"Do You Find You are Better?"

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
I was asked to visit a young man—a Christian, I was told, but not a happy one—and a few days after I went.
He was about twenty years old, just recovering from a long and severe illness.
He was glad to see me; and after a few questions about the health of his body, we soon turned to the condition of his soul.
He was quite bright and clear about the forgiveness of his sins, knowing that the blood of Jesus Christ had washed them all away; but to the question, “Do you find your heart has become better since you have been converted?” there was no answer, but a serious expression of countenance, and an unhappy look in the downcast eyes. His mother, present in the room, thereupon broke in, declaring how much better he had become, and what an exemplary character he was; but he made no answer. Seeing where he was in soul, I said,
“Well, I don’t find that my heart has become one bit better than it was.” Immediately he brightened, and looking up, he said,
“I was just thinking the same. I don’t find I get one bit better.”
“And this is your trouble?”
“Yes,” he said, “that is it.”
“If you improved,” I said, “who would get the credit of it?”
“Why, I should.”
“Quite true; you would get the credit, and not Christ. Now let me ask you, Do you believe that Word that says, ‘In me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing?’”
“Yes,” he said, “I do.”
“And yet you are disappointed that good does not come out of that which God says is wholly bad! I suppose, if you found that you never had any evil thoughts or desires, and saw only good when you looked within, you would think you were getting on nicely?”
“Yes, I should.”
“And yet,” I said, “you do find in you that which you never did before—a something that hates the evil you do, though you do it? Is it not the case?”
“O, yes, it is indeed!” he said, and his face got all of a glow with excitement; and when I read him the last few verses of Romans 7, he said it “exactly described him.”
“Now,” I said, “let us look at the thing as God looks at it. He says that you and I have a nature that is unimprovable—that, however much we try, cannot be made better; and Romans 6, tells us how God has dealt with this nature, that produces only evil in thought and action. He has dealt with it by Christ, and it is for us by faith to lay hold of it.
“Romans 7, gives us the experience of one who, in spite of what God tells him in chapter 6, tries to get this evil nature to improve, and learns by bitter experience that he cannot succeed (although he finds he has now a new nature, that he received when he was born again, which hates the evil that the old nature does, but is powerless to prevent its acting).
“Sooner or later he gives up the effort, and in the last verse but one of the chapter cries out in his wretchedness to another to deliver him from the bondage he is in; and then the answer comes that he is delivered by the Lord Jesus Christ; and turning back to chapter 6, he learns how that deliverance has been accomplished, even by death—the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, not only for his sin, but for him; that as Christ died, so he died before God. And ‘he that is dead is freed from sin;’ thus the only thing that could be done with that which was absolutely bad was to make an end of it, to abolish it; and so when Christ was made sin for us, the one who knew no sin, He died, and thus ended it, and, blessed be His name, thus ended me before God, although I am still alive as to fact; but faith takes the place God gives, and ‘reckons itself to have died indeed unto sin.’
“But more than that: as Christ is no longer in the place of death, but risen from the dead, so is the believer raised with Him. ‘For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.’ So ‘likewise reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
“Now the believer knows himself as not only having died unto sin once, but alive, raised, and in a new place of unchanging blessing before God, even in His own beloved Son, as the first verse of Romans 8 tells us:
“‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.’”
All this time my young friend was a study to look upon; and as God’s Spirit applied God’s Word in power, it seemed as if all the clouds rolled away, never to return, and he said,
“O, I see it all now quite clearly, quite!”
“And now, friend,” I said, “when you find that evil nature in you ever ready to come up, and getting no better, do look at it as God looks at it; reckon it where God allows you to reckon it, as having come to an end at the cross of Christ; and mind you don’t allow a dead thing to act in any way. O, this,” I said, “gives God the glory, this leads our hearts in wondering praise of that cross of Christ whence all these blessings flow! It is no longer I that get the credit for making myself better, but Christ is the one I can glory in, who has by His death forever done away with my old self before God, and, as risen, brought me into a new place, where there is no condemnation.”
I left him bright, happy, and praising God for his deliverance. May the same God bless any bewildered soul who read this paper, for Christ’s sake.
I would just add, that the testimony of the mother was right in its place. She could bear witness to the altered character and ways of her son; but the heart knoweth its own bitterness, and it was what he found within, that troubled this young man.