Life On the Highest Plane
Vol. 2: The Relation Between Christ and the Christian
Christ Our Lord
A New Sovereign in a New Sphere
Crossing God's bridge of salvation the believer enters into a totally new sphere which requires the enthronement of a new Sovereign over his life. The Head of the new creation must become its Lord if all things are to become new.
When the risen Christ ascended to heaven His Father exalted Him to the place of Lordship over the universe and He included within that sovereignty the enthronement of Christ as Lord over the individual believer. To understand better the absolute necessity for such a change of sovereigns let us study these two spheres more in detail.
THE CHARACTERISTIC MARK OF EACH SPHERE
These two spheres are the exact antitheses of each other so that life in the one precludes life in the other. They may be readily distinguished because each has a characteristic mark.
Romans 8:5, "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit."
Romans 8:9, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
The characteristic mark of the old sphere is the "flesh" and of the new the "Spirit." The unbeliever is "in the flesh" and the believer is "in the Spirit."
The Bible teaches very plainly that "the flesh" and "the Spirit" are mutually irreconcilable enemies in totally diverse camps.
Romans 8:6, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."
Galatians 5:17, "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."
Man became "flesh" through Adam's sin.
Genesis 6:3, R.V., "And Jehovah said, My spirit shall not strive with man for ever, for that he also is flesh."
The flesh is the whole natural man, the life of nature, whether good or bad, received though the first birth. It is the earthward, sinful life received through human generation. It is all that I am as a son of Adam.
John 3:6, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
God invariably describes "the flesh" as the cause of sin's power, of the Law's weakness, and as enmity toward Himself. God declares "the flesh" to be irreconcilably lawless.
Romans 7:25, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
Romans 8:3, "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh."
Romans 8:7, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
God sees nothing good in "the flesh." Even the very best product which physical generation can produce He casts away as altogether useless.
Romans 7:18, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth NO GOOD THING: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not."
Paul's estimate of the flesh as given in this verse is God-inspired as anyone must readily admit who knows his former high regard for himself (Philippians 3:4-6). Through human generation Paul was indeed richly endowed. Yet inspired by the Holy Spirit he wrote "I know that in my flesh dwelleth no good thing." When he entered into the sphere of the Spirit he saw that the finest and best thing in him, his righteousness, was as "filthy rags" because it, too, was permeated and defiled by sinit was self-righteousness. No, God sees no redeeming feature in any son of Adam. The flesh offers nothing which is acceptable to God. Indeed the flesh is the soil in which Satan works to keep the sinner alienated from God.
So there is but one possible attitude which God can have toward the flesh. It is the attitude of condemnation and rejection. God refuses to deal with the flesh on any terms for it is irretrievably displeasing to Him. "They that are in the flesh CANNOT please God" (Romans 8:8).
Regeneration opens the way for man to become spiritual. At the new birth, as we have already seen, it is the Holy Spirit who quickens our human spirit and then comes to dwell therein to make our entire life spiritual and supernatural, heavenly and holy. It is the Holy Spirit in us who causes sin's power to be broken, God's law to be kept, and love of God to be supreme.
Romans 8:2, 4, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Romans 5:5, "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
THE REIGN OF THE OLD MAN
In each of these spheres is a sovereign who purposes to rule with undivided authority.
Colossians 3:9-10, "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him."
The sovereign in the old sphere is "the old man." The very essence of the flesh is self-will in the form of this God-resisting, God-rejecting nature. The heart of the flesh is this deep-dyed traitor which hates everything that God loves and loves everything that God hates.
The expression "the old man" is used but three times in the Bible, in Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:9, and Romans 6:6. It has an equivalent in the "I" of Galatians 2:20 and in the word "sin" as used in Romans 6. The term commonly used is "self." Through the first Adam's fall, "self" usurped the throne of man's personality and has held it in its control and use ever since. Every child is born into the world with king "self" on the throne, a fact which is made evident before he can even walk or talk.
"The old man" on the throne determines what the whole life from center to circumference shall be. His evil desires become evil deeds; his unholy aspirations are transmitted into unholy acts; his unrighteous character manifests itself in unrighteous conduct; his ungodly will is expressed in ungodly works.
