The Religionist, the Sinner, and the Man in Christ

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 5
There are three states before God described in these passages -that of the Pharisee, of the publican, and of the " man in Christ." The subject before us is not so much what we have done, as what we are-a much deeper thing. There are many who know that their sins are forgiven, who know nothing of settled peace with God. Put into one scale the blood of Christ, and into the other all the sins that a son of Adam could commit, and even the most fearful sinner can hardly doubt which way the beam will turn. But the question of our nature-of what we are, is a deeper one than this. Forgiveness of sins, is not peace with God. Men will indeed be brought to account for the things that they have done; for "Every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment," and certainly their actions will not be passed over; but the nature that produces these actions is the deepest thing.
A person may know forgiveness of sins; but suppose he should commit sin again, what may happen before he can-as people say, "resort to the fountain"? What if he should die before he get there, and thus be taken red-handed in sin? I do not believe that God would suffer His child thus to fall; but I give these as common questions asked every day. The question of our nature must be settled before there can be solid peace with God.
We read in Luke 18 that "Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican." Now it is not so easy to dispose of this Pharisee as people think; there is much to be said for him. He was in the temple, the right place for a religious man such as he, the place that God had appointed for worship. There is no temple now Men have indeed tried to make imitations of it, and very poor imitations they are, but God has not ordained any place of worship on earth. Where is the place of worship now? Heaven, where- Christ is. The Pharisee was in the temple, and his first words are, "God, I thank thee." This sounds very well. What have creatures to do but to praise God?. " That I am not as other men." Here he gets on rather dangerous ground, but you will observe he thanks God for this, that he is not as others. There was not only what was negative in his case, but something positive also. " I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all that I possess." The Pharisee's mistake was that he stood on the ground of self in the presence of God, who knew the material that was before Him; and who prefers the case of the publican. The mistake of the Pharisee was to stand before God in the value of self. When we think of what God is-when we think what the judgment will be-which of us would not join in David's prayer, "Enter not unto judgment with thy servant"?
There are more Pharisees than people think. Have you peace with God? If not, are you on the ground of the Pharisee, for self is before you in some way? You see some who have been looked on as devout people all their lives, and yet when they come to die they are all at sea. I do not deny that they may be believers, but is that all the blood of Christ can do? Is that the thought of Christianity-to leave people at sea just when they most need help? It is that little bit of self they are standing on that does all the mischief.
Supposing you have a bad temper, and are asking God to improve you, you have something of the Pharisee about you. The idea in Christianity is not to take you up and improve you; it is not intended thus to cure your bad temper.
There are two passages in Scripture that seem to contradict one another-what is said in Romans and in the Epistle of St. James about justification before God. The gospel of God's grace, the letter of God's love, is addressed to "Him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly." If you are a worker, the letter is not for you. What is justification? Standing before Him, who sees into the very fibers of my being, without a flaw or speck on my soul.
St. James speaks of justification before mart. If you want to be justified before men, you will do good works. You would not like to substitute justification by works before God; that is, if you really know Him, and are not putting in His place and investing with His name an idol of your own creation. There are many more idolaters than people are aware of.
There is a time coming, when we shall hear about works. The dead, small and great, shall stand before God to be judged, and the terrible issue will be, as sure as the Bible is true, that these Pharisees-these people who went in on the value of themselves-these workers that are judged according to the things that they have done-shall be cast into hell.
The Pharisee in Luke 18 was quite right to be in the temple, God's appointed place of worship-quite right to pray, for he was a dependent creature; but the mistake was, he was blind enough-he was mad enough-to stand on the value of himself. The Lord commends the publican's prayer, " God be merciful to me a sinner." My heart goes with the utterance, but it is not Christian language-it would be unsuitable language for a Christian; but, beloved friends, it was a blessed utterance. It was extracted by God from a soul overwhelmed by the sense of his miserable, wretched condition. It was not a Christian's standing, but it was a blessed state.
