"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" John 1:29. I repeat the words of John, "Behold the Lamb of God!" We are to contemplate the character of Christ. We are to meditate upon the cross of Calvary; for it is the unanswerable argument of Christianity. God's message to the impenitent, His warning to the backslider, is, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" Those who bring the message to the soul may turn aside from the truth, but he who would be saved must keep his eye on Christ. By beholding, his faith is made strong, and he comes to know "the only true God, and Christ the Messiah, whom Thou hast sent." John 17:3. The sinner sees Christ as He is, full of compassion and tender love, and by beholding this manifestation of God's great love toward fallen man in Christ's sufferings on Calvary, he is transformed in character.
While our salvation is wholly dependent upon Christ, yet we have a work to do in order that we shall be saved. The apostle says, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Philippians 2:12-13. The work that we are to do is not independent of what God is to do, but a work of CO-OPERATION WITH GOD. The power and grace of God are to be wrought into the heart by the divine Worker; but some go astray here, claiming that man has a work to do that is wholly independent of any work of God. Another class take the other extreme, and say that man is free from all obligation, because God does the whole work--both the willing and doing. But the true ground to take is that the human will must be in subjection to the divine will. The will of man is not to be forced into co-operation with divine agencies, but must be voluntarily submitted. Man has no power of himself to work out his own salvation. Salvation must be the result of co-operation with divine power and God will not do that for man which he can do for himself. Man is wholly dependent on the grace of Christ. He has no power to move one step in the direction of Christ unless the Spirit of God draws him. But the Holy Spirit is continually drawing the soul, and will continue to draw until by persistent refusal the sinner grieves away the tender Messenger of God.
In the heavenly councils it has been decided by what means and methods the grace of Christ shall prove effectual in saving the soul. And it is clear that unless the sinner consents to be drawn, unless he will co-operate with divine agencies, the end will not be attained. The work to be done is a united work. The divine and the human are to work together, and the sinner is to depend upon grace, while rendering willing obedience to the dictates of the Spirit of God. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
God has endowed men with reason and with intellectual faculties, but if these are untrained, left uncultivated, men will become like the savage heathen. The mind must be cultivated, and it is necessary that teachers present line upon line and precept upon precept, guiding and training the free-will moral agent so that he shall understand what it is to co-operate with God. God works in the human agent by the light of truth, and the mind, enlightened by the truth, is capable of seeing truth in distinction from error. Open to the light of truth, free from prejudice, unbound by the opinions and traditions of men, the enlightened mind clearly sees the evidences of the truth, and believes it as from God. The man enlightened by truth will not call falsehood truth, and light darkness. The Spirit reveals to the mind the things of God, and to him who co-operates with God is the realization that a Divine Presence is hovering near. When the heart is open to Christ and the mind responds to the truth, Christ abides in the soul. The Spirit's energy works in the heart, and leads the inclinations toward Christ. By living faith, the Christian places entire dependence on divine power, expecting that God will "will" and "do" that which is according to His good pleasure. As fast as the soul resolves and acts in accordance with the light that is revealed, the Spirit takes the things of God and gives more light to the soul.
"As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on His name." "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth." John 1:12, 14. The Spirit of God is not commissioned to do our part of the work, either in willing or doing. It is the work of the human agent to co-operate with divine agencies. As soon as we incline our will to harmonize with God's, the grace of Christ is supplied to co-operate with our resolve. But it is not to be a substitute to do our work-- to work in spite of our resolutions and actions. Therefore, our success in the Christian life will not be because of an abundance of light and evidence, but will depend upon our acceptance of the light given, upon the rousing of the energies, and operating with the heavenly ministers appointed of God to work for the salvation of the soul.
If the sinner or the backslider settles himself in sin, the light of heaven may flash about him to no purpose, as it did about Saul when the bewitching power of the world's deception was upon him. Unless the human agent inclines his will to do the will of God, as finally Saul did, the light will shine in vain, and a thousand-fold more light and evidence would do no good. God knows when the sinner has sufficient evidence, and says to such, "They have Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." Luke 16:29, 31.
Paul had a terrible awakening when the light from heaven flashed upon him, and a voice said to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" Paul answered, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And He said, "I am Christ whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." And the Lord said, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." Acts 9:4-6. The Lord always gives the human agent his work to do. Paul was to work in compliance with the divine command. But if he had said, "Lord, I am not in the least inclined to follow your directions in working out my salvation," then, should the Lord have showered upon him light tenfold as bright, it would have been useless. It is man's part to co-operate with the Divine. Here is where the conflict is to be sternest, hardest, and most fierce-- in yielding the will and way to God's will and way, relying upon the gracious influences which God has exerted upon the human soul throughout all the life. The man must do the work of inclining. "For it is God that worketh in you both to will and do." The character of the actions will testify what has been the nature of the resolve. The doing was not in accordance with feeling and natural inclination, but in harmony with the will of the Father in heaven. Follow and obey the leadings of the Holy Spirit; obey not the voice of the deceiver, which is in harmony with the unsanctified will, but obey the impulse God has given. This is what the heavenly intelligences are constantly working to have us do-- the will of our Father which is in heaven.
The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God, requires a struggle, but the soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in holiness.
God does not force the will of His creatures. He cannot accept an homage that is not willingly and intelligently given. A mere forced submission would prevent all real development of mind or character; it would make man a mere automaton. Such is not the purpose of the Creator. He desires that man, the crowning work of His creative power, shall reach the highest possible development. He sets before us the height of blessing to which He desires to bring us, through His grace. He invites us to give ourselves to Him, that He may work His will in us. It remains for us to choose whether we will be set free from the bondage of sin, to share the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can CHOOSE to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him; your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.
Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith.
Everything is at stake. Will the human agent co-operate with divine agencies to will and to do? If a man places his will on the side of God's will, fully surrendering self to do His will, the rubbish will be cleared from the door of the heart, the defiance of the soul will be broken down, and Christ will enter to abide as a welcome Guest.