Ephesians 2:3, "Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind."
Colossians 3:9, "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds."
Galatians 5: 19-21, "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
"The old man" demands an environment that is in full accord with his tastes and inclinations, all of which are earthborn. He feeds on the things that are seen, he walks by sight, he revels in "the lust of the flesh," "the lust of the eyes," and "the pride of life." So the only atmosphere in which he could live and breathe is that of the world. "The world" is "the old man's" native heath.
1 John 2:16, "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
THE DETHRONEMENT OF THE OLD MAN COCRUCIFIXION WITH CHRIST
The vast majority of Christians stop short in their experience of the blessings of salvation with the joy of forgiveness of past sins and with the hope of heaven in the future. But the present is a forty-year wilderness experience full of futile wanderings, never enjoying peace and rest, never arriving in the promised land.
The history of God's dealing with the children of Israel is full of helpfulness and instruction for us at this point. Indeed it is typical of every phase of our deliverance from the old sphere and our entrance into the new. Egypt is the type of the world; the oppression of Pharaoh typifies the bondage to Satan in which the sinner is held; Canaan, the promised land flowing with milk and honey, typifies the heavenlies in which the believer has every spiritual blessing.
God purposed not only to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt but into Canaan, not only out of bondage but into rest. There are three distinct stages recorded of this deliverance; while still in Egypt they were delivered from the judgment of death through the sprinkling of the blood of the Paschal lamb upon the doorposts; then they were delivered out of Egypt and from the enemies who pursued them by the miraculous passage of the Red Sea. Due to their rebellion and unbelief the forty long, weary years of futile wandering in the wilderness followed, during which all of the people, except Caleb and Joshua, died, never having "possessed their possessions." Then came the last stage in their deliverance when the two, who had wholly followed the Lord, led the new generation of Israelites into the promised land through the miraculous passage of the river Jordan. There they had victory over their enemies, entered into the possession of their inheritance and had rest.
God purposes not only to bring the sinner out of the world but into the heavenlies: not only out of sinnerhood but into sainthood. There are three distinct stages in this deliverance which represent three different aspects of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not stages in the sense of being marked off in point of time for they all belong to the believer through his relationship to the crucified, risen, exalted Lord and are his in experience the moment he apprehends and claims them by faith.
While still in bondage God speaks to the sinner telling him the way of deliverance from death, through faith in the shed blood of the Lamb of God. This results in the joy and peace of forgiveness, this covers the past. But the sinner needs much more than this for he needs to be taken out of the old sphere and to be freed from the grip of his old enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil. This is the passage of the Red Seathe death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ which makes a way clean out of the old sphere for the believer and at the same time swallows up the pursuing enemies in utter defeat and destruction. This is the believer's justification which gives him the standing before God of a freed and justified man and places the cross and the open tomb between him and his enemies.
Just here many believers stop; satisfied with release from the servitude of Pharaoh's land but not seeking the delights and rest of God's land of promise. They stop short of the last stage of the journey; hence the years off wilderness wandering, constantly going but never getting anywhere. They have been taken out of Egypt but Egypt is still in them. They hanker for the things of the world and of the flesh. Their lives are characterized by selfishness, murmuring, defeat, dissatisfaction, rebellion and fruitlessness. The Jordan crossing is still ahead for them. I wonder if this book has found such a wilderness wanderer in you? If so, may it come as God's Joshua to lead you over the Jordan into the land of your perfect inheritance in Christ Jesus. Through justification and regeneration the believer is separated from the old sphere of the natural man and all that pertains to it; through identification with Christ in His death, resurrection and ascension, he is brought out of the wilderness wanderings of the carnal life and into the victory, peace and rest of the spiritual life. Let us study together now what the crossing of the Jordan typifies for the believer.
Few people are willing to admit that "the old man" sits upon the throne and rules the whole being with despotic power. Even among Christians there are gross ignorance of and indifference to the subtle, insidious workings of the old "I." If the grosser "works of the flesh" are absent from the life, the individual rests in a complacent sense of goodness failing altogether to apprehend how obnoxious to God are the more refined and less openly manifest sins of the spirit and how they separate one leagues upon leagues from His pure holiness. No man living, except the one who through the enabling Spirit has seen Christ in His righteousness and holiness, will ever willingly say, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing."
