D.L. Moody on working out our Salvation

Here is another excerpt from D.L. Moody’s “The Way to God and How To Find It”.  It is also from Chapter 2  “The Gateway into the Kingdom”

There is a class of men who say that special religious meetings are very good for a certain class of people. They would be very good if you could get the drunkard there, or get the gambler there, or get other vicious people there—that would do a great deal of good. But “we do not need to be converted.” To whom did Christ utter these words of wisdom? To Nicodemus. Who was Nicodemus? Was he a drunkard, a gambler, or a thief? No! No doubt he was one of the very best men in Jerusalem. He was an honorable Councillor; he belonged to the Sanhedrim; he held a very high position; he was an orthodox man; he was one of the very soundest men. And yet what did Christ say to him? “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

But I can imagine some one saying, “What am I to do? I cannot create life. I certainly cannot save myself.” You certainly cannot; and we do not claim that you can. We tell you it is utterly impossible to make a man better without Christ; but that is what men are trying to do. They are trying to patch up this “old Adam” nature. There must be a new creation. Regeneration is a new creation; and if it is a new creation it must be the work of God. In the first chapter of Genesis man does not appear. There is no one there but God. Man is not there to take part. When God created the earth He was alone. When Christ redeemed the world He was alone.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  (John 3: 6.) The Ethiopian cannot change his skin, and the leopard cannot change his spots. You might as well try to make yourselves pure and holy without the help of God. It would be just as easy for you to do that as for the black man to wash himself white. A man might just as well try to leap over the moon as to serve God in the flesh. Therefore, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Now God tells us in this chapter how we are to get into His kingdom. We are not to work our way in—not but that salvation is worth working for. We admit all that. If there were rivers and mountains in the way, it would be well worth while to swim those rivers, and climb those mountains. There is no doubt that salvation is worth all that effort; but we do not obtain it by our works. It is “to him that worketh not, but believeth”  (Rom. 4:5). We work because we are saved; we do not work to be saved. We work from the cross; but not towards it. It is written, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”  (Phil. 2:12). Why, you must have your salvation before you can work it out. Suppose I say to my little boy, “I want you to spend that hundred dollars carefully.” “Well,” he says, “let me have the hundred dollars; and I will be careful how I spend it.” I remember when I first left home and went to Boston; I had spent all my money, and I went to the post-office three times a day. I knew there was only one mail a day from home; but I thought by some possibility there might be a letter for me. At last I received a letter from my little sister; and oh, how glad I was to get it. She had heard that there were a great many pick-pockets in Boston, and a large part of that letter was to urge me to be very careful not to let anybody pick my pocket. Now I required to have something in my pocket before I could have it picked. So you must have salvation before you can work it out.

When Christ cried out on Calvary, “It is finished!” He meant what He said. All that men have to do now is just to accept of the work of Jesus Christ. There is no hope for man or woman so long as they are trying to work out salvation for themselves. I can imagine there are some people who will say, as Nicodemus possibly did, “This is a very mysterious thing.” I see the scowl on that Pharisee’s brow as he says, “How can these things be?” It sounds very strange to his ear. “Born again; born of the Spirit! How can these things be?” A great many people say, “You must reason it out; but if you do not reason it out, do not ask us to believe it.” I can imagine a great many people saying that. When you ask me to reason it out, I tell you frankly I cannot do it. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”  (John 8.) I do not understand everything about the wind. You ask me to reason it out. I cannot. It may blow due north here, and a hundred miles away due south. I may go up a few hundred feet, and find it blowing in an entirely opposite direction from what it is down here. You ask me to explain these currents of wind; but suppose that, because I cannot explain them, and do not understand them, I were to take my stand and assert, “Oh, there is no such thing as wind.” I can imagine some little girl saying, “I know more about it than that man does; often have I heard the wind, and felt it blowing against my face;” and she might say, “Did not the wind blow my umbrella out of my hands the other day? and did I not see it blow a man’s hat off in the street? Have I not seen it blow the trees in the forest, and the growing corn in the country?”

You might just as well tell me that there is no such thing as wind, as tell me there is no such thing as a man being born of the Spirit. I have felt the spirit of God working in my heart, just as really and as truly as I have felt the wind blowing in my face. I cannot reason it out. There are a great many things I cannot reason out, but which I believe. I never could reason out the creation. I can see the world, but I cannot tell how God made it out of nothing. But almost every man will admit there was a creative power.

There are a great many things that I cannot explain and cannot reason out, and yet that I believe. I heard a commercial traveler say that he had heard that the ministry and religion of Jesus Christ were matters of revelation and not of investigation. “When it pleased God to reveal His Son in Me,” says Paul  (Gal. 1:15, 16). There was a party of young men together, going up the country; and on their journey they made up their minds not to believe anything they could not reason out. An old man heard them; and presently he said, “I heard you say you would not believe anything you could not reason out.” “Yes,” they said, “that is so.” “Well,” he said, “coming down on the train to-day, I noticed some geese, some sheep, some swine, and some cattle all eating grass. Can you tell me by what process that same grass was turned into hair, feathers, bristles and wool? Do you believe it is a fact?” “Oh yes,” they said, “we cannot help believing that, though we fail to understand it.” “Well,” said the old man, “I cannot help believing in Jesus Christ.” And I cannot help believing in the regeneration of man, when I see men who have been reclaimed, when I see men who have been reformed. Have not some of the very worst men been regenerated—been picked up out of the pit, and had their feet set upon the Rock, and a new song put in their mouths? Their tongues were cursing and blaspheming; and now are occupied in praising God. Old things have passed away, and all things have become new. They are not reformed only, but regenerated—new men in Christ Jesus.

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