It is a happy thought that there is a place where you and Christ will infallibly meet. The. Savior and the sinner have a blessed tryst, where they meet. Have you come down there? " God be merciful to me a sinner." You see the publican's confidence, or rather his thoughts (for there was not confidence yet), were not in self, but in God. The reason so many are without rest is because they have never dropped out of self. That little bit of self is the disturbing element. In the case of the publican we do not find Christian ground. Where shall we get it? In 2 Cor. 12, where we read of a man in Christ. But it may be said, surely there is something between the publican and the man in Christ. Nothing whatever. If you have said with the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner," the next position for you is a man in Christ. There is no halting place, no half-way house, no border-land. If you are not in Christ you perish. Does any one dare to say that if you are in Christ you will perish? "They shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. I and my Father are one." You must not expect to find a declaration of the gospel in the parable of the publican. The publican would certainly have been material for the blessing of which we speak, but Christ had not died; the blood had not then been shed.
Is it not a marvelous thing that people, Christian people, like to stand at this distance from God, "afar off"? People still like that old covert of Adam in the trees of the garden, where they can indeed hear the voice of God, but are not near Him. They prefer shade and distance to nearness and sunshine.
"A man in Christ." This explains it all. If " in Christ," I am out of self. I am looked at by God as having died, having gone under judgment, and oh, dear friends, there will be a resurrection. of everything, but not of my sins or of my evil nature. I stand now, not on the merits of Christ, but in Christ A. Christian is an infidel about self-everything is founded on what Christ is. If I am standing there, bright days do not make Christ brighter.; dull days do not make Him darker. I am in a place of unalterable value. No panic. of my wretched heart can cause any fall in the value of Christ. Satan may charge me, my own heart may charge me, but it will not alter the value of Christ. I believe in a peace that nothing in the present-nothing in the future-nothing in the world-nothing in hell-can ever alter. Christ is everything to the Christian. He stands in the simple excellency-oh 1 who would add to it-of Christ. The Christian up there is according to the value of Christ; down here he is a poor, weak creature, with nothing good in him but what is of Christ. If the Christian looks at others he can see what is of Christ in them; if he looks at self he sees evil; and thus the Divine precept is fulfilled-esteeming others better than himself. If I want to get my soul rejoiced, do nook at self? Where do I look? Above. If I want to judge myself, I know well where to look.
The eye of God rests with eternal complacency on Christ, and on me, because I am in Christ. Faith is no credit to me, as to myself I am nothing. Paul says of himself, "Though I be nothing;" and if he could say it, you and I may-yes, we will say it, when I am weak then am I strong. Is it that the flesh gets any better by the believer breathing the air of heaven? No. As has been said, if taken up into the third heaven, a thorn is needed as soon as it comes down again. If this were so with an old saint, a veteran like Paul-if the first horse in the race had to endure this-what about poor things like ourselves? And sincerity makes it no better. There are no more miserable people in the world than these sincere people. How can you get boldness for the day of judgment in the flesh? How can this crumbling mass of sinful mortality fit itself for the beams of that judgment throne? The truth is simply this-Christ died-I died with Him; Christ rose-I rose with Him; Christ ascended; and I am in Him. If you have not this place, there is nothing for you but the worm that never dies, the fire that never is quenched. In Christ, higher you could not be, holier you could not be. If you say, " God be merciful to me a sinner" God calls you from that place; you need not stay there. In Eph. 2 we read of those who were even worse than the publican, those who had no hope, and were without God in the world. Now what does Paul say to them "But now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." By fasting and prayer? No; but "by the blood of Christ." He is our peace. Oh! claim Him as your peace, ye who stand afar off. We are made the righteousness of God in Him; the peace of God is ours. Could you match it? Take all you ever did; take all your ancestors ever did (if you can appropriate it); take all your prayers and tears and works, and die on them if you dare. The. Lord give you to rest your souls on Jesus! Amen.