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Gregory Mantle

Beyond Humiliation: The Way of the Cross

Chapter 17
Reckoning at the Cross

“In America, when people are uncertain about anything, they say ‘I guess,’ but when they know a thing to be accurate, they say ‘I reckon.’ It shows there is an element of intelligence about it. There are some of us who are very bad at reckoning; but all may reckon thus. One of the simplest things in the world is this, ‘Twice one are two.’ There is eternal truth underneath this. All the mathematicians in the world cannot make 2 + 2 = 5. Therefore, there is eternal unchangeableness and reliable truth at the basis of this simple reckoning. I make out three things in the process: First, fix your mind upon this figure, this symbol of a number, 2. Secondly, in its relation to that other figure 2, 2 and 2. What is the third absolute certainty? Something that once seen, you never can unseen. 2 and 2 make 4. “Likewise reckon ye yourself to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The reckoning has to do with my need here, and with that great full salvation there. Now, let us see. I put down this first of all. ‘God has power to cleanse my soul from all, and sin make me live to Himself.’ Is that a positive thing? That I might put down as number 2. Very well, God has in the redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ made an ample, adequate provision for the cleansing of my soul. That also is 2. The next thing is this. God has promised in his Word, in unequivocal English, that He will cleanse my soul from all sin, and make me thoroughly alive to Him. That is the third figure. What is the fourth? God who has this power, God who has provided this salvation, God who has given this promise is faithful, He is ‘God that cannot lie.’ Now, I come up to these figures and I say, here is my amazing need, my unutterable depth of need for cleansing and fullness of love. Here is the power of God through the redemption of Jesus Christ. Here is God’s promise, and here, covering all, the absolute faithfulness of God. Twice 1 are 2, twice 2 are 4. Lord, I believe.” — Isaac E. Page

When the suspension bridge across the Niagara was to be erected, the question how to get the cable over was solved by a favoring wind. A kite was elevated, which alighted on the other shore. To its insignificant strand a cord was attached which was drawn over, then a rope, and finally a cable, strong enough to sustain the iron cable which supported the bridge, over which heavily-laden vehicles pass to and fro in perfect safety. Standing within sight of the Cross, and beginning to comprehend what the Sin-bearer’s death means to us, we begin a reckoning, which, as Professor Beet says, “may seem at first akin to madness,” but which is so wonderfully honored on God’s side, that what at first was like that tiny strand, increases and strengthens by the law of habit, until it becomes an unshakable medium of intercourse between ourselves and God.

Let us notice some of the laws which govern the exercise of this vital principle which we call faith.

We are so constituted, that it is not possible for us to put forth a volition to do anything which at the same time we believe it impossible to do. Our volition will be weakened or strengthened, moreover, in proportion as our belief in the practicability or impracticability of what is proposed is strong or weak. A strong faith will make a strong will, and a weak faith a weak will. If we question for a moment the obtainability of such a life as we have been thinking about, we immediately cut the strands of that bridge across which we may communicate with God, and be the recipients of His choicest communications to us. It was because men believed in the practicability of the Niagara bridge that it was accomplished. The faith that overcame the barriers to its erection was natural; the faith we are called upon to exercise is religious, because it is directed to religious objects; and if natural faith is. mighty, faith that fastens itself upon God is almighty. Religious faith takes hold of the infinite God, and every element of His nature is pledged in the behalf of the man or woman who says, “I believe God.” That definition of faith so frequently heard, as “taking God at His Word,” may mean nothing more than taking the Word as God’s. A key is only of value as we use it for the lock and door we want to open; and the Word is the key which introduces us to direct and living contact with God Himself. It is in this fellowship with God that we hear His voice speaking the promise, and when we have heard God speak, it is easy to believe His Word.

Unbelief has always a moral cause, and this entrance into God’s presence so as to hear and believe His voice, is only possible when we have put away from our lives everything, whether sinful or doubtful, that is out of harmony with His will. The three great lines of self-surrender are — to be anything the Lord wants us to be; to do anything He wants us to do; to suffer anything He wants us to suffer. These embrace the subjective, the active, and the passive forms of our existence, and every point in each line must be yielded, however severe the struggle may be.

