Life On the Highest Plane
Vol. 2: The Relation Between Christ and the Christian
Carnal or Spiritual
That God has made ample provision in Christ for each person to live his life on the highest plane is evident from our previous studies. But that every believer does not exercise this privilege needs no argument. We feel how far short of it we ourselves fall and we observe the low spiritual level upon which other lives are lived. A casual perusal of Paul's letters to the churches will reveal the fact that there is more than one kind of Christi Christian. In the sixth through the eighth chapters of Romans this truth is clearly taught.
Romans 6 is the hub of life on the highest plane. Deep spirituality emanates from a spiritual apprehension, appropriation and assimilation of the truth of this chapter. In this divine revelation God gives us the spiritual seed from which the full-blown flowera life in growing conformity to the image of Christsprings. Here man is delivered from the sphere of darkness, death and bondage; here he leaves behind the old servitude to sin and becomes the servant of righteousness; here he comes out from under the yoke of the Law to live under the reign of grace; here he witnesses the crucifixion of the old man to make way for the control of the new nature; here God tells the believer that he not only need not sin but that he may be holy. Romans 6 tells us plainly that God has made full provision in Christ for lifting the sinner from the lowest depths of life on the plane of the natural to the highest heights of life on the plane of the spiritual.
Romans 7 and 8 each picture the life of a Christian but the difference in likeness to the pattern set in Romans 6 is so great as to lead one to think that there are surely two kinds of Christians.
Romans 7 pictures a life of storm, stress and struggle; a life of defeat and discouragement crowned with despair. Romans 7 is the divine photograph of an eager Alpine climber. He starts at the base (Romans 6) of the majestic snowcapped Jungfrau and aspires to scale its highest height (Romans 8). He has studied a guidebook about Alpine climbing and confident of his own strength and ability he presumes to ascend without a guide. After hours upon hours of toilsome climbing, ignorant of the way, floundering in masses of ice and snow, worn out with his effort to ascend the steep and dangerous path, he sinks down exhausted and filled with despair and in the darkness of the night that has overtaken him cries out for deliverance (Romans 7:24).
In Romans 7 we find the believer acknowledging that the Law of God is holy, just and good, and admitting that it should he obeyed. A part of him longs to keep it, even strives to do so in his own strength, while another part of him resists. How to conquer in this conflict he does not know. He knows that he need not sin and resolves that he will not but he goes on sinning. His will functions but he is baffled in knowing how to fulfill its decree to be holy and to do good. He wills and he works to reach the plane of the spiritual but is unsuccessful and inevitably must fail, for a man cannot sanctify himself any more than he can save himself.
Romans 8 pictures discernment after delusion; conquest after conflict, sunshine after storm. The despairing cry of the Alpine climber has been heard by an unseen Guide who has climbed all the way with him. Unwilling to intrude where not wanted, He has remained silent, but the moment He hears the cry for help He flashes light upon the midnight darkness of the traveler's path. He points out the way, He even lifts the weary traveler up and enables him to overcome every difficulty of the way and to reach the goal of his aspiration. The "I" used more than thirty times in Romans 7 is displaced by the "Holy Spirit" who in that chapter is not mentioned once. The mountain is the same, the path is no less difficult or dangerous. But the difference between Romans 7 and 8 is the difference of a Guide who knows the way and can enable the traveler to reach the top.
Romans 8 reveals as clearly as does Romans 7 that there is a conflict on within every believer which never ends as long as one dwells on earth, but it reveals the way of victory. It removes the delusion that the believer can fight the enemy in his own strength and gives spiritual discernment of God's gracious provision of the means of victory. Romans 8 lifts the believer above the clouds of discouragement into the clear sunlight of abiding peace and rest because it assures him at the beginning that "in Christ" there is no condemnation by God as regards his past, and at the end that "in Christ" there is no separation from God as regards his future, and all the verses in between proclaim the perfect provision made "in Christ" for victory over every enemy within and without as regards the present (Romans 8:2-34). The Father has given unto every believer the Spirit of His Son to guide him on life's pathway.
Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Romans 8:35-39, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
There are, then, two kinds of Christians clearly named and described in Scripture. It is of the utmost importance that every believer should know which kind of Christian he is and that, after knowing, he should determine which kind he wishes to be. Let us read these verses from Paul's letter to the Corinthian church, and note the names he gives to these two classes. One he addresses as carnal, the other as spiritual Christians.
1 Corinthians 3:1-4, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual. but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?"
