Asking God to 'Rub It In': Applying the Gospel to Our Hearts - Part One

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The truths of the gospel on which I have been posting will always remain truths which lie outside your soul, mind, heart and conscience until the most important thing occurs. That most important work is the work of the Spirit whereby He mysteriously and lastingly applies those truths to your conscience in such a way that you think differently, feel differently, and live differently.

Isn’t it funny how you can hear truth over and over again, and yet that truth just doesn’t seem to take hold of you and change the way you think and feel. I know I’ve felt that way so many times before regarding these same truths I’ve been preaching to you. So often they seemed to lie just outside my grasp. They appear so beautiful and wonderful that I want them more than anything. And I know that they haven’t affected me enough because I perceive I would think and feel differently about my Savior and God if they did.

And so commences the most difficult and arduous task of asking God to take these truths and “rub it in” – into my conscience so that I would savor His forgiveness and propitiation, and substitution, and expiation more than ever before. I figured that if these truths were impressed heavily and lastingly on my conscience that I would hate sin more and love the Savior more.

This thought first came to mind when I was reading an old Puritan pastor named William Romaine (born in 1714). He was one of the leaders of the 18th century revival in England, along with George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers.

The book I was reading was called, The Life, Walk and Triumph of Faith. And in that book Romaine said, “No sin can be crucified either in heart or life, unless it be first pardoned in conscience, because there will be want of faith to receive the strength of Jesus, by whom alone it can be crucified. If it be not mortified in its guilt, it cannot be subdued in its power” (p. 280).

Jerry Bridges, in his book The Gospel for Real Life, comments on Romaine’s statement. Per Bridges,

“if you do not believe you are dead to sin’s guilt, you cannot trust Christ for the strength to subdue its power in your life. So the place to begin dealing with sin in your life is to count on the fact that you died to its guilt through your union with Christ and His death” (p. 178).

I believe that the only way this can happen is by asking God to “rub in” these truths into your heart, mind and conscience. Bridges puts that work this way:

“You need to ponder and pray over [these truths] until the Holy Spirit convinces you of it in both your head and heart” (ibid).

That statement hit me powerfully when I first read it. If you have ever wondered why the truths you hear do not impact you more powerfully and effectively, it is probably because you have not done the most important thing, besides hearing them. You have probably not asked the Spirit to apply them to your heart and mind so that they do their amazing and saving work. They’re simply not going to work hard on your heart until you work hard to ask the Spirit to rub them into your conscience like a soothing cream. And this is especially true with the truth of forgiveness. If this specific truth is not rubbed into your conscience then you will live the rest of your life swayed by guilt and feelings of condemnation, and worse yet, you will find no power to defeat sin in your life.

But the work of asking God to rub it in, is primarily what I wanted to address here. For you see, God has already promised to do His work of saving you. But there is yet work for you personally to do in seeing to it that this saving work is actually doing its work.

Salvation is a one-way street – it is simply God saving you. But sanctification is a two-way street – it is God and you working together to accomplish your holiness. He does His part, but you must do yours to see His part come to fruition. Philippians 2:12-13 portray this beautifully. Paul says there,

“you must be even more careful to put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you,
giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him” (NLT).

Here the truth of synergism – the working of God and man together to accomplish man’s sanctification – is evident (of regeneration and conversion operates on monogerism - the sole work of God). A similar passage is found in Hebrews 13:20-21 where the writer prays,

“And now, may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
equip you with all you need for doing His will. May he produce in you, through
the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to Him.”

Again, we must do His will, but He produces that in us through the power of Christ.

On tomorrow's post, the final in this two-part series, I will attempt to ask and answer the question of how it is that we go about 'rubbing in' the gospel into our hearts and minds.

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