But as I think on this, I am reminded of the assessment the Great Physician gave of my case. And I am reminded of His remedy. His prognosis is this: “There is none righteous, no not one...there is none that doeth good” (Romans 3:10-12). And again, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Isn’t it a comfort to know that the Physician of your soul knows your disease? I see that my guilt and failure and helplessness are no surprise to God. They scare me, but He is not anxious about them. They surprise me, but they do not disqualify me, because He is the remedy: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 7:25).
Furthermore, I see that our Lord Jesus Christ enabled His disciples to do His will. Stephen, while being stoned to death, actually desired and prayed for the salvation of his murderers, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Lazarus lay dead in the tomb four days. But at Christ’s command, he rose from the dead and walked out of the tomb. His ability to obey came with Christ’s power of command. “Thy people shall be willing in the day thy power” (Psalm 110:3). This is an important principle.
When we hear God’s commands, we must remember that because of Christ, precepts are promises. Faith enables us to see that with the command of the Lord Jesus there is power to obey it. If our Lord never required more of us than we were able to do, would we ever cry to Him out of our need and helplessness? If we did not need so great salvation, what glory would He receive for His grace (Psalm 25:11)? Jesus said, “Repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). “Abide in me” (John 15:4). In all these and more, the guilt of failure is ours. It’s our fault we don’t repent, our fault we don’t believe, our fault we don’t abide. It’s our fault we don’t love our brethren. It’s our fault we don’t love our enemies. And because the guilt and failure is ours, and because the power is Christ’s, then we are in the hand and at the mercy of God. What must we do? Worship Him! Ask! Trust! See the salvation of the Lord! Wait for His grace and power.
Salvation is the work of God from beginning to end. He chose us. He redeemed us. He justified us. He gave us spiritual life. He gave us faith in Christ alone. He sustains, keeps and preserves us throughout time and eternity. Salvation is all of Him and all in Christ. Grace is God doing all that He requires by Jesus Christ. He provides. He works. He declares. He gives. Grace is not God’s attempt to save. Grace is an accomplished salvation, completed and perfected by the Lord Jesus Christ alone in His death on the cross. And it is by the grace of God’s Spirit, enabling us to look to Christ who finished the work, that we live (John 3:14-15; Isaiah 45:22). Salvation is God’s work, His gift. The evidence that it is ours is that we receive what Christ has done by faith. We receive it as done, as finished, and we walk in faith, looking to Christ only, all the days of our life. By His Spirit He maintains the faith that He gives through His intercession, by the merits of His blood and righteousness, by His reigning authority and power at God’s right hand, according to the eternal will and purpose of God.
When we hear God’s word, we naturally think it all depends on us. This leaves us depressed, despondent and powerless. Or, if we are blind in our self-conceit, it leaves us vainly puffed up in a cloud of self-accomplished deception and pride. That’s because we naturally come to God on the basis of our worth, our works and our strength. The law says: “do and live.” Do what’s right and keep doing what’s right and you will live and receive blessing from God. That’s the law. That’s “works.” But grace says: “live and do.” Christ has done all. He commands life. We therefore live. He says, “Follow Me.” We therefore do. Why? Because He saved us. How? By what He accomplished on the cross and has given us by faith. God has given to us “exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might be partakers of His divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). "He works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). Thus, "faith works by love" (Galatians 5:6). We see Christ by faith. We obey Him in faith. We draw from Him the life we need to live, and strength from Him to obey.
We hear His commands. We see they are right. We know our guilt and failure for not keeping them. But we also see our Master. He is no hypocrite. He kept all perfectly, from the least to greatest. And all that He did, He did for His people. He tells of His glorious achievements for sinners. We admire Him that He is so holy. We adore Him that He is so loving, so selfless, so giving and that He did nothing for Himself, but for us who in our minds and by wicked works were the enemies of God (Colossians 1:21). We hear His command to think no wrong, speak no evil, give to all who ask and to love our enemies. We ask, “Lord, give me this faith and the love that you produce with it.” We want to be like Him. We want to be merciful as He is to us. We want Him to save others as He saved us. We want Him to comfort others as He comforted us. We want others to admire and worship and love Him, because He is a great Master. He has the words of eternal life! We want others to hear them. As our Master fulfilled the whole law, and as Stephen was given grace to follow Him in it, so we ask, “Lord, so give to me to see and follow you.”