Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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From a conversation with a fellow-seminarian in the mid-1970’s
One day, when I was attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I was engaged in a discussion with one of my classmates about spiritual perfection. His opinion was that God did not expect us to obey Him perfectly, but only to the extent that “it is humanly possible”. My reply was that it is not possible to obey the commandments of God in the New Testament at all. I had been taught that everything Jesus told his disciples they had to do in order to be saved in the end was impossible.
Once when Jesus was preaching, the way of salvation from the wrath of God began to seem so narrow to the disciples that they asked the Lord, “Who, then, can be saved?” To which Jesus responded, “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Yes, it is absolutely impossible for men, in their own strength and wisdom, to be saved.
Jesus described the impossible standard by which we all will be judged, all we who have lived during this New Testament age. He said that we will be judged by what we would do if given the opportunity; in other words, by what is in our heart. That is frightening because the Bible tells us plainly that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). This is the condition of the human heart, and so it is, as Jesus said, impossible for any man to be righteous and, so, be saved from the coming wrath. But if God puts a new heart within us, a heart that has a nature like His, then there is hope. If we can have the power of the holy Ghost living within us, and not just with us, then we have hope. And that is the very reason Jesus came and died. He suffered and died so that we could have God’s new and holy nature inside us, giving us strength to be holy and, so, making us capable of pleasing God. “So then they who are in the flesh cannot please God, but you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit dwells within you” (Rom. 8:8-9).
To obey God “as far as is humanly possible” is to always disobey God because that is all that the human nature is capable of. “The carnal mind”, wrote Paul, “is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can it be.” The normal man in this world scoffs at the things of God “. . . for they are foolishness to him, and he is unable to comprehend them because they are spiritually discerned” (1Cor. 2:14).
You did not choose Christ; he chose you. If you had been wise enough to choose him, you wouldn’t even have needed him. We love him only because he loved us first. It is not possible for humans to either want the right way or to recognize it when they find it. Paul once told some believers, “It is God in you both wanting to do and doing His good pleasure.” Friend, do you have God in you? If you have been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ, you do. But if otherwise, let me encourage you today to acknowledge that without God on the inside, you do not have what you need to do God’s will and be saved from the coming damnation of the wicked.