The Significance of the Death of Christ (continued)
The Essence of Sin - Independence of God (continued)
Or again, the same thing shows itself in religious systems, systems of works, salvation by works. This may be positive or it may be negative, but it is the same thing. The positive form is seen in Judaism and in Romanism and in other systems - the religion of salvation by works. Paul summed it up very well, speaking so sadly about his brethren after the flesh - "Being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God" (Romans 10:3). That is the point. They have not done that thing which is just the opposite of independence - submission to the righteousness of God. That whole system, however it comes out, is simply the system of 'what a good boy am I!" 'I do this and that, I don't do this and that; see how good I am!' - seeking to establish their own righteousness.
But this satanic thing is behind it all, and the Lord Jesus uncovered it. He said to these very people who were making broad their phylacteries, making long prayers in the market places, parading themselves like peacocks with their tails spread religiously - "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do" (John 8:44). Pretty scathing for religion, is it not?
Or it may be negative. It may be the poor ascetic, cringing and begging, with his miserable face and his poor emaciated form, and he is only saying in another way, 'What a good boy am I! I am very religious, I do not do the things that all you other people do. I am a man of prayer, of abstinence.' It is the same thing. He counts on getting to heaven that way - independence of God.
Or again, it may come in the most subtle form of all - spiritual pride among the real children of God. There is no worse pride than spiritual pride. I think there is nothing more abominable to the Lord, because it exists just where much better knowledge ought to exist; it exists right in the realm of grace. If you think it is too strong a thing to say, remember, we are poor little pygmies compared with such a man as the Apostle Paul: we cannot match up to him as to spiritual stature, as to his knowledge of God: and even such a spiritual giant as he will say, "That I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of satan to buffet me" (2 Corinthians 12:7). It is there, it is always there, it is always present - some form of self-congratulation; and the peril is greatest, always greatest, where blessing is the greatest. Oh, the infinite peril running side by side with the blessing of God! How very difficult it is for the Lord to trust us with blessing! How very difficult it is for Him to use us! How pleased we feel! Yes, it is in the highest of all realms that satan appears - among the sons of God (Job 1:6). Yes, in heaven. I cannot understand that literally, but I can understand it spiritually - that in heaven satan appears among the sons of God; and satan himself is transformed into an angel of light when the Lord is using and blessing His people. That is great! We are becoming somebody! - and there it is among the sons of God in heaven. Independence - trying to get us unwatchfully, imperceptibly, unconsciously, unintentionally, to presume, because the Lord has done something. How terrible this sin is! You can never track it down and finally lay it to rest.
Now you see, power is based upon authority, and, as we have said before, like can never cast out like. satan can never cast out satan, the flesh cannot cast out the flesh. "If a house be divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand" (Mark 3:25). Authority rests upon right, and right is moral. Hence, we have got to know what the kingdom of God rests upon, and there has to be a very wide cleavage between the two kindgoms.
(continued with # 39 - (The Result of Independence)