Let us, then, pause for a moment to take a full-length portrait of this hideous, heinous self; let us face honestly his manifold operations and see if we are not forced to accept God's estimate of him and to acquiesce in the method of deliverance from his sovereignty. The foundation of life in the natural man is foursquare; self-will, self-love, self-trust, and self-exaltation, and upon this foundation is reared a superstructure that is one huge capital "I." Self-will is the cornerstone and self-exaltation is the capstone.
Self-Will"We have turned every one to his own way." The flesh wants its own way and is determined to have it even if it defies and disobeys God and overrides others. "I will" is the alphabet out of which self fashions its language of life.
Self-centeredness"the old man" feeds upon himself. He is the beginning and the end. Life presents little that interests or affects him except as it relates to himself. He is the center of the world in which he lives and moves and he always looks out for number one.
Self-assertion"the old man" believes that everyone is as interested in him and as fascinated by him as he himself is, so he protrudes and projects himself into the sight, hearing and notice of others continually. He monopolizes conversation and the theme is always "I," "my" and "mine." He walks with a swagger and expects the world to stop work and look at him. And he never dreams how offensive his self-importance is to others.
Self -depreciation"the old man" is very versatile and sometimes it suits his purpose better to clothe his pride in a false humility. He curls up in his self-depreciation and shirks a lot of hard work which other people have to do. He magnifies his littleness and feebleness to his own advantage, yet with strange inconsistency he resents others' taking his professed estimate of himself and treating him accordingly.
Self-conceit"the old man" lives so much in himself that he does not know how big the world is in which he lives and how many other really intelligent people there are in it, so he has little regard for the opinions of others, especially if contrary to his own. He looks with proud and supercilious pity upon those less favored and gifted than himself.
Self-love"the old man" loves himself supremely, one might say almost exclusively. He loves God not at all and his human love for others is tainted more or less with selfishness, jealousy, envy or impurity. Indeed "the old man" makes an idol of himself which he not only loves but worships.
Self -indulgence"the old man" eats, drinks, and is merry. For him to want anything is equivalent to having it. He pampers and coddles himself; he can even indulge his extravagant, fleshly appetites while others starve to death before his eyes.
Self-pleasing"the old man" chafes under discomfort and deprivation and is grumpy and peevish unless everything in the life of his day ministers to his real or imagined needs. He lives unto only one person whose name is self.
Self-seeking"the old man" is on a quest: he is after whatever will advance the cause of self. He seeks with feverish ambition and activity praise, position, power, prominence, and anything that checks his gaining them is attributed to others.
Self-pityhis love for himself often creates within "the old man" rebellion against his circumstances or relationships; he exaggerates his own possible suffering, discomfort or sorrow and makes himself and others miserable by his habitual murmuring.
Self-sensitiveness"the old man" is extremely hard to live with because he is covered with wounds and is continually being hurt afresh. He is not very companionable because usually he is dissolved in tears, shrouded in silence, or enjoying a pout.
Self-defense"the old man" is very jealous of his rights and busy avenging his wrongs. He indulges freely in lawsuits. In his pursuit of his own vindication and justification in cases of disagreement and estrangement with others he is blinded by his own sin.
Self-trust"the old man" is very self-confident and feels no need of one wiser and stronger than himself. Trusting in his own powers and resources he is prone to say "Though all men shall deny Thee, yet will not I."
Self-sufficiencythe self-confidence of "the old man" fosters an egotistical, smug self-satisfaction which leaves him stagnant. He has neither desire nor sense of need for anything beyond what he already possesses.
Self-consciousness"the old man" never forgets himself: wherever he goes he casts a shadow of himself before. He is constantly occupied with photographing himself and developing the plates. He is chained to himself and as he walks one hears the clank of the chains. He is often morbidly self-introspective.
Self-exaltation"the old man" is absorbed in his own excellencies: he overestimates himself and his abilities: he thirsts for admiration and praise and he thrives on flattery. He secretly worships at the shrine "self" and he wishes others to do so publicly.
