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We frequently meet with persons who tell us that they cannot find peace with God. They have been bidden to believe in the Lord Jesus, but they misunderstand the command, and, while they think the), are obeying it, they are really unbelievers; hence they miss the way of peace. They attempt to pray, but their petitions are not answered, and their supplications yield them no comfort whatever, for neither their faith nor their prayer is accepted of the Lord. Such persons are described by James in the third verse of this chapter. We cannot be content to see seekers in this wretchedness, and hence we endeavour to comfort them, instructing them again and again in the great gospel precept, “Believe and live”: yet as a rule they get no further, but linger in an unsatisfactory condition. We will go to the root of the matter, and set forth the reason for the lack of peace and salvation of which some complain.
I. First hearken to THE COMPREHENSIVE COMMAND. “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” According to the connection, the fighting spirit within many men shows that they have not submitted themselves to God; lusting, envy, strife, contention, jealousy, anger, all these things declare that the heart is not submissive, but remains violently self-willed and rebellious. Those who are still wrathful, proud, contentious, and selfish, are evidently unsubdued. A want of submission is no new or rare fault in mankind; ever since the fall it has been the root of all sin. Man wants to be his own law, and his own master. This is abominable, since we are not our own makers; for “it is He that hath made us and not we ourselves.” The Lord should have supremacy over us, for our existence depends on His will. The hemlock of sin grows in the furrows of opposition to God. When the Lord is pleased to turn the hearts of opposers to the obedience of the truth, it is an evident token of salvation; in fact, it is the dawn of salvation itself. To submit to God is to find rest. The rule of God is so beneficial that He ought readily to be obeyed. He never commands us to do that which, in the long run, can be injurious to us; nor does He forbid us anything which can be to our real advantage. All resistance against God must, from the necessity of the case, be futile. Common sense teaches that rebellion against Omnipotence is both insanity and blasphemy. And then let it always be known that submission to God is absolutely necessary to salvation. A man is not saved until he bows before the supreme majesty of God. Now, it is generally in this matter of submission that the stumbling-block lies in the way of souls when seeking peace with God. It keeps them unsaved, and as I have already said, necessarily so, because a man who is not submissive to God is not saved; he is not saved from rebellion, he is not saved from pride, he is still evidently an unsaved man, let him “think whatever he will of himself.
1. Now, in the saved man there is and must be a full and unconditional submission to the law of God. If you say in your heart, “He is too strict in marking sin, and too severe in punishing it,” what is this but condemning your Judge? If you say, “He calls me to account for idle words, and even for sins of ignorance, and this is hard,” what is this but to call your Lord unjust? Should the law be amended to suit your desires? Should its requirements be accommodated to ease your indolence?
2. And before a man can have peace with God he must submit himself to the sentence of the law. If your plea be “not guilty,” you will be committed for trial according to justice, but you cannot be forgiven by mercy. You are in a hopeless position; God Himself cannot meet you upon that ground, for He cannot admit that the law is unrighteous and its penalty too heavy.
3. A man must next submit himself to the plan of salvation by grace alone. If you come with anything like a claim the Lord will not touch the case at all, for you have no claim, and the pretence of one would be an insult to God. If you fancy you have demands upon God, go into the court of justice and plead them, but the sentence is certain to be against you, for by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified.
4. You must also submit yourselves to God’s way of saving you through an atoning sacrifice and by means of your personal faith in that sacrifice.
5. And then there must be full submission to God in the matter of giving up every sin. Either you must cast sin out of your heart or it will keep you out of heaven.
6. If we would be saved there must be submission to the Lord as to all His teachings; a very necessary point in this age, for a multitude of persons, who appear to be religious, judge the Scriptures instead of allowing the Scriptures to judge them.
