When our desires guide us to think on righteousness and holiness, from who is it to be sought? In the one and only place it exists—the Lord Jesus Christ! Yes, and from where is it to be sought? In His saints, because it is where He is via His Holy Spirit. This is to understand that there abides no righteousness or holiness directly within the believer, but only vicariously so. Which exercises faith the most—to believe that Christ’s righteousness alone suffices or that sufficiency is an admixture of man’s and Christ’s righteousness?
Holiness and righteousness abide in a single degree and they do not admit in variations or measures. Thus, I believe the precious words, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” contain more of a proclamation element declaring one so (i.e. “let there be light”), than that of a command because no creature can be holy according to His requirement, and therefore fellowship (“partakers”—2 Pet 1:4) must be by imputation and never impartation, and only pride will tend you toward the latter which is similar to Satan’s pride.
The believer is not righteous and holy but he is called righteous and holy because they indirectly abide within him—via a Second Party. Keeping one’s self in remembrance that all is vicarious will avoid much disappointment which comes from expecting godliness from that which “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom 8:7—old man). This will result in a much needed and longed-for “rest”; for the unsaved need deliverance from sin, and the saved needs deliverance from sin’s weight (Heb 12:1). What we do not “cast” on Him (1 Pet 5:7) we unnecessarily carry, which “heavy ladens” us (Matt 11:28).
Salvation is a deliverance wrought by the divine work on the Cross, so as to bring us out of one position into another. It is true we are morally changed, but we want more than that—though whoever has got that will surly have all the rest. But supposing I have the new life, with its desires after holiness, what is the effect? It gives me the consciousness of all the sin that is in me. I want to be righteous, but then I see that I am not righteous; and I bow under the power of indwelling sin and of the knowledge of such holiness which I have learnt to desire, only to find out that I have not got it.
I say what is the good of my knowing holiness in this way, if I have not got it? It is no comfort to me. Here we have been speaking of God’s righteousness; but when I look, I find I have no righteousness. Where can I find a resting-place for my spirit in such a state as this? It is impossible; and the very effect of having this new life, with all its holy affections and desires after the Lord Jesus, brings me to the discovery of the lack of what this new life cannot itself impart. I have got the hungers of this new life—all its holy and righteous desires; but the thing yearned for I have not got.
It is the desire of my new life, Oh that I could be righteous; but then I am not righteous. In that way the Father meets us with a positive salvation. He meets us and quickens us into the desire and want of holiness, giving us a new life and nature capable of enjoying it when we get it. But that is not all. When I have got that life, have I got the thing I want? No. I strive, and think, oh, if I could get more of this holiness, but still I have got it. I may hate the sin, but the sin is there that I hate.
I may long to be with my Father, to be forever in the light of His countenance, but then I see that I have got sin, and know that the light of His countenance cannot shine upon my sin; I want a righteousness fit for His presence, and I have not got it. It is thus God meets us at the Cross. He not only gives the life and nature that we want, but He gives us the thing that we want. And not only so, but in Christ He gives us both the perfect object and life.
We have borne the image of the first Adam in all the consequences of his sin and ruin, and we shall bear the image of the Last Adam. But the Father lays down first this great truth for our hearts, “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” It is what we are now! There I find what my heart as quickened by God wants; and I learn what blessedness is in Christ, by whom the Father has revealed it to us. He has given us a righteousness in the Lord Jesus, who is the blessed accepted Man in the presence of the Father.
Now, as regards my soul and eternal life, the Father has come and brought us into this position, making the Lord Jesus to be my righteousness and life. He has brought me in, in faith and in truth of my new life, into this wondrous position in Christ. The realization of it is another thing, and may be hindered through failure or infirmity. You begin to search, perhaps in yourself, and find such and such a thought contrary to Christ. But I say that is the old man. If you take yourself by yourself, there is not righteousness before God, and therefore you cannot stand an instant in the Father’s sight. I must look at the Lord Jesus to see what I am, and I say, “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” And this is what I am in the presence of my Father. There is no veil: we are to walk in the light, as God is in the light.