THE MARKS OF THE CARNAL CHRISTIAN
The up and down line in the first diagram is photographic. It is almost cruelly self-revealing. It visualizes the average church member. It is like a costly picture cheaply framed or an exquisite garment illy fitted. One look tells you that something is wrong and no matter how often you look it never seems right. We know instinctively that the true Christian life could never be symbolized by a wavering line. Christianity, which is Christ-possessing, controlling and using, must spell straightness and steadiness. It must be life on the spiritual plane. The life of the carnal Christian is not so.
It is a Life of Unceasing Conflict
Romans 7:22-23, "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."
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."
One law "warring against" another law in the same personality; part of a man "serving" one law and part of him serving anotherthis is indeed the language of conflict. Two forces absolutely contrary to each other are each working to gain and to keep control over the entire personality. Two natures, the divine and the fleshly, are engaged in deadly warfare. The spiritual is sometimes in the ascendancy and the believer enjoys a momentary joy, peace and rest. The divine nature imparted to him at his rebirth is in control and Christ in him is victorious. But the fleshly nature which is always defiant to the authority and rule of God rebels. Conflict ensues. The fleshly nature is again the master, and joy and peace are gone. Such is the miserable existence of the carnal Christian.
A friend told me a story of her six-year-old nephew which tellingly illustrates this manner of living. Her nephew was often tempted to run away and his mother was much distressed by it. One day she told him that if he ran away again she would have to punish him. Soon afterwards the temptation came through a neighbor boy and he yielded to it. Upon returning home his mother said, "James, didn't you remember that I said if you ran away again I would punish you?" "Yes," said James, "I remembered." "Then why did you do it?" asked his mother. Little James replied, "It was this way, Mother. As I stood there in the road thinking about it Jesus pulled on one leg and the devil pulled on the other and the devil pulled the harder!" The Lord Jesus pulling on one leg and Satan pulling on the other is the constant experience of the Christian, but yielding to the devil and giving to him the victory over Christ is the wretched condition of the carnal Christian.
It is a Life of Repeated Defeat
Romans 7:15, R.V., "For that which I do I know not: for not what I would, that do I practice; but what I hate, that I do."
Romans 7:19, R.V., "For the good which I would I do not; but the evil which 1 would not, that I practice."
As one reads Romans 7 he feels that the apostle Paul is writing someone's spiritual biography. It was no doubt his own. But could it not have been yours and mine as well? It is the revelation of a true desire and an honest attempt to live a right and a holy life but it is surcharged with the atmosphere of deadly defeat; a defeat so overpowering as to burst forth in that despairing cry for deliverance.
Romans 7:24, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
Who of us has not uttered it? We have made countless resolutions at the dawn of a new day or of a new year regarding the things we would or would not do. But long before the twilight hour our hearts have been heavy with a humiliating sense of failure. The things we steadfastly determined to do were left undone and the things we solemnly resolved not to do were repeatedly done. Sins both of commission and of omission, like evil spirits, haunt our bedchamber and rob us even of the balm of sleep. Temper, anger, fretting, worry, murmuring, pride, selfishness, malice, worldliness, unfaithfulness, evil speaking, bitterness, jealousy, envy, quarreling, hatred, in fact "the old man's" entire family of evil passions and desires may have worked havoc in one's own personal life, and spoiled the day not only for one's self, but for one's family and friends and, most of all, have grieved God.
The trouble was not with the will for it was very sincere in the decisions made at dawn and fully purposed to carry them out.
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."
But in the carnal Christian, Christ is compelled to share the control of the life with another and the result is both inner and outer maladjustment. Self-will, self-love, self-trust and self-exaltation always spell envying, quarreling, bitterness and division.
1 Corinthians 3:3, "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"
The state of the carnal Christian is one of failure and defeat and it never can be anything else. If he wishes deliverance he may have it but it will be a deliverance out of Romans 7 into Romans 8.
It is a Life of Protracted Infancy
The carnal Christian never grows up. He remains, stunted and dwarfed, a mere "babe in Christ."
1 Corinthians 3:1-2, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able."
The Corinthian Christians should have been full grown; they had been Christians long enough to have become spiritual adults but they were mere "babes in Christ." They should have been strong, healthy, meat-eating grown-ups; instead they were weak, milk-drinking infants. They did not measure up either in stature or strength to what they should have.