7. And now I must ask another question of you who desire peace and cannot find it: have you submitted yourself to the providential arrangements of God? I know persons who have a quarrel with God. He took away a beloved object, and they not only thought Him unkind and cruel at the time, but they think so still. Like a child in a fit of the sulks, they cast an evil eye upon the great Father. They are not at peace, and never will be till they have owned the Lord’s supremacy, and ceased from their rebellious thoughts. If they were in a right state of heart they would thank the Lord for their sharp trials, and consent to His will, as being assuredly right. Yield yourselves unto God, and pray to be delivered from future rebellion. If you have submitted, do so yet more completely, for so shall you be known to be Christians when you submit yourselves unto God.
II. Now consider the other and FOLLOWING PRECEPTS. I think I am not suspicious without reason when I express a fear that the preaching which has lately been very common, and in some respects very useful, of “only believe and you shall be saved,” has sometimes been altogether mistaken by those who have heard it. Repentance is as essential to salvation as faith: indeed there is no faith without repentance except the faith which needs to be repented of. A dry-eyed faith will never see the kingdom of God. A holy loathing for sin always attends upon a childlike faith in the Sin-bearer. Where the root grace of faith is found other graces will grow from it. Now notice how the Spirit of God, after having bidden us submit, goes on to show what else is to be done. He calls for a brave resistance of the devil.
1. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The business of salvation is not all passive, the soul must be aroused to active warfare. I am not only to contend with sin, but with the spirit which foments and suggests sin. I am to resist the secret spirit of evil as well as its outward acts. “Oh,” saith one, “I cannot give up an inveterate habit.” Sir, you must give it up; you must resist the devil or perish. “But I have been so long in it,” cries the man. Yes, but if you truly trust Christ your first effort will be to fight against the evil habit. Ay, and if it is not a habit merely, nor an impulse, but if your danger lies in the existence of a cunning spirit who is armed at all points, and both strong and subtle, yet you must not yield, but resolve to resist to the death, cheered by the gracious promise that he will flee from you.
2. Next the apostle writes, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” lie who believes in Christ sincerely will be much in prayer; yet there are some who say, “We want to be saved,” but they neglect prayer.
3. The next precept is, “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners.” What! does the Word of God tell sinners to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts? Yes, it does. When a man comes to God and says, “I am willing and anxious to be saved, and I trust Christ to save me,” and yet he keeps his dirty, black hands exercised in filthy actions, doing what he knows is wrong, does he expect God to hear him? If you do the devil’s work with your hands, do not expect the Lord to fill them with His blessing.
4. Then it is added, “Purify your hearts, ye double-minded.” Can they do this? Assuredly not by themselves, but still in order to peace with God there must be so much purification of the heart that it shall no longer be double-minded. When you cease trying to serve two masters, and submit yourselves unto God, He will bless you, but not till then. I believe that this touches the centre of the mischief in many of those hearts which fail to reach peace; they have not given up sin, they are not whole-hearted after salvation.
5. Then the Lord bids us “be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” I grieve to say that I have met with persons who say, “I cannot find peace, I cannot get salvation,” and talk very prettily in that way; but yet outside the door they are giggling one with another, as if it were matter of amusement. What right have you with laughter while sin is unforgiven, while God is angry with you? Nay, go to Him in fitter form and fashion, or He will refuse your prayers. Be serious, begin to think of death, and judgment, and wrath to come.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
1What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passionsaare at war within you?b 2You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4You adulterous people!c Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.9Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Submit your understanding to the truth of God; submit your wills to the will of his precept, the will of his providence. Submit yourselves to God, for he is ready to do you good. If we yield to temptations, the devil will continually follow us; but if we put on the whole armour of God, and stand out against him, he will leave us. Let sinners then submit to God, and seek his grace and favour; resisting the devil. All sin must be wept over; here, in godly sorrow, or, hereafter, in eternal misery. And the Lord will not refuse to comfort one who really mourns for sin, or to exalt one who humbles himself before him. Matthew Henry
(Thanks Zabeth❤ )