The Truth in Jesus

But ye did not so learn Christ; if so be that ye heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: that ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, which waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit .

— Eph. 4:20-22

What does it matter how a man understands the atonement, so long as he is not of one mind with the Truth, so long as he and God are not at one, do not atone together? Knowing that a man does not heed his word, why should I heed his explanation of it? He does not his will, and so cannot understand him; he does not know him, and that is why he cannot trust in him. Does a man think his common sense enough to let him know what the Lord means? His common sense ought to be enough to know itself unequal to the task. It is the heart of the child that alone can understand the Father. Would a man have me think him guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost—that he understands Jesus Christ and yet will not obey him? That were too dreadful. I believe he does not understand him.

No man can do yet what he tells him—but are you trying? Obedience is not perfection, but trying. Do you suppose he ever gave a commandment knowing it was of no use for it could not be done? He tells us a thing knowing that we must do it, or be lost; that not his Father himself could save us but by getting us at length to do everything he commands, for not otherwise can we learn the holy secret of divine being. He knows that you can try, and that in your trying and failing he will be able to help you, until at length you shall do the will of God even as he does it himself. The most correct notions without obedience are worthless. The doing of the will of God is the way to oneness with God, which alone is salvation.

Commentary

Aiming In The Right Directions

by Stephen Carney

“Obedience is not perfection, but trying,” says MacDonald.  This should be the first instructions that a new follower of our Lord receives.  So many have been defeated by thinking that the moment they decide to follow Christ, they must do it all perfectly, and hence are devastated when they find that they cannot.  The devil loves to encourage us all to do everything flawlessly, knowing we will fail, and after a while will give up trying to follow Jesus at all.  The following lyrics from Keith Green, written forty years ago describe this experience in such an honest way:

Lord, I remember that special way,
I vowed to serve you, when it was brand new.
But like Peter, I can't even watch and pray, one hour with you,
And I bet, I could deny you too.
But nothing lasts, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus.
I'm sure that my whole life would waste away, except for grace, by which I'm saved.
But nothing lasts, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus.
I know that I would surely fall away, except for grace, by which I'm saved.

So it is that God gives us grace, but not as a license to do as we please.  As Paul said, “Shall I continue in sin that grace may abound?  Absolutely not.”  Grace is given so that we can continue trying and learning the will of the Father.  Obedience is aiming in the right direction, it is not doing it all perfectly.  What God is looking for in each of us is not our perfect accomplishment of the task before us, but whether or not the heart wishes to please the Father.  Perfect love is completeness, not flawlessness.  It is a heart that wants to see the smile on our Lord's face.  So we, like little children, clumsily attempt to do the will of him who is infinitely wiser than we.  Who is working towards an end with mankind that we still do not completely understand or see.  But it is our attempting the task that puts us in step with the Father's will, and our feeble efforts accomplish much more than we know.  For even a cup of cold water given in the name of Jesus does more than any of us can see, and it matters not if you spill a few drops in trying to hand someone the cup.  Jesus says, “that person will not lose their reward.” 

It is all about the aiming in the right direction.  If you keep attempting, sooner or later you will hit the target, maybe not the bull's eye, but you will come close.  Any attempt to move in the direction of the way Jesus is leading will put you down the path further than you were the day before.  So stop being so hard on yourself for failing, for failure is just practice in finding the right way to go. As MacDonald goes on to say, “He knows that you can try, and that in your trying and failing he will be able to help you, until at length you shall do the will of God even as he does it himself.”