Confusing the Spirit in You with Christ For You
If you confuse the work of the Spirit in you with the work of Christ on your behalf, once again your peace will be disturbed. These two must be kept distinct; for when you mix them you ruin both. Beware of overlooking either; beware of keeping them at a distance from each other. Though distinct, they go hand in hand, inseparably linked together. Each has its own place and its own office.
Your medicine and your physician are not the same, yet they go together. Christ is your medicine, and the Spirit is your physician. Do not take the two works as if they were one compounded work; nor try to build your peace upon some mystic gospel that is made up of a strange mixture of the two. Embrace both, the outward and the inward; the objective and the subjective; Christ for us, and the Holy Spirit in us.
From beginning to end keep these two distinct, lest, having found peace in believing, you lose it in times of doubt and darkness. "When I begin to doubt," writes one, "I quiet my doubts by going back to the place where I got them first quieted; I go and get peace again where I got it at the beginning; I do not sit down gloomily to must over my own faith or unbelief, but over the finished work of Immanuel; I don't try to reckon up my experiences, to prove that I once was a believer, but I believe again as I did before; I don't examine the evidence of the Spirit's work in me, but I think of the sure evidences which I have of Christ's work for me, in his death, and burial, and resurrection. This is the restoration of my peace. I had begun to look at other objects; I am now recalled from my wanderings to look at Jesus only."
Do you understand that? We all go through times of doubt, anxiety, depression and darkness. In those moments if we look to ourselves, our holiness, our faith, or the fruits of the Spirit in our lives we will only go further into despair. At times like that we must go back to what Christ has done for us. He receives sinners, doubters, and those weak in faith. Our peace must come from his finished work, not from our faith and experience.
Some of your difficulties seem to arise from a mixing up of the natural and the supernatural. Now the marvelous thing in conversion is, that while all is supernatural (being the entire work of the Holy Ghost), all is also natural. You are, perhaps unconsciously, expecting some awesome invasion of heavenly power and brightness into your soul; something apart from divine truth, and from the working of man's powers of mind.
You have been expecting faith to descend, like an angel from heaven, into your soul, and hope to be lighted up like a new star in your firmament. You think to be a Christian is to be turned into a droid, programmed and directed by the spirit. It is not so. While the Spirit's work is beyond nature, it is not against nature. He displaces no faculty; he disturbs no mental process; he does violence to no part of our moral framework; he creates no new organ of thought or feeling. His office is to set all to rights within you; so that you never feel so calm, so true, so real, so perfectly natural, so much yourself, - as when He has taken possession of you in every part; and filled your whole man with his heavenly joy.
Never do you feel so perfectly free, - less constrained and less mechanical, - in every faculty, as when he has "brought every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." The heavenly life is liberty, and truth, and peace; it is the removal of bondage, and pain. So far from being a mechanical constraint, as some would represent, it is the removal of the iron chain with which guilt had bound the sinner. It acts like an army of liberation to a down-trodden country; like the warm breath of spring to the frost-fettered tree. For the entrance of true life, or living truth, into man's soul, must be liberty, not bondage. "The truth shall make you FREE."