They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appears before God.
The old and the new man co-exist, and they bring antagonistic elements to bear, so that warfare and strife are the result. The spirit born of God is annoyed, and hindered, and offended, by the spirit born of Adam. But in this condition there is progression as well as conflict. The new man gains ground, and the victory is reserved for him; and on each successive collision his power is greater, and that of his adversary is enfeebled. Although he may win his way but inch by inch, he shall win it in the end. The signs of this progress are —
I. A GROWING SENSE OF GOD. His faith in God is a belief which stirs his mind, which sways his conscience, which animates his soul. Impatient, sometimes, in his fleshly thralls, he breaks away from time and sense, and strives to get at God. If he digs deep, he digs for God; if he soars high, he soars for God. Does he range creation? He finds God everywhere — in landscape, in field, in flower, and in flood. Nature is full of Him. Does he rehearse the ways of Providence? He sees the methods of God's wisdom, and the traces of His care. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about him." Not only does he think of Him as the God of his life, but as his "reconciled God and Father through Jesus Christ." The spirit of estrangement is exorcised; and, in a filial and full assurance, he asserts his sonship by the cry of "Abba, Father!"
II. A GROWING DEPENDENCE UPON CHRIST. He strikes out the "I" both for the past and for the future, and puts in "Christ." It is not what I have done; but what Christ has done. Not what I can do; but what Christ can do. The Christian lives inversely, if we may so speak; the weaker he becomes, the stronger he becomes; — i.e. the weaker grows the man, the stronger grows the Christian. For just in proportion as he realizes he is not only weak and helpless, but that he is absolutely nothing without Christ; in that proportion is he impelled to take the firmer hold upon Him, till he who was weak, helpless, and nothing in himself, grows mighty, able, and everything through Christ who strengthened him. This growth in grace, moreover, is accompanied by increasing spiritual discernment.
III. INCREASING STEADINESS AND SUCCESS IN THE RESISTANCE OF TEMPTATION. The natural man makes no stand. He rather goes over to the enemy. Neither does the converted man, all at once, attain the full power of resistance, because he cannot, all at once, learn to look entirely to, and lean entirely on, Jesus. The young conscript will often show more apparent zeal against sin than the advanced Christian. The old soldier does not battle the less valiantly when the enemy is before him, because he does not brandish his sword so swaggeringly on parade. It is purpose, and not impulse, by which the old soldier is guided. And it is the veteran, not the recruit, who makes the fewest relapses, is most seldom disgraced by a repulse, and who gains the more frequent and most signal victories.
IV. DECREASING ABSORPTION IN WORLDLY OBJECTS AND ATTRACTIONS. He puts things in their proper place, and in their proper order. God and heaven stand first; self and earth stand second.
V. AN INCREASED UNSELFISHNESS AND DISINTERESTEDNESS OF RELIGIOUS EMOTION. He sees spiritual things now, absolutely; not merely in their relation towards himself, but as they are in themselves. He sees Jesus in a higher light than as a mere personal Saviour; he elevates Him to a loftier throne, for, as he beholds His moral excellency, he loves to commune with Him, and grows restless to be with Him face to face. The fully renewed heart wants to see Him take all His power, and reign.
VI. A DEEPENED COMPOSURE IN ANTICIPATING DEATH AND ETERNITY. Talk to him of death, and you talk to him of liberty; you tell him of one who strikes off the dungeon bars, and unclasps the detaining gives.
Parallel VersesKJV: They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.