Nothing on earth could be sweeter or more perfect to loving parents than a baby in babyhood but oh! the indescribable heartache endured by the parents if that precious child remains a baby in body or in mind. Nothing on earth sets the joybells of heaven ringing as the birth of one into the family of God but oh! what pain it must cause the heavenly Father to see that spiritual babe remain in a state of protracted infancy!
Which are you today, dear reader, a spiritual babe or an adult? Are you still in infancy in spiritual things or are you full grown? To answer the question it may help to ask and answer another. What are the marks of a babe? A baby cannot serve himself but is helplessly dependent upon others. He may give enjoyment to others but he cannot help them. A baby absorbs attention, he expects to be the center of his little world. A baby lives in the realm of his feelings, being entirely governed by them. If all goes well, he is pleased and smiling but he is exceedingly touchy, and if his desire is crossed at any point he quickly lets it be known in lusty remonstrance. God's Word shows that the carnal Christian bears these selfsame marks.
Hebrews 5:12-14, R.V., "For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil."
The Christians to whom this epistle to the Hebrews was written were evidently carnal Christians also. They ought to have been teaching others yet they themselves still needed to be taught even the elementary truths of spiritual experience. They, as well as the Corinthians, should have been able to eat meat but they were still content to feed on milk. They were able neither to help themselves nor others. They were incapacitated through their protracted infancy either to receive the deep things of God or to impart them to others.
Perhaps Paul puts his finger upon the reason for the stunted condition of the Corinthian Christians in the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians. He teaches us that the spiritual man knows the deep things of God through the discernment made possible by the holy Spirit's illumination. The spiritual man is one who, delighting in God's Word, devours and digests it. By feeding upon it he grows in stature and strength.
But the Corinthian Christians were very evidently not of this type. They were following human leaders, esteeming lightly the wisdom of God and exalting highly the wisdom of men. They were substituting fodder for food and attempting to satisfy hunger on husks. Consequently they were still "babes in Christ"weak, emaciated Christians.
Much the same condition prevails today in the churches of Christendom. The average professing Christian is not going firsthand to the Bible for food, expecting the Holy Spirit to give him the strong meat of the Word. He is looking to human teachers for his nourishment and gulps down whatever is given him. He is a spiritual parasite living on predigested food, consequently he is underfed and anemic. In this weakened state he is open to all forms of spiritual disease. He is an easy prey for temper, impurity, pride, bitterness and selfishness and because of his close relationship to other members of the Body of Christ, the result is often just such an epidemic of sin as existed in the Corinthian church.
It is a Life of Barren Fruitlessness
Luke 13:6-7, "He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I came seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?"
John 15:2, "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."
The influence of the carnal Christian is always negative. The carnal Christian occupies a pew in church on the Lord's Day indicating some love in his heart for the Lord and devotion to Him but he is unable to bring with him any member of his family or associate in business or friend because of the inconsistency of his life before them during the week. He is a branch of the vine but a fruitless, hence a useless, branch.
It is a Life of Adulterous Infidelity
James 4:4, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
1 John 2:15-16, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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 language of James 4:4 is drastic and austere, there is an irrevocable finality about it. Men may hold two opinions about "the world" but not so with God. In James 4:4 He at least leaves no Christian any room whatever for argument regarding his attitude toward and relationship to "the world" but declares in words of transparent clearness that any Christian who maintains friendship with the world is guilty of adulterous infidelity in his relationship to Christ.
To realize the truth of God's pungent statement the reader need only remind himself of what the world is and of its attitude to Christ. "The world" is Satan's eves, ears, hands and feet combined to fashion his most cunning weapon for defeating God by capturing the souls of men. "The world" is Satan's lair for the unsaved and his lure to the saved to keep them from God. "The world" is human life and human society with God left out.
What, then, should be the Christian's relationship to the world? The answer is found in the Christian's relationship to Christ. Christ and the Christian are one. They are joined together, as we have seen, in such an intimate union and identification of life that God, the Holy Spirit, does not hesitate to say that the love relationship they bear to each other is one analogous to that of marriage.
Is it any wonder, then, that God says that friendship with the world on the part of a Christian is tantamount to spiritual adultery and that He brands "the friend of the world" "an enemy of God"? Hobnobbing with the world in its pleasures, entering into partnership with it in its pursuits, fashioning one's life by its principles, working to carry out its program, all make one an accomplice of the evil one against one's own Beloved, against the Saviour, Lord and King of one's life. Such adulterous unfaithfulness in love marks one as a carnal Christian.
