WHEN GOD’S GRACE IS MANIFESTED THE MOST
God’s grace never changes toward us. However, our feeling toward God’s grace changes with time. Actually, there is never a moment that God’s grace ceases. However, the experience of our enjoyment of God’s grace changes. The first condition for the enjoyment of grace is our need. The more need we sense, the more we treasure grace. Those who do not feel any need will not consider God’s supply as grace. One failure of the saints is to think that a man needs God’s grace only when he is a sinner. It is true that we are saved by God’s grace. But we need God’s grace all our lives, and there is not a moment when we do not need God’s grace. Those who begin with God’s grace have to be perfected through God’s grace. It is true that God has forgiven our sins and has caused the judgment of our sins to fall on the Lord Jesus. Everyone who believes in Him is saved. Such grace is indeed the greatest. But our heart is most wicked. When we become more advanced in our Christian journey, the Lord may grant us more grace to have more victories, and spontaneously we credit these glories of victories to ourselves and consider ourselves as rather good! Although the Lord remains the same toward us, we do not feel Him and do not sense as much need for Him as before! Because of the deceitfulness of our heart, many times God allows us to fall into temptations or even to be sifted by the devil. When we fail, we condemn and blame ourselves and hate our own sins, thinking that we are sin incarnate and that it would not be too much for the Lord even to condemn us to perdition again. At such times, God shows us His grace. Although we are deep in sins, His grace is sufficient for us, and He is willing to forgive our sins. Although we have failed, He will not forsake us.
How our hearts then swell in gratitude! How we marvel at the Lord’s amazing grace! Although we are hopeless sinners, He is still willing to bestow grace and mercy upon us, and He still cares for us. This makes us all the more thankful for God’s amazing grace, and it causes us to realize that we need His grace moment by moment. If God had not been bestowing grace on us continually, we would have perished long ago in the same way the worldly ones have. Those who know their own sins know the preciousness of God’s grace.
Grace always humbles a person. If a person is not a sinner, he does not need grace. To confess that one is a sinner is to be humble. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins, it is easy at that moment for us to humble ourselves. But how difficult it is for us to judge ourselves day by day and to consider that no good thing is in our flesh! It is not an easy thing for a person to continuously consider himself incapable and unable to perform good. Our heart always wants to glorify itself, thinking that we can and will do good, forgetting God’s grace and reckoning that we have no need of it. Only when we have humbled ourselves will we confess that our life in Adam is just corrupt and defiled. Only then will we pursue God’s grace. We feel the sweetness of God’s grace during the times of our failures. But we should in the same way feel His sweetness all the time. We feel the need to have God’s grace when we sin. In the same way we should feel the need for such grace all the time. What a pity that we acknowledge the filth of the Adamic life only when this old Adamic life is activated, but we have a different evaluation of it and are not willing to humble ourselves at other times when the old Adamic life is hidden. May we learn to realize that within our nature and our life, nothing is free from the stain of sin. If we did not have God’s grace, we would have perished long ago. Hallelujah! With the Lord there is grace.
A SENSE OF SIN
Although we exalt the Lord’s grace, we dare not under- estimate sin. God hates sin, whether it is in the worldly people or in the heart of the saints. It is a glorious thing to preach God’s grace, and we should faithfully strive to preach God’s salvation. But to preach God’s grace and at the same time tolerate man’s sin, that is, compromise with and tolerate evil, is not only a misunderstanding of God’s grace but an insult to His grace as well. Whether God deals with man according to grace or the law, sin has to be judged and rejected. Those who boast in the name of grace, but still take pleasure in sin, probably do not yet know God’s grace. "Should we continue in sin that grace may abound?" (Rom. 6:1). Every regenerated person should answer, "Absolutely not!"
One thing that breaks the hearts of the faithful saints of God is the fact that man does not consider sin as sin; man has invented many new terms to cover up sin. But the more lamentable thing is that believers, the regenerated ones, have looked too lightly upon sin. What a pity that the consciousness of sin that God has given to many of us is gradually lost. I am not saying that we have not struggled with sin. Indeed we have. At the beginning of his Christian life, every genuinely regenerated person surely has received a new nature that hates and abhors sin. He has probably exercised much strength to oppose sin. But the frequent defeats and frequent victory of sin over him gradually put in him a self-excusing heart. He may think that it is impossible to overcome. To sin has become habitual, and the voice of the accusing conscience is no longer as strong as before. What a degradation this is! Regrettably, these ones may know the teaching of 1 John 1:9 and may taunt God’s holiness, thinking that God’s grace means exoneration. If after they sin they will be forgiven as soon as they ask for forgiveness, what should keep them from sinning more? Although they have not said this with their mouth, is not their heart thinking this way? This is the reason that many believers have failed. They have lost their feeling toward sin. The spiritual sense is very similar to the physical senses. If a person suffers too much hurt and goes through too much abuse, his senses will become dull. When we disregard our sins, the feeling of our conscience will become increasingly dull. Every time we sin and do not confess it, and every time we disregard sin, our conscience becomes that much harder. In the end, the evil and loathsomeness of sin is diminished and the feeling toward sin is paralyzed.
Have we not failed often in the small things? Many times, the conscience does condemn us of the little lies, the little unfaithfulnesses, the little unrighteousnesses, and the little failures. But we comfort ourselves by saying that these things are insignificant. In this way, we push aside the condemnation of the conscience and become calloused. Under such circumstances, our feeling toward sin suffers a killing blow. If we tolerate the condemnation of the conscience once and refuse to confess our sin, we will not be able to remove that sin. Spontaneously, we forego the standard of God’s holiness. Indeed, we should not be afraid to be over-sensitive about sin! If we would judge ourselves and remove and reject immediately what our conscience condemns, our feeling toward sin will become more and more sensitive. A victorious saint is a believer who judges himself. Just as a sinner is afraid of the punishment of sin (hell), in the same way a believer should be afraid of the power of sin. We should be careful and not harden our hearts, lest we lose our sensitive feeling toward sin. Once we lose our spiritual feelings, our spiritual life will dry up. Those who disregard sin will despise God’s grace as well. Those who know the horror of sin and who have sunk into a state of helplessness will treasure God’s grace as rare jewels when they receive it. If we regard sin as insignificant, the grace of forgiveness will be but a common thing.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 07: The Christian (5), Chapter 26, by Watchman Nee)