The Application of Salvation
And how is this miracle of grace accomplished, or rather, exactly what does it consist of?
It is here that God begins His actual application of salvation unto His elect. God saves us from the pleasure or love of sin before He delivers us from the penalty or punishment of sin. This priority is necessary, because God will become inconsistent with His own nature of holiness and of righteousness if He grants full pardon to one who was still a rebel against Him, making Him to love that which He hates. God is a God of order throughout, and nothing ever more proofs the perfections of His works than the orderliness of them.
Firstly, God save His people from the pleasure or love of sin by puffing His holy awe in their hearts, for “the fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Pro_8:13), and again, “the fear of the Lord is to depart from evil” (Pro_6:16).
Secondly, God saves His people from the pleasure of sin by communicating to them a new and vital principle: ‘the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom_5:5), and where the love of God rules the heart, the love of sin is dethroned.
Thirdly, God saves His people from the love of sin by the Holy Spirit’s drawing their affections unto things above, thereby taking them off the things which formerly fascinated them. “Since you were brought back to life with Christ, focus on the things that are above-where Christ holds the highest position. Keep your mind on things above, not on worldly things.” (Col 3:1-2)
The Honest Doubt
The sincere Christian is often made to seriously doubt if he has been delivered from the love of sin. Such questions as these plainly agitate his mind: Why do I so readily yield to temptation? Why do some of the vanities and pleasures of the world still possess so much attraction for me? Why do I wear down so much against any restraints being placed upon my lusts? Why do I find the work of conquering the flesh so difficult and distasteful? Could such things as these be if I were a new creature in Christ? Could such horrible experiences as these happen if God had saved me from taking pleasure in sin?
Well do we know that we are here giving expression to the very doubts which exercise the minds of many of our readers, and those who are strangers this experience are to be pitied; ‘cause the nature of Christ is not present in them. But what shall we say in reply? How is this distressing problem to be resolved?
Salvation from the love of sin may be ascertained notwithstanding all the desiring of the flesh after that which is evil. But in what way? How is this initial aspect of salvation to be identified? God saved us from delighting in sin by imparting a nature that hates evil and loves holiness, which takes place at the new birth.
The Real Question?
Consequently, the real question to be settled is: How may the Christian positively determine and know whether that new and holy nature has been imparted to him? The answer is: By observing its activities, particularly the opposition it makes (under the energizing(s) of the Holy Spirit) unto indwelling sin. Not only does the flesh (that principle of sin) lust against the spirit, but the spirit (the principle of holiness) lusts and wars against the flesh
How to Know You Are Saved From the Pleasure of Sin
The conflict between the principle of sin and the principle of Holiness is a constant reality to the sincere Christian
First, our salvation from the pleasure or love of sin may be recognized by sin’s becoming a burden to us. This is truly a spiritual experience. (Psa_40:12). So far from sin being pleasant, it is now felt as a cruel nightmare, a crushing weight, and unendurable load. The soul is “heavy laden” (Mat_11:28) and bowed down. A sense of guilt oppresses and the conscience cannot bear the weight of it. This experience is not ONLY restricted to our first conviction: it continues with more or less sensitivity throughout the Christian’s life.
Second, our salvation from the pleasure of sin may be recognized by sin’s becoming bitter to us. Yet a mere remorse or keen pain should not be mistaken as hatred of sin, but rather dislike of its consequences — ruined health, squandered opportunities, financial difficulties, or social disgrace. Many times why we feel sorrow or sorry for our sins is because of their imminent consequences. We enjoy sin but dread to endure its consequences. No, what we have reference to is that anguish of heart which ever marks the one the Spirit takes in hand. When the veil of delusion is removed and we see sin in the light of God’s countenance; when we are given a discovery of the wickedness of our very nature, then we see that we are sunk in carnality and death. When sin is opened to us in all its secret workings, we are made to feel the evil of our hypocrisy, self-righteousness, unbelief, impatience, and the utter dirtiness of our hearts. And when the repentant soul views the sufferings of Christ, he can say with Job, “God maketh my heart soft” (Job_23:16).
It is in this way that God slays our self-righteousness, makes poor and brings low — by making sin to be an intolerable burden and a bitter experience to us. There can be no saving faith till the soul is filled with fervent repentance, and repentance is a godly sorrow for sin, a holy hatred of sin, a sincere purpose to forsake it. The Gospel calls upon men to repent of their sins, forsake their idols, and crush their lusts, and thus it is utterly impossible for the Gospel to be a message of good tidings to those who are in love with sin and madly determined to perish rather than part with their idols.
This experience of sin becoming bitter to us is now limited to our first encounter — it continues in varying degrees, to the end of our earthly pilgrimage. The Christian suffers under temptations, is pained by Satan’s fiery assaults, and bleeds from the wounds inflicted by the evil he commits. It grieves him deeply that he makes such a wretched return unto God for His goodness, that he entreat Christ so desperately for His dying love, that he responds spontaneously to the promptings of the Spirit. The wanderings of his mind when he desires to meditate upon the Word, the dullness of his heart when he seeks to pray, the worldly thoughts which invade his mind, the coldness of his affections towards the Redeemer, cause him to groan daily; all of which goes to evidence that sin has been made bitter to him. He no longer welcomes those intruding thoughts which take his mind off God: rather he sorrows over them. But, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted: (Mat_5:4).
Third, our salvation from the pleasure of sin may be recognized by the felt bondage which sin produces. As it is not until a Divine faith is planted in the heart that we become aware of our native and chronic unbelief, so it is not until God saves us from the love of sin that we are conscious of the fetters it has placed around us. It is then we discover that we are “without strength,” unable to do anything pleasing to God, incapable of running the race set before us. A Divinely drawn picture of the saved soul’s felt bondage is to be found in Rom_7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do . . . For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, waning against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin” (Rom_7:18-19, Rom_7:22-23). And what is the outcome? The agonizing cry “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” If that be the sincere lamentation of your heart, then God has saved you from the pleasure of sin.
Let it be pointed out though, that salvation from the love of sin is felt and evidenced in varying degrees by different Christians, and in different periods in the life of the same Christian, according to the measure of grace which God bestows, and according as that grace is active and operative. Some seem to have a more intense hatred of sin in all its forms than do others, yet the principle of hating sin is found in all real Christians. Some Christians, rarely if ever, commit any deliberate and premeditated sins: more often they are tripped up, suddenly tempted (to be angry or tell a lie) and are overcome. But with others the case is quite otherwise: they — fearful to say — actually plan evil acts. If anyone indignantly denies that such a thing is possible in a saint, and insists that such a character is a stranger to saving grace, we would remind him of David: was not the murder of Uriah definitely planned? This second class of Christians find it doubly hard to believe they have been saved from the love of sin.