Self-righteousness"the old man" loves to dress himself in the garments of morality, benevolence and public-spiritedness. He even patronizes the church and often assists in drives for raising money for philanthropic and religious purposes, heading the list of donors with a handsome gift. He keeps a double entry account bookboth with the church and with the world and expects a reward both on earth and in heaven.
Self-gloryingperhaps "the old man" resents this plain delineation of himself as he really is and thinks the condemnation too sweeping. Immediately he begins to enumerate his good qualities, his amiableness, geniality, tolerance, self-control, sacrificial spirit and other virtues. In doing so he takes all the credit to himself for what he is, exhibiting ill-concealed pride and vanity.
All that we have desired to say of this hideous ugly self is said most tellingly by Gerhard Tersteegen in the following lines:
"Apart from Thee
I am not only naught but worse than naught,
A wretched monster, horrible of mien!
And when I work my works in self's vain strength,
However good and holy they may seem,
These works are hatefulnay, in Thy pure sight
Are criminal and fiendish, since thereby
I seek, and please, and magnify myself
In subtle pride of goodness, and ascribe
To Self the glory that is Thine alone.
So dark, corrupt, so vile a thing is self.
Seen in the presence of Thy purity
It turns my soul to loathing and disgust;
Yea, all the virtues that it boasts to own,
Are foul and worthless when I look on Thee.
Oh that there might be no more I or mine!
That in myself I might no longer own
As mine, my life, my thinking, or my choice,
Or any other motion, but in me
That Thou, my God, my Jesus might be all,
And work the all in all! Let that, O Lord,
Be dumb, forever die, and cease to be,
Which Thou doest not Thyself in me inspire,
And speak and work."
Is this delineation of self true or untrue? You have three ways by which you may judge and decide; what God's Word says of him, what you have seen of his manifestation in other lives, and what you know to be true of yourself. In the light of our own experience is there one of us who would not have to confess to every one of these hateful manifestations of self at some moment in a greater or less degree? We each of us know what a hydra-headed monster that old "I" is. Luther knew it and said "I am more afraid of my own heart than of the Pope and all his cardinals. I have within me that great Pope Self."
What, then, shall be done with this most stubborn foe? this most tyrannical sovereign? this bold usurper of God's place? God has declared very plainly in His Word what He has already done with him. He has but one place for "the old man" and that is the cross, and but one plan for the termination of his despotic rule and that is by his crucifixion with Christ.
Romans 6:6, R.V., "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer he in bondage to sin."
Galatians 2:20, R.V., "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15, R.V., "For the love of Christ constraneth us: because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died: And he died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again."
Two things explicitly stated in these verses should be noted; first, that the crucifixion of "the old man" is an already accomplished fact, and second, that it is a cocrucifixion.
Notice the tenses: "was crucified"past, and "have been crucified" past perfect. The judicial crucifixion of "the old man" took place centuries ago. Whether or not a single soul ever accepted this glorious fact that the entire old creation in Adam was carried to the cross and there crucified with Christ, it is as gloriously true as the fact that Christ Himself was crucified.
"One died for all."
Substitutionthe Saviour on the cross for the sinner.
"Therefore all died."
Identificationthe sinner on the cross with the Saviour.
It is part of the flawless provision of God's grace for the believer that everything that pertains to the old nature should terminate its sinful course at the cross. Whether from &Jesus "bore my sins in His own body on the tree" just so surely was my "old man crucified with Him" there. If I accept and act upon the one fact by faith, consistently I must accept and act upon the other fact by faith.
Deliverance from the old sphere "in the flesh" and entrance into the new sphere "in the spirit" demands the dethronement of self. It is very evident that a house divided against itself cannot stand. No house can entertain two masters without unceasing conflict. If the Lord Jesus is to take the throne and rule over the human personality then "the old man" must abdicate. That he will never do. So God must deal drastically with him. He is a usurper whom God has condemned, and sentenced to death. In His infinite grace God carried out that sentence on Calvary's cross. And now God declares to every person who cries out for deliverance from the tyranny of self, "the old man was crucified with Christ." Do you believe it and find it increasingly true?