But perhaps some reader is still in the dark as to what is worldly. He is not clear as to what he may have, do or enjoy. The acid test of worldliness is given in 1 John 2:16. Under the Holy Spirit's illumination test your life by it and you will quickly discern the mark of the worldly.
Worldliness is "all that is not of the Father." Whatever would not be as appropriate and fitting to Christ's life in the heavenlies as to the Christian's life on earth is worldly. Whatever does not come out from God and cannot go back to Him with His blessing is worldliness. Such is the negative aspect of worldliness.
It has a positive aspect as well. Worldliness is "the lust of the flesh," "the lust of the eyes," and "the pride of life." Worldliness may be manifested in one's conversation, in one's style of hairdress, in the clothes one wears, in the company one keeps, in the pleasures one enjoys, in the books one reads, in the appetites one indulges, in the things one buys, in the ambitions by which one is ruled, and in the activities in which one engages. Anything which feeds or pampers the flesh, the animal part of man, whether it results in gross sensuality, or in taking the bloom from heart purity, or merely in soft self-indulgence and self-ease, is worldliness. Anything that stains the heart, soils the hands, stings the conscience and Separates one from the joy and sweetness of communion with Christ, is worldliness. It is "the lust of the flesh."
Anything that caters merely to the fashions of this world, that stimulates desire for possession and property, that aims merely to please men and gain their approval, that keeps the eyes fixed on the lowlands instead of on the heights, on the seen rather than on the unseen, anything that puts a cloud between Christ and the Christian and shuts Him out from one's vision is "the lust of the eyes."
Anything that exalts self, that fosters pomp and pride, that clips the wings of the soul so that it grovels in the dust of earth instead of soaring heavenward, that sets the affections upon the wealth, the fame, the honors of earth rather than upon the treasures of heaven, that robs the Christian of his possessions and privileges in Christ, is "the pride of life."
There can be no confluence between these streams. Their admixture in a human life produces the carnal Christian.
It is a Life of Dishonoring Hypocrisy
Ephesians 5:8, "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light."
1 John 1:5-6, "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth."
1 Corinthians 3:3, "Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"
The carnal man says one thing and does another; his walk does not correspond with his witness; he professes what he does not possess. The carnal man walks as those who make no profession of being Christians and presents them with such a caricature of Christ that he has no power to win them to his Saviour.
Does anything more need to be said to prove that the carnal Christian falls far short of God's best and is not well pleasing unto Him? But there is abundant hope for the believer who, wearied with the conflict, humiliated by the defeat, chagrined by the immaturity, distressed by the fruitlessness, convicted of the infidelity, and pained by the hypocrisy, turns to God and cries out for deliverance from the wretched captivity of carnality into the glorious liberty of spife of Abiding Peace
John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
John 16:33, "These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
The peace of the spiritual Christian is that of Christ's presence. "My peace I give unto you." It does not mean that there is no conflict in the life of the spiritual Christian for it is through conquest in conflict that he grows, but it does mean the peace of conscious victory in Christ. The spiritual Christian does not continue in the practice of known, willful sin so he lives in the unclouded sunshine of the Father's presence and in the unshadowed light of the Father's countenance. His communion with the Father is unmarred by the gnawing consciousness of soiled hands, by the pricking of a wounded conscience, or by the condemnation of an accusing heart. There is abiding peace, deepening joy and satisfying rest.
It is Life of Habitual Victory
1 Corinthians 15:57, "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 8:37, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
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."
The believer has changed masters and has entered into a new servitude which is perfect freedom. God tells him he has been made "free from sin"; that he is "more than conqueror" through Christ; that "the victory" of the cross was all-inclusive; and that "in Christ" he may walk through life's battlefield "in triumph." The spiritual Christian takes God's word at face value, he dares to believe it and to act accordingly.
The believer's identification with Christ did not secure for him "victories" only but "victory." His victory over sin is all-inclusive, the greater has wrapped within it the lesser. He who has given victory over one sin can give victory over all sin; He who has kept from sin for a moment, can with equal ease keep for an hour or a day. Victory over sin is a gift through Christ.
Victory need not be intermittent but may be habitual. God can cause us always in all places, under all circumstances, at all times, in all things, "to triumph in Christ" for "He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."
Perhaps some reader will say, I have experienced occasionally this glorious freedom from some besetting sin but it has been only a transient liberty. Is there really such a thing here on earth as habitual victory over all known sin?
