Part 5: Impossible with man, possible with God

And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)

Christ had said to the rich, young ruler “Sell all that thou hast… and come, follow  me.” The young man went away sorrowful. Christ then turned to the disciples, and said “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God.” The disciples, we read, were greatly astonished, and answered “If it is so difficult to enter the kingdom, who, then, can be saved?” And Christ gave this blessed answer: “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” 

The text contains two thoughts – that in religion, in the question of salvation and of following Christ by a holy life, it is impossiblefor man to do it. And then alongside with this thought – what is impossible for men is possible with God.

The two thoughts mark the two great lessons that man has to learn in the religious life. It often takes a long time to learn the first lesson, that in religion man can do nothing, that salvation is impossible to man. And often a man learns that, yet he does not learn the second lesson – what has been impossible to him is possible with God. Blessed is the man who learns both lessons! The learning of them marks stages in the Christian life.

Lesson 1: In religion, in the question of salvation and of following Christ by a holy life, it is impossiblefor man to do it.

The one stage is when a man (or woman) is trying to do his utmost and fails, when a man tries to do better and fails again, when a man tries much more and always fails. And yet very often he does not even the learn the lesson. Peter spent three years in Christ’s school, and he never learned that it is impossible until he had denied his Lord and went out and wept bitterly. Then he learned it.

Just look for a moment at a man who is learning this lesson. At first he fights against it; then he submits to it, but reluctantly and in despair; at last he accepts it willingly and rejoices in it. At the beginning of the Christian life the young convert has no conception of this truth. He has been converted, he has the joy of the Lord in his heart, he begins to run the race and fight the battle; he is sure he can conquer, for he is earnest and honest, and God will help him. Yet, somehow, very soon he fails where he did not expect it, and si gets the better of him. He is disappointed, but he thinks: “I was not watchful enough, I did not make my resolutions strong enough.” And again he vows, and again he prays, and yet he fails. He thought: “Am I not a regenerate man? Have I not the life of God within me?” And he thinks again: “Yes, and I have Christ to help me, I can live the holy life.”

At a later period he comes to another state of mind. He begins to see such a life is impossible, but he does not axcept it. There are multitudes of Christians who come to this point: “I cannot”, and then think God never expected them to do what they cannot do. If you tell them that God does expect it, it appears to them a mystery. A good many Christians are living a low life, a life of failure and of sin, istead of rest and victory, because they bagan to see: “I cannot, it is impossible.” And yet they do not understand it fully, and so, under the impression I cannot, they give way to despair. They will do their best, but they never expect tro get on very far.

But God leads His children on to a third stage, where a man comes to take that It si impossible in its full truth, and yet at the same time says: “I must do it, ab\nd I will do it – it is impossible for man, and yet I must do it”; when the renewed will begins to exercise its whole power, and in intense longing and prayer begins to cry to God: “Lord, what is the meaning of this? – how am I to be freed from the power of sin?”

It is the state of the regenerate man in Romans 7. There you will find the Christian man trying his very utmost to live a holy life. God’s law has been revealed to him as reaching down into the very depth of the desires of the heart, and the man can dare to say For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (Romans 7:18-23)

Can a man like that fail, with his heart full of delight in God’s law and with his will determined to do what is right? Yes. That is what Romans 7 teaches us. There is something mmore needed. Not only must I delight in the law of God after the inward man, and will what God wills, bit I need a divine omnipotence to work in me. And that is what the apostle Paul teaches in Philippians 2:13: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

Note the contrast. In Romans 7, the regenerate man says: “To will is present with me, but to do good – I find I cannot do. I will, but I cannot preform.” But in Philippians 2, you have a man who has been led on farther, a man who understands that God has worked His renewed will, God will give the power to accomplish what that will desires. Let us receive this as The first great lesson in the spiritual life.

Praise God for the divine teaching that makes us helpless! When you thought of absolute surrender to God, were you not brought to an end of yourself, and to feel that you could see how you actually could live as a man absolutely surrendered to God every moment of the day – at your table, in your house, in your business, in the midst of trials and temptations? I pray you learn the lesson now. If you feel you could not do it, you are on the right road, if you let yourself be led.

Lesson 2: What is impossible for men is possible with God.

I said a little moment ago that there is many a man who has learned lesson one and then give up in hopeless despair, a lives a wretched Christian life, without joy, or strength, or victory. And why? Because he does not humble himself to learn lesson number two; that with God all things are possible.

Your religious life is every day to be a proof that God works impossibilities; your religious life is to be a series of impossibilities made possible and actual by God’s almighty power. That is what the Christian needs. He has an almighty God that he worships, and he must learn to understand that he does not need a little of God’s power, but he needs – with reverence be it said – the whole of God’s omnipotence to keep him right, and to live like a Christian.

The whole of Christianity is a work of God’s omnipotence. Look at the birth of Jesus Christ. That was a miracle of divine power, and it was said to Mary: With God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1 :37) It  was the omnipotence of God. Look at Christ’s resrruection. We are tought that it was according to the exceeding greatness of His mighty power that God raised Christ from the dead.

Every tree  must grow on the root from which it springs. An oak tree 300 years old grows all the time from the one root from which it had its beginning. Christianity had its beginning in the omnipotence of God, and in every soul it must have its continuance in that omnipotence. All the possibilities of the higher Christian life have their origin in a new apprehension of Christ’s power to work all God’s will in us.

I want to call  upon you now to come and worship an almighty God. Have you learned to do it? Have you learned to deal closely with an almighty Godthat you know omnipotence is working in you? In outward appearance  there is often so little sign of it. The apostle Paul said:I was with you in weakness and in fear and in mmuch trembling, and… my preaching was… in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” From the human side there was feebleness, and from the divine side there was divine omnipotence. And that is true of every godly life; and if we would only learn that lesson better, and give a wholehearted, undivided surrender to it, we should learn what a blessing there is in dwelling every hour and every moment with an almighty God. Have you ever studied in the Bible the attribute of God’s omnipotence? You know that it was God’s omnipotence that created the world, and created light out of darkness, and created man. But have you studied God’s omnipotence in the work of redemption? Maybe that’s a topic for another study…

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