you in this form. It is that the cross entirely transforms the whole problem of life and living in this world, while we are still left in it, and it does it in this way. You believe in the Son of God and his death upon the cross, and God will put his Holy Spirit into you, and the Holy Spirit is a mighty Spirit. He is a Spirit of power. How can I live in this world? The world, the flesh, the devil, they remain the same. ‘What is the point of believing your gospel?’ says someone. ‘I have got to go back into the same world, and all the forces of evil and of hell are still there against me, and I am still the same person.’ No, you are not. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you become a new person, no longer under law, but under grace, no longer in Adam, but in Christ. And more, the Spirit of God is put into you, and he is a mighty Spirit. ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,’ says this Apostle to the Philippians, ‘for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (2:12–13).
But also—and this to me is in many ways the most wonderful thing of all—the moment I become a child of God, the moment I realize that I am not in Adam but in Christ, the moment I come from being under the law to being under grace, do you know what it does for me? It opens the door of heaven to me and I can begin to pray.
And we have all known have we not, what it is to turn to God in prayer? Some of us remember during the last war, and during the 1914–18 war, reading of the terrible experiences of men torpedoed at sea. There they might be, in their little dinghies, for days on end. The food had ended, so had the water, and they were just drifting, and it seemed that everything had finished and there was nobody in sight to save them. They were frantic and did not know what to do. Then somebody would say, ‘What about prayer?’ None of them had prayed for years, or had ever thought about God, but in their trouble they remembered him. Exac tly like the people on the Titanic, the unsinkableship, sailing across the Atlantic in April 1912. On the Sunday afternoon, with the band playing and everybody enjoying themselves, delighting in this wonderful achievement of man in making a ship that could not sink—suddenly the thud. They had struck an iceberg, and the moment they struck the iceberg, the orchestra which had been playing dance music and jazz, began to play ‘Nearer my God to thee, Nearer to thee’. We have all known what it is to turn to God in prayer, but the vital question is this: Can we pray? Have we any right to pray? What is prayer? Now prayer means entering into the presence of God. It means addressing that almighty holy God who is in heaven while we are on earth, the God we have ignored and spurned, and reviled and rejected. How can we go into his presence? The answer is that we cannot go into his presence as we are.
‘God heareth not sinners’ (Jn 9:31). There is only one way whereby a man can pray with any confidence and assurance, and it is in believing in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to the Apostle: ‘Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand ….’ But he is fond of saying this, we find it everywhere. ‘For through him,’ says Paul to the Ephesians—by Christ—‘we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father’ (2:18). You cannot go to God except through Jesus Christ. He said it himself: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (Jn 14:6). You may address ‘whatever Gods may be’, you may shout out in the dark hoping that some god will hear you. That is not prayer. Prayer means speaking to God who is in heaven, who is all powerful to bless. How can you do that? There is only one way.
Read again the author of the epistle to the Hebrews putting it in his own incomparable manner: ‘Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need’ (Heb 4:14–16). That is the problem. What do I do when I need help? What do I do when I am failing, when I am in an agony, in a crisis? I want grace to help in time of need. How can I get it? What right have I to speak to God? And there is only one answer. My only right to speak to God is that Christ has borne my punishment and has reconciled me to God, and has made me at peace with God or, as it is put in Hebrews 10:19–22, ‘Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.’ He opens the gate of heaven, and enables me to pray.
And he answers my every accuser. If you go down on your knees and try to pray to God and talk to the Almighty God, your accuser will begin to speak. You will be reminded of the holiness of God, and how do you answer? There is only one answer. It was satisfied on the cross. The law of God was answered and satisfied on the cross. Your conscience will speak, it will rake up old things. Your memory will be activated, and you will be feeling that you are hopeless and terrible. Your accuser is accusing you. How do you deal with it? There is only one way of dealing with it, and we find it expressed in one of our hymns:
Be thou my shield and hiding-place,
That, sheltered near Thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him thou hast died.
And he cannot answer.
— J. Newton
The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin and unrighteousness.
And then, when your sense of uncleanness and unworthiness before that holy God makes you ashamed, what do you do? You can but offer this prayer:
Oh lamb of God still keep me
Close to thy wounded side, —
‘Tis only there in safety
And peace I can abide.
What foes and snares surround me,
What lusts and fears within!
The grace that sought and found me
Alone can keep me clean.
Eternal Light! Eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be,
— James George Deck
When, placed within Thy searching sight,
It shrinks not, but with calm delight,
Can live, and look on Thee!
The spirits that surround
Thy throne May bear
Thy burning bliss;
But that is surely theirs alone,
Since they have never, never known
A fallen world like this.
O! how shall I, whose native sphere
Is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before the Ineffable appear,
And on my naked spirit bear
The uncreated beam?
How can I? There is only one answer:
There is a way for man to rise,
To that sublime abode:
An offering and a sacrifice,
A Holy Spirit’s energies,
An Advocate with God—
These, these prepare us for the sight
Of holiness above:
The sons of ignorance and night
May dwell (and shall dwell) in the Eternal Light,
Through (and only through) the Eternal Love!
— T. Binney
‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ He has given me that peace with God. He has given me a new nature. I am in Christ, I am no longer under the law, I am under grace, and he enables me to live. I can pray to God, I can answer my every enemy. I have a right to speak, even to the God of heaven, in all the glory of his holiness. So I say, and are you also not ready to say, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’?