Why Do I Groan? Part 1

Romans 7‑8  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Rom. 7; 8
There is nothing so hard for our hearts as to abide in the sense of grace, to continue practically conscious that “we are not under law, but under grace.” It is by grace that the heart is “established;” but then there is nothing more difficult for us really to comprehend than the fullness of grace—that “grace of God wherein we stand,” and to walk in the power and consciousness of it. It is only in the presence of God that we can know it, and there it is our privilege to be. The moment we get away from the presence of God, there will always be certain workings of our own thoughts within us; and our own thoughts can never reach up to the thoughts of God about us, to the “grace of God.”
It is quite impossible for us to draw any right conclusion about grace, until we are settled on the great foundation of grace—God's gift of Jesus. No reasoning of our own hearts could ever reach up to “the grace of God,” for the very simple reason, that in order to be such it must flow directly and freely from God. What I had any, the smallest possible, right to expect, could not be pure, free grace—could not be this “grace of God.”
But then, even after we “have tasted that the Lord is gracious,” it is quite natural for our own thoughts to work as soon as we leave the presence of God; and the moment they do so, whether it be about our sins, or about our graces, or anything else that we are occupied, we lose the sense of His grace, and can no longer reckon upon it.
This getting out of God's presence is the source of all our weakness as saints, for in God's strength we can do anything: “if God be for us, who can be against us?” “We are more than conquerors.” Whether our thoughts be about ourselves, or about circumstances around us, everything then becomes easy. But it is alone, when in communication with Him, that we are able thus to measure everything according to grace.
Are our thoughts about ourselves? When in the presence of God, we rest on His grace nothing can trouble us. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?” “Who is he that condemneth?” “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” But the moment that we get out of God's presence, we cannot any longer rest on His grace as when in communion with Him.
Again, are they respecting the condition of things around? We may have sorrow on this account, as conscious of the evil, misery, and ruin in which everything is, as Jesus, who “groaned in spirit and was troubled.” But it is impossible, when we are abiding in the sense of God's presence, for anything (be it what it may, even the state of the church) to shake us; for we count on God, and then all things become but a sphere and scene for the operation of His grace.
Nature never counts upon God's grace; it may count upon God's mercy in passing by sin, but only because it imagines either that He is indifferent about it (attributing to Him its own low estimate of sin), or that He has no right to judge it. Grace, when understood by the soul, is seen to be the very opposite of this; it is founded on a just sense of the tremendous evil of sin, on the part of God. And when we have learned in our measure to take God's estimate of sin, we are filled with amazement at that grace of God which can blot it all out, He having given His own Son to die because of it. What the natural man understands by mercy is not at all God's blotting out sin by the blood-shedding of Jesus, but His passing by sin with indifference. This is not grace.
When the conscience becomes awakened, and there are thoughts of responsibility, without the apprehension of grace, the first thing it seeks to do is to put itself under the law; it cannot do otherwise. And the natural man often does this; he knows of no other way of pleasing God than obedience to the law; and this, being ignorant both of God and of himself, he thinks he can render.
But the having very simple thoughts of grace is the true source of our strength as Christians; and the abiding in the sense of grace, in the presence of God, is all the secret of holiness, peace, and quietness of spirit.
There are two things which may hinder our peace of spirit, and these, being frequently confounded and mixed up together, create a difficulty in the minds of saints—
First, a troubled state of conscience respecting acceptance and salvation;
But these are quite distinct. The trouble and exercise of spirit, which the saint may and indeed must have whilst living in this world because of circumstances around, is altogether an opposite thing to that trouble of conscience which is respecting pardon of sins.
Where there is that trouble of conscience, love is not in exercise; but self is the center. But when the trouble is because of the state of things around, the contrary is the case. How deep the trouble of soul in the Lord Jesus! but it flowed from love and from a perfect sense of what the grace of God is.
When grace is fully, that is, simply known, when we are resting upon God as being for us, and know that He is love, there can be no mistake between these two causes of disquiet; but if we do not understand what grace is, we shall be apt immediately to confound them.
If there be in us any anxiety of conscience as to our acceptance, we may be quite sure that we are not thoroughly established in grace. It is true that there may be the sense of sin in one who is established; but this is a very different thing from distress of conscience as to acceptance. Want of peace may be caused by either of two things: my never having been fully brought to trust in grace; or my having through carelessness lost the sense of grace, which is easily done. The “grace of God” is so unlimited, so full, so perfect, that, if we get for a moment out of the presence of God, we cannot have the true consciousness of it, we have no strength to apprehend it; and if we attempt to know it out of His presence, we shall only turn it to licentiousness.
If we look at the simple fact of what grace is, it has no limit, no bounds. Be we what we may (and we cannot be worse than we are), in spite of all that, what God is toward us is love! Neither our joy nor our peace is dependent on what we are to God, but on what He is to us; and this is grace. (To be continued).