Let us think of the difference between such a transient liberty and a permanent freedom. It was made very clear to me once through an experience in speaking on two Sundays to the women in Cook County Jail in Chicago. At the first meeting one hard-faced, rough-looking woman made considerable trouble, nearly breaking up the meeting. She came at the close imploring me to secure her release from jail, making all sorts of lavish promises of good behavior, even to becoming a Christian if I would do her this favor. Twenty-six times she had been behind those bars for the some offense, she said. This confession told me why she was in jail. Liberty she had had twenty-five times: freedom she had never known. She had no desire to break with sin but only to break from jail.
The following Lord's Day I spoke on the difference between liberty and freedom. Knowing that the woman's attention must be held for the sake of others as well as for herself I had taken some thread and scissors to illustrate the message. During the talk I asked her for the loan of her fingers. I wound the thread lightly around them and then asked her to free herself. With her strong, brawny hands it was an easy matter just to loosen the thread and she did it exultingly. Then I wound it around again and again some fifty times until her fingers were truly "bond servants" to that thread, praying that God would drive home the truth of her terrible bondage to sin. All the time her face grew longer and more perplexed. Finally I stopped and asked her again to loosen her fingers and free herself. With real seriousness she looked into my face and said bluntly, "You know I can't!" I said, "Yes, I know you can't and are you not glad that I have brought these scissors along which can cut this thread and set your fingers free?" Then I told her of the Saviour who came from heaven to die on Calvary's cross that through the outpouring of His precious blood she might be cut loose from sin and set free forever and ever. "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).
To make that perfect victory permanent He has sent the Holy Spirit to Indwell and control. The carnal man is under the power of the law of sin. It operates in his life, bringing him much of the time under its dominion. But there is another and a higher law at work in the believer and as he yields himself to its mighty power the spiritual man is delivered from the law of sin and death. Herein lies his habitual victory over all known sin.
Romans 8:2, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
It is a Life of Constant Growth Into Christlikeness
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."
There is nothing static in true spiritual experience. The upward look and the unveiled face must catch something of the glory of the Lord and reflect it. With a growing knowledge of Him and a deepening communion with Him, there must inevitably be a growing likeness to Him. It is a transformation into His image from glory to glory. The spiritual nature is ever reaching out after and laying hold of that which is spiritual in order that it may become more spiritual. "As the bursting acorns lay hungry hold only on what will produce oaks" so the spiritual man lays hungry hold only on what will produce likeness to Christ Jesus.
John 15:2, 5, "Every branch in me that heareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."
Surely there is progression in Christlikeness"not fruit," "fruit," "more fruit" "much fruit." Do these phrases not unveil before us the possibilities and potentialities for Christlikeness open to every branch in the vine? Do they not also show us the positive progression "from glory to glory" God expects to see in us? These expressions are descriptive. Which one describes you? There is but one branch that fully satisfies the heart of the divine Husbandman.
John 15:8, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."
God makes very clear what is the fruit which He expects to find on the branch.
Galatians 5:22-23, R.V., "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law."
The "fruit of the Spirit" is the full-orbed, symmetrical character of the Lord Jesus Christ in which there is no lack and no excess. The apostle Paul did not speak of "the fruits of the Spirit" as he is so often misquoted. It is just one cluster, and all nine graces are essential to reveal the beauty and glory of true Christlikeness. But how often we see a great heart of love spoiled by a very quick temperthere is "love" but not "self-control." Or we see long-suffering marred by boastfulnessthe person being so afraid the long-suffering will not be noted and appreciated that there is a repeated reminder of it. There is "long-suffering" but not "meekness." Occasionally one sees a Christian long on faith but very short on gentleness. He has in his makeup the thunder of Mount Sinai more than the love of Calvary. He believes the doctrine and defends it with better success than he adorns it. He has "faith" but not "kindness." Or often we see one whose life is the embodiment of goodness but the goodness is overshadowed by anxiety, worry, and fretting. The presence of "goodness" is limited in its beneficent working by the absence of "peace." Oh! how the lack or the excess of one of these graces mars the beauty, the completeness, the symmetry of the cluster! In the spiritual Christian all nine of these graces blend in such beautiful and winsome attractiveness and harmony that the world sees Christ living within.