I was once leading a series of meetings in a school in China and was showing the way of deliverance from both the penalty and the power of sin through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. One message was particularly on the theme we are now considering. The most attentive listener in the audience was a man who had been the classical teacher in that school for eleven years. Although he had daily heard the Gospel in chapel and had attended church he had never become a Christian. But during those days the Spirit of God worked mightily in his heart convicting and convincing him and finally leading him to an open confession of Christ. In conversation with a missionary afterward this teacher said that, although he had believed the Gospel truth that Christ died for his sins, he had never accepted Him as Saviour because this did not seem to fully meet his need. He said that he was under the dominion of sin, and was governed by that old sinful nature and that not until he learned that God in Christ's cross had dealt with that root, sin, out of which came the fruit, sins, did he believe it was a salvation sufficient to deliver him. But he found in this glorious truth of the crucifixion of "the old man" that God is able to save to the uttermost those that come to Him in Christ and accept the full work of His cross.
The second fact which these verses make clear is that this is a cocrucifixion. "Our old man" was crucified with Christ. This declares both the method and the time of this crucifixion. There is often confusion at this point.
Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ." He did not try to crucify himself nor did his crucifixion take place at some special point in his spiritual experience through some act on his part. With that death Paul had no more to do than he had with the death of Christ Himself. The crucifixion of that old "I" was not self-crucifixion neither did it take place in Damascus, Arabia, or when Paul was "caught up to the third heaven." But the death of the "I," which was Saul, took place on the cross when Christ died there.
The truth becomes easy of apprehension if we but remember that God sees every person either in Adam or in Christ. He deals with the human race through these two representative men. When Adam died the human race died in him. You died in Adam. So did I. Through that spiritual death "the old man" found birth and usurped God's place on the throne of man's life. Christ came as the last Adam to recover for God and for the race all that had been lost to them through the first Adam. God's method of defeating death is through death, so Christ died and the race of sinners died in Him. "One died for all: therefore all died." When the last Adam died "the old man" died with Him. The old "I" in you and in me was judicially crucified with Christ. "Ye died" and your death dates from the death of Christ. "The old man," the old "self" in God's reckoning was taken to the cross with Christ and crucified and taken into the tomb with Christ and buried.
Romans 6:3-4, R.V., "Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life."
The perfection of God's grace is marvelously manifested in this glorious fact of cocrucifixion-the sinner with the Saviour on the cross. It needs only the perfection of man's faith to make it a glorious reality in his spiritual experience. Assurance of deliverance from the sphere of the "flesh" and of the dethronement of "the old man" rests upon the apprehension and acceptance of this fact of cocrucifixion.
THE CREATION OF THE NEW MAN. CORESURRECTION WITH CHRIST
Cocrucifixion opens the door into coresurrection. Death is the gate to life. Identification with Christ in His death and burial is but the beginning of the believer's union with Him in endless life. Death is both an ending and a beginning, an exit and an entrance.
Romans 6:5, R.V., "For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall he also in the likeness of his resurrection."
Romans 6:8, R.V., "But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him."
Identification with Christ in His quickening, resurrection and ascension, takes the believer into the new sphere of the "Spirit" and begins the life of "the new man."
Ephesians 2:4-6, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
Ephesians 4:24, "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
"Together with Christ" on the cross, in the tomb, in the heavenlies! Thus would the exalted Lord of glory, Head of the new creation, share with every believer the glorious victory of His death, the mighty power of His resurrection, and the regal bounty of His throne.
"If Christ would live and reign in me,
I must die;
With Him I crucified must be;
I must die;
Lord, drive the nails, nor heed the groans,
My flesh may writhe and make its moans,
But in this way, and this alone,
I must die.
When I am dead, then Lord to Thee
THE NEW SPHERE THE BELIEVER IN CHRIST
The moment a penitent sinner puts his faith in the atoning blood of the crucified Christ that moment he steps out of life "in Adam" and enters into life "in Christ." Forever after he is ensphered and environed by the Lord of glory. He is "in Christ Jesus" and will be through the ages upon the ages to come. All that he is and has he is and has "in Christ." In God's reckoning the believer has no life apart from His Son. Christ is the ground in which he is rooted and planted. Through the new birth the believer became a new creation with a new nature which demanded a new environment, a new atmosphere, as it were, where the new life could mature into an ever deepening conformity to the image of Jesus Christ. This new environment is "in Christ."
