The wrong, the evil that is in a man; he must be set free from it. I do not mean set free from the sins he has done: that will follow; I mean the sins he is doing, or is capable of doing; the sins in his being which spoil his nature, the wrongness in him, the evil he consents to; the sin he is, which makes him do the sin he does.
He will want only to be rid of his suffering; but that he cannot have, unless he is delivered from its essential root, a thing infinitely worse than any suffering it can produce. If he will not have that deliverance, he must keep his suffering. Through chastisement he will take at last the only way that leads to liberty. There can be no deliverance but to come out of his evil dream into the glory of God.
The Lord never came to deliver men from the consequences of their sins while those sins remained. That would be to throw the medicine out the window while the man still lies sick! That would be to come directly against the very laws of existence! Yet men, loving their sins, and feeling nothing of their dread hatefulness, have (consistently with their low condition) constantly taken this word concerning the Lord to mean that he came to save them from the punishment of their sins. This idea (this miserable fancy rather) has terribly corrupted the preaching of the gospel. The message of the good news has not been truly delivered.
He came to work along with our punishment. He came to side with it, and set us free from our sins. No man is safe from hell until he is free from his sins.
Not for any or all of his sins that are past shall a man be condemned; not for the worst of them does he need to fear remaining unforgiven. The sin in which he dwells, the sin of which he will not come out. That sin is the sole ruin of a man. His present live sins, those sins pervading his thoughts and ruling his conduct; the sins he keeps doing, and will not give up; the sins he is called to abandon, but to which he clings instead, the same sins which are the cause of his misery, though he may not know it — these are the sins for which he is even now condemned.
It is the indwelling badness, ready to produce bad actions, from which we need to be delivered. If a man will not strive against this badness, he is left to commit evil and reap the consequences. To be saved from these consequences, would be no deliverance; it would be an immediate, ever deepening damnation. It is the evil in our being (no essential part of it, thank God!) from which He came to deliver us — not the things we have done, but the possibility of doing such things anymore.
As this possibility departs, and we confess to those we have wronged, the power over us of our evil deeds will depart also, and so shall we be saved from them. The bad that lives in us, our evil judgments, our unjust desires, our hate and pride and envy and greed and self-satisfaction ---- these are the souls of our sins, our live sins, more terrible than the bodies of our sins, that is, the deeds we do, because they not only produce these loathsome characteristics, but they make us just as loathsome. Our wrong deeds are our dead works; our evil thoughts are our live sins. These sins, the essential opposites of faith and love, these sins that dwell in us and work in us, are the sins from which Jesus came to deliver us. When we turn against them and refuse to obey them, they rise in fierce insistence, but at the same time begin to die. We are then on the Lord’s side, and He begins to deliver us from them.
From such, as from all other sins, Jesus was born to deliver us; not only, or even primarily, from the punishment of any of them. When all are gone, the holy punishment will have departed also. He came to make us good, and therein blessed children.
Evil is not human; it is the defect and opposite of human; but the suffering that follows it is human, belonging of necessity to the human that has sinned. While evil is the cause of sin, suffering is FOR the sinner, that he may be delivered from his sin.
A man may recognize the evil in him only as pain. He may know little and care nothing about his sins. Yet the Lord is sorry for his pain. He cries aloud, “Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He opens His arms to all weary enough to come to Him in the hope of rest.
I certainly do not disregard understanding. The New Testament is full of urgings to understand. Our whole life must be a growth in understanding. But I cry out about the misunderstanding that comes of man’s endeavour to understand while not obeying. Upon obedience our energy must be spent; understanding will follow. The Lord cannot save a man from his sins while he still holds to his sins.
If a man wants to be delivered from the evil in him, he must himself begin to cast it out, himself begin to disobey it, and work righteousness, and the man should look for and expect the help of his Father in this endeavour. Alone he could labour to all eternity and not succeed. He who has not made himself, cannot set himself right without Him who made him. But his maker is in him, and is his strength.
The sum of the matter is this: —The Son has come from the Father to set the children free from their sins. The children must hear and obey Him, that He may send forth judgment unto victory.