There is an independence of man that is wrong, and there is an independence that is most Christlike.
Personal, Utter Dependence on God
Salvation is an intensely personal experience between the individual soul and God. When a soul surrenders to God and falls on the stone and is broken (Matthew 21:44), then a relationship of dependence on Christ has begun. It is a voluntary dependence, for the Lord forces no one to serve Him. How greatly our Lord values voluntary love! He stands at the door of the heart and knocks for entrance. Laying aside His great sovereignty and indisputable rights to us in deference to the right of choice with which He endued us, He stands at the door and knocks for admittance. He woos the immortal soul. He reasons with us. He presents to each eternity-bound heart the Divine case for unconditional surrender to Him.
When we yield to God and lay down our ways, confess our need of Him, acknowledge the fiasco we have made of our life, and repent of our rebellion, then He changes us from a child of the devil to a child of God. This change is so revolutionary and profound that it is characterized in the Bible as being born again—a complete starting over—a new life within which is characterized by all things becoming new. We are transformed by grace, the unmerited favor of God freely offered to us on the merits of the atonement of His Son. Thus God does in us what we could never do. For it is impossible to please God by our own efforts alone.
This experience is the beginning of a life of dependence on God. For, just as it is impossible to obtain a saved relationship with God by our own efforts, it is just as impossible to keep saved without constant help from the Lord. How dependent, how utterly dependent we are! “Without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5) That is, nothing worthwhile and acceptable to Him who sees all and knows all. But through Him “I can do all things.” He is our strength and help. He is the Helper of the helpless. “Unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding great joy.” (Jude 24)
Salvation is designed for human beings. Divine love and divine wisdom devised a way that would lift man up above the beggarly elements of this world. That would restore man to primitive purity, that would undo and destroy the works of the devil. Hallelujah! “He is able also to save to the uttermost.” (Hebrews 7:25) No case is too hard for Him. Though the parents have sinned, and the grandparents have sinned; though the seeker be conditioned and steeped in sin and degradation, God is able to save and keep. God engineered it to work in the most extreme of cases, and He Himself encourages all to come to Him. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
But these happy results are not experienced without experiencing the spirit of dependency on God. In Him, we must live, and move, and have our being, spiritually speaking. “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
From the time of our surrender and divinely-wrought change of heart, the Spirit of God deals with each believer to lead them to a total surrender. The need for this is realized as we began to lean on the Lord to help us live up to our light and understanding, and especially to help us when we realize more of what pleases God and what does not. The Spirit of God will lead us to an absolute surrender, a condition of the heart wherein the inner desire of the soul is, “Abba, Father,” always. Here is our great safety—total surrender—total dependence on God. Here is where we can trust in the Lord with all our heart—and lean not to our own understanding.
How blessed it is to be all the Lord’s. No reserve, no holdback. To know is to do. Launched out in God. Belonging to Him absolutely in a way of which the unsanctified are completely unaware. How much of our safety, our strength in Him, is involved in this precious Canaan, our inheritance, willed to us by our Older Brother. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.” (Hebrews 10:19)
God Above Everything
This relationship between ourselves must take priority over every other relationship. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37) He must be first. He must be Lord of all within us or He will not be Lord at all within us. To have the spirit of complete dependence on Christ is to have the spirit of complete independence of all men. It is to hear the voice of the Spirit of God telling us, “This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left,” (Isaiah 30:21) and it is to obey that Voice always at any cost. It is absolute trueness to God.
To follow any conflicting voice, no matter how precious or dear, is to be untrue to this first and foremost loyalty. It is to put something ahead of God—to position an idol between ourselves and He whom we are to love with all our heart, our mind, our strength. Many have failed the Lord at this point, and have not kept that independence of man which is so necessary to a walk with God.
That independence of every other voice but that of the Father is so plainly manifested in the life of our Example. When Peter would dissuade Him from the path that God had shown to Him, our Lord replied, “Get thee behind me, Satan [Adversary]: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” (Mark 8:33) He went on to fulfill the will of God for Him, even our salvation.
The same principle can be found all throughout the New Testament. When Paul was criticized by those contending for the circumcision and the keeping of the Mosaic Law, he gave no place to the devil, and spoke of the matter to the saints at Galatia in these terms, “Because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me.” (Galatians 2:46) He did not negotiate with them, nor did he strive with them. He did not get hurt by them, nor did he politically maneuver around them. He simply “gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour.” He was absolutely dependent on God and independent of every other voice and influence.
Brother John teaches us that this principle is true of all of God’s saints. “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1 John 2:27) “Ye need not that any man teach you.” God can save a person and get him or her to heaven without the necessity of the involvement of anyone else on the face of the earth. Please note, I say that He can; I do not say that He chooses to do so. But with Brother John, all gospel workers should confess that the inward anointing is all-sufficient, if folks will listen to the still, small Voice.
How little room there is in reality for feelings of self-importance! We are only unprofitable servants who have only done that which we are commanded to do. Yet, it has pleased the Lord to put people in the process, for it has pleased the Lord to save them that believe by the foolishness of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:21).
An Independence That Is Wrong
Here is the truth of the second of these two precious principles. Just as there is an independence of man that is most Christlike, there is also an independence of man that is wrong. What is the distinguishing line? How can the honest soul know the difference? When is it wrong to be independent of man?
“One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:6) God’s voice is the same wherever He is. If He chooses to speak through lips of clay or through the life or voice of a little child, then it is still God that speaks. God abides in the heart of each of His children, but He has not limited Himself to that place. He may even cause truth to be stated by those who love Him not. How much it means to be pure in heart, thereby to see God (and hear Him) wherever He chooses to manifest Himself! “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) How necessary for holy living!
Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice… and they follow me.” (John 10:27) You are to hear more than the preacher’s voice, but there are those who are hearing no more. You are to listen for the voice of Jesus in the voice of the preacher, and if you can not hear it, do not follow.
[Charles E. Orr; The Rule of a Saintly Life]
We would add, that if you do hear the voice of God speaking through the preacher, do not fail to follow.
The child of God can not be independent of the voice of God wherever He chooses to manifest Himself. If I limit God in my mind, reasoning that He will only work in a certain way, then I will miss what He has to say to me through others. This is the independence of man that is wrong. It is vital to be able to distinguish the voice of God from all other voices to know which independence of man is right and most Christlike, and which is wrong and an actual deafness to God.
The humble equality of brethren in the New Testament church is maintained by this distinguishing capability. For, if God can speak through anyone at anytime, there is no place for big I’s and little you’s. The admonition of Brother Peter to the saints makes perfect sense. “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:56) This scripture text is very destructive to the idea of a hierarchy within the body of believers, but it harmonizes wonderfully with the line of truth we are discussing in this article. What a beautiful picture! God within each one, and each submitting to God in each other! “Yea, all of you be subject one to another.”
In this Bible picture of the church of God, all eyes are focused on God. They are listening for the voice of God in each other. There is a disregard of human talent and skill, a recognition that these things do not accomplish the work of God. The emphasis, the focus, is on God speaking, working, using. How beautiful! What a perfect plan! Then is God all in all. There is an independence of man that is wrong, and there is an independence of man that is most Christlike. Amen.