Let us read a few passages out of scores in the Bible in which this expression "in Christ" is used to show that from the eternity of the past through our present life on into the eternity of the future God thinks of who have accepted Christ as Saviour only in this relationship to His Son.
Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."
Ephesians 1:6, "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."
Ephesians 2:13, "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ."
1 John 2:6, "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked."
Philippians 3:9, "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
Romans 16:10, "Salute Apelles approved in Christ."
Colossians 2:7, "Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving."
2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Corinthians 2:14, "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place."
1 Corinthians 1:2, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.
Colossians 2:9-10, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.
Colossians 1:28, "Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
That every reader of this book might be led into a clearer apprehension of this marvelous truth I would commend the reading of the late Dr. A. T. Pierson's book In Christ. To whet the appetite for it I would quote the following from the introduction:
"A very small key may open a very complex lock and a very large door and that door may itself lead into a vast building with priceless stores of wealth and beauty. This brief phrase 'In Christ,' a preposition followed by a proper name, is the key to the whole New Testament. Those three short words, 'In Christ Jesus' are without doubt the most important ever written, even by an inspired pen, to express the mutual relation of the believer and Christ. They occur with their equivalents over one hundred and thirty times. Such repetition and variety must have some intense meaning. When, in the Word of God a phrase like this occurs so often and with such manifold applications, it cannot be a matter of accident; there is a deep design. These two words unlock and interpret every separate book in the New Testament. Here is God's own key whereby we may open all the various doors and enter all the glorious rooms in this Palace Beautiful and explore all the apartments in the house of the heavenly Interpreter from Matthew to the Apocalypse, when the door is opened into Heaven."
This relationship of the believer to the Lord Jesus determines his position, his privileges and his possessions. To be in Christ is to be where He is, to be what He is and to share what He has.
The believer in Christ is where Christ is. Christ is in His Father's immediate presence, He is at the Father's right hand, He is in the Father's sight; so is the believer in Christ.
Ephesians 2:6, "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ."
Colossians 3:3, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
Christ has left the earth as His place of abode and now dwells in the heavenlies. The believer is in Christ, therefore even now while still on earth his real citizenship is in heaven and he is a pilgrim upon earth for his real life is in Christ.
Philippians 3:20, R.V., "For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ."
Hebrews 13:14, "For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come."
Therefore the believer's heart is set upon heavenly things; he values and seeks heavenly things more than earthly.
Colossians 3:1-2, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."
Do I hear someone say, This is too high a standard for me; it is not only impossible but unattractive. I am on the earth and in this world, therefore why should I not live as though I were and enjoy what this earth and this world have to give me and leave the enjoyment of heaven until I reach there? Such is the reasoning of vast numbers of Christians and their lives are in full harmony with their reasoning. As someone has aptly said they have become Christians much as a man takes out a life insurance policy something that does not in any way alter one's manner of living but will be of use after death and is maintained with the payment of a yearly premium. With many a person becoming a Christian has made little if any difference in either his character or conduct. He is still of the earth earthy.
Is it not conceivable that God would have us become acclimated to our eternal home in heaven with Christ during our transient stay on earth? If the atmosphere of heaven is stifling to me here what will it be to me there? If the heavenly pleasures and pursuits are unattractive to me now, what will they be to me then? There is music in heaven but it is not jazz; there are pleasures there but they are not the pleasures of the ballroom, the card table, or the cinema; there are pursuits in the glory land but not that of making money or a name or a place in society. Death is both an exit and an entrance all in one. For the believer it closes the door on earth to open one into heaven. There is not one instant for preparation for that higher altitude. If my heart cannot stand it here how will it stand it there?
Or is it unthinkable that God would wish to open a window into that blessed realm of light and life to some wayward, worn traveler on the road of darkness and death through the Spirit-filled lives of believers on earth? In fact is that not one of His most effectual ways today of making known the beauties and excellencies of that other world? Does He not want to bring heaven to earth that He may woo earth to heaven? And how else can He do it but through heaven-born, heaven-filled men and women?
Again is there one so selfish, so grasping, as to wish to get all from God and give nothing to God? Is there one who would accept a pass from earth to heaven provided only through God's matchless grace and marvelous love, who still will spend all his time and substance in pleasure-seeking?