The crucial point with many is the surrender of the will. This is the backbone of our being, the arbiter of the soul, the grand marshal of the faculties, and, until fully yielded to God, is strong when it ought to be weak, and weak when it ought to be strong. But our will must be surrendered, and God’s will must be accepted, that “good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” It has been put thus. Here is a circle [Circle Not In This ASCII Text] which represents His will. I voluntarily place myself in the center of it, and resolve to be what God wills, to do what God wills, to suffer what God wills. I renounce my own plans and preferences and programs and accept His. Whatever comes to me, comes to me through His will, so long as by an obedient walk and an unfaltering faith I maintain the position I have taken. Should an unkind letter reach me, it reaches me through His will; should the angel of death darken my home, he visits me because God wills. I am in my Father’s school. He has many lessons to teach me, and they are not half as hard to learn when I recognize His loving voice, and know that in weal and woe, in prosperity and adversity, in sunshine and in storm, I am safe in the center of His will.

Under these circumstances faith becomes as easy as breathing. As chemical action immediately ensues when the proper fluids come into contact with the proper metals in the electrical jar, producing the ethereal fiery current, so the moment the soul is fully yielded to God, faith springs up, spiritual action ensues, and light and life possess the heart.

When thus perfectly yielded to God on every point, for time and for eternity, there is nothing to hinder this reckoning of faith and the laying of our offending nature upon the altar of Christ’s Cross for entire destruction. From that moment we may begin — in the utter absence of feeling or emotion — to reckon ourselves “dead unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ,” for the two key-words of the wonderful message in Romans vi. are “reckon” then “yield.” “As soon as men open the door by removing the strong and indurated bolt of their worldly affections, He comes quicker than His own lightnings, and claims His seat of dominion in the inner soul. It is done so quickly that there is no longer an opportunity to look for Him abroad. There He is, rejoicing in His recovered position; forgetting and forgiving all the injury and guilt of His exclusion; purifying and beautifying the mansion which had been stained with the world’s dark sin, and rent with its stormy sorrow.”

“Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. vii. 1). The prompt decisive act is represented by the phrase “let us cleanse,” which is in the aorist tense which denotes singleness of act, a point in the expanse of time. The patient, gradual, maturing work is expressed in the phrase which follows: “carrying holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

In 1765 John Wesley answered the question, “What shall we do in order that this work of God may be wrought in us?” as follows:— “In this, as in all other instances, by grace are ye saved through faith. Full sanctification is not of works, lest any man should boast. It is the gift of God, and it is to be received by plain, simple faith. First, believe that God has promised to save you from all sin and to fill you with Himself. Until we are thoroughly satisfied of this, there is no moving one step farther. Secondly, believe that He is able thus to save completely all who come to Him through Christ. Admitting that with men this is impossible, this creates no difficulty in the case, seeing with God all things are possible. Thirdly, believe He is willing to do it now. Is not a moment to Him the same as a thousand years? He cannot want more time to accomplish whatever is His will. Fourthly, believe that He does it now. Not at any distant time, not when you come to die, not tomorrow, but today. He will then enable you to believe it is done, according to His word.”

A great difficulty with many, is in the maintenance of this reckoning, until the act of faith grows into a habit, and sinful habits are replaced by those that are of the Spirit of God. Let us recall the illustration on page 79 [In lieu of the missing page numbers, search back for the clause: If you examined a dead leaf-stalk — DVM]. The plant has condemned a leaf to decay, and the moment the silting-up process begins, the leaf is doomed. It may be weeks before it falls off, but it is as good as dead already. The plant never goes back on its resolve, if we may so put it, to deny that leaf further nourishment, and throw its sap in another direction. Let us learn the lesson. Evil habits, which are the growth of years, are doomed the moment we put the Cross of Christ between ourselves and them, and if we keep the Cross there, never going back on our first reckoning, the fate of these sinful habits is irrevocably sealed, even though for weeks they may seek to regain their former ascendancy.

This is a matter which concerns the will, and when the will trembles obediently on the verge of action, the infinite resources of God are at its disposal in an instant. When the paralytic willed to stretch forth his withered hand, God’s enabling power came in between the act of willing and the act of stretching forth. Reckon on God, and throw the responsibility on Him. A gentleman was riding with his host. The host wanted to return home by a certain road, but there was a difficulty. The chestnut mare his guest was riding refused to pass a certain bridge. She had been tried again and again, but always in vain. The host suddenly remembered that his guest was what he called “a praying man,” and he thought he had an opportunity of testing the power of prayer. Was it worth anything in an exigency of this sort? The man of God was quite willing to trust his Lord, and away they rode. Hastening across the bridge, the host turned to see a struggle and perchance a victory over a nervous horse. But there was victory without struggle. He saw his friend drop the reins on the mare’s neck as they came to the bridge, and heard him say, as he looked upwards, “Now, Lord!” and quietly as a lamb the mare crossed the bridge. Let us reckon thus on God, and when the bridge has to be crossed, let us learn to drop the reins, and casting the responsibility on Him, say, “Now, Lord! “ and He cannot fail because He cannot deny Himself.