No, God means that life down here shall be in harmony with life up there; that even while sojourning on earth we shall live a life partaking of the nature of heaven, a life holy and heavenly in character and conduct.
In Christ Jesus the believer is what Christ is in the reckoning of God. Christ, the Head, and the believer, a member of His Body, are one. Through this wonderful identification God looks upon us as joint-heirs with Christ, entering into and occupying the same position and enjoying the same privileges as His Son.
Romans 8:17, "And, if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may he also glorified together."
We are so enfolded and environed by the Lord Jesus that God cannot see Christ today without seeing us. This moment as God looks upon His Son at His right hand He sees you and me if we are in Christ Jesus.
"Near, so very near to God
Nearer I could not be;
For in the person of His Son,
I'm just as near as He.
Dear, so very dear to God,
Dearer I could not he;
For in the person of His Son,
I'm just as dear as He."
In Christ Jesus the believer shares with Christ all His possessions. Every spiritual blessing is ours in Christ. Dare we believe it? All things are ours in Christ. Dare we act as though we believed it?
Ephesians 1:3, R.V., "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."
Romans 8:32, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
1 Corinthians 3:21, "Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours."
God says in these and many other passages that the possessions of the exalted Christ are the possessions of the one united to Him by faith. Identification with Him in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension includes identification with Him in all the gain and the glory, all the privileges and possessions gained by Him through His passion. Christ's. victory over Satan and all the forces of evil is ours and His present life of rest, peace and joy is ours.
What, then, should be the Christian's chief business in life? To possess his possessions in Christ Jesus that in daily life and service he may realize and utilize to the full his spiritual inheritance. How may this be done?
1. Through spiritual apprehension of our riches in Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:12, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."
We could never know of ourselves but the Spirit knows and indwells us that He may illumine us regarding our riches in Christ.
2. Through spiritual aspiration for our riches in Christ.
Colossians 3:1-2, "Seek those things which are above . . . . Set your affection on things above."
Not only through the Holy Spirit's illumination but also through His impelling shall we possess our riches in Christ. The indwelling Spirit creates within us the desire for all our spiritual inheritance.
3. Through spiritual appropriation of our riches in Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:18, R.V., "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit."
Faith lays hold on our inheritance in Christ and appropriates that which God has so prodigally provided. We are energized by the Holy Spirit to take these things by faith.
THE NEW SOVEREIGNCHRIST IN THE BELIEVER
Through the new birth the believer enters into the Kingdom of God where God's will is supreme. The life of every loyal subject is lived wholly in the will of God. The government of God has spiritual laws which operate beneficently for the well-being both of the individual and of society in every department of life. Wherever these laws are implicitly obeyed, there the will of God is done on earth as in heaven, and peace, rest and unity prevail. Through the new birth the believer enters into the family of God where the Father's will is supreme. The life of every filial child is lived wholly in the will of the Father.
Self-will is the cornerstone upon which Satan's kingdom is built and he constantly tempts the Christian to disobey. No man in his own strength is able to resist. Only one Man ever has wholly resisted it and refused the control of Satan over his will. Now as Head of the new creation He is absolute Lord in the new sphere.
By virtue of entering into that sphere every believer acknowledges Christ Jesus to be the Lord of his life and accepts the will of God as his rule of life. When Christ is thus crowned as Lord, then the responsibility is His to keep the believer from falling and to enable him to resist every temptation of Satan.
John 13:13, "Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am."
Romans 14:8-9, R.V., "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living."
To many Christians the most difficult thing they have to do is to consent willingly to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over their whole being. They are loath to admit the necessity of the absolute dethronement of "the old man" and the perfect enthronement of the Lord Jesus. As someone has very aptly said, "I was quite willing that Jesus Christ should be King, so long as He allowed me to be Prime Minister." But Christ shares His Lordship with no one and unless "He is Lord of all, He is not Lord at all." -
But the perfection of God's grace meets even this weakness and inability in us in His gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit who enables us by His inward working to crown Christ Lord.
Thus Christ Jesus establishes His throne at the very center of the new creation and from there rules to the circumference of the believer's being. He becomes Lord of all.