I was traveling upon the Yangtsze River in central China. A heavy rainstorm had just cleared away and the sun had come out brightly from behind the banked-up clouds. I felt an inward impelling to go out upon the deck and the Lord had a precious message awaiting me. The water of the Yangtsze River is very muddy. But as I stepped to the railing and looked over I did not see the dirty, yellow water that day but instead the heavenly blue and fleecy white of the heavens above and all so perfectly reflected that I actually could not believe that I was looking down instead of up. Instantly the Holy Spirit flashed 2 Corinthians 3:18 into my mind and said, "In yourself you are as unattractive as the water of the Yangtsze River but when your whole being is turned Godward and your life lies all open to Him so that His glory shines upon it and into it then you will be so transformed into His image that others looking at you will see not you but Christ in you." Oh! friends, are you and I "reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord"?
It is a Life of Supernatural Power
John 14:12, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
These words were spoken by Jesus Christ to a little group of unlettered men. One of them was a sunburned, weather-beaten, rough old fisherman. He would be ill at ease in a modern college crowd and very probably would fail to pass entrance examinations into a present-day theological seminary. But he belonged to the company of believers to whom this promise was given and one day it was marvelously fulfilled in his life when through one sermon he won six times as many souls to true discipleship as Jesus did in the three years of His public ministry.
In what did Peter's power consist and does it avail for you and me? Was it the power of personal charm? of gracious manner? of giant intellect? of eloquent speech? of massive scholarship? of dominant will? While there were many lovable qualities in the impulsive, eager, loving old fisherman yet none of them could begin to account for such an overwhelming fulfillment of our Lord's promise in him. God clearly reveals the secret of Peter's power.
Acts 1:8, "But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
The power to do "the same works and even greater" is not the power which resides in anything human. On the contrary it is the power of God the Holy Spirit which is fully at our disposal when we are fully yielded to Him. Is His supernatural power manifested in your life and works today?
It is a Life of Devoted Separateness
1 Thessalonians 4:3, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification."
Hebrews 7:26, "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens."
John 14:17, "Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
The spiritual man apprehends the will of the Father, the walk of the Son, and the work of the Spirit, in relation to his sanctification. The Father willed that he should be set apart and separated wholly unto Himself and the spiritual man acquiesces in the Father's purpose and wills to separate himself from everything that he knows would keep him from becoming a vessel fit for the Master's use.
The spiritual man takes Christ as his Example and determines to walk as He walked. Christ lived a life that was "holy, undefiled, separate from sinners." He was in the world but not of it. He had the closest contact with the world but without conformity to it or contagion from it. He lived in a world evil, corrupt, polluted, yet He remained unspotted, unstained and unsullied. The spiritual man aspires to a similar separateness of walk in this evil world.
The spiritual man lives habitually under the dominating control of the Holy Spirit who indwells him. The Holy Spirit and the world have nothing in common. The world cannot see or know the Holy Spirit for He is unseen and invisible and the world comprehends only the seen and the tangible. The Holy Spirit working within the believer enables the risen Lord to continue from the throne the work of sanctification begun in the believer at the cross. The spiritual man yields unconditionally to the Spirit's power as He works out God's full purpose in him.
God, the Father, works through His Son, by the Holy Spirit, to carry out His will of complete sanctification.
1 Peter 1:2, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."
1 Thessalonians 5:23, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The Holy Trinity are at work within the believer to separate him wholly unto the Lord and to set him apart as a vessel fit for the Master's use. God is ever working to bring the believer into full conformity to the image of His Son.
When there is complete separateness the Christian will bear the same relationship to the world as Christ bore to it and the world will bear the same relationship to him as it bore to Christ. The Christian will regard the pleasures, the pursuits, the principles and the plans of the world exactly as Jesus Christ did. He is not of the world, therefore the world hated, persecuted and crucified Him. Such an experience the spiritual Christian will likewise have.
John 17:16, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
John 15:19-20, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also."
There can be no successful attempt at a compromising admixture of the world and the heavenlies, of the flesh and the Spirit in the life of the one who truly aspires to life on the highest plane. God has separated these two unmixables by the cross of Christ. Any believer who submits to the perfect work of that cross both for and in him must choose to leave the world and the flesh behind and be wholly separated unto the pleasures and pursuits of life in Christ in the heavenlies.
God calls the believer to a life of spiritual "isolation" and "insulation" in order that he may be conformed to the "image of his Son and filled by His Spirit. The spiritual Christian responds to the call and obeys God's command to come out and live a life of devoted separateness.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall he my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
But it is not merely the apprehension of and acquiescence in the will of God that loosen the grip of the world and the flesh upon the believer. It is the deeper appreciation of the gracious love of the Father and the sacrificial love of the Son that woos and wins him into a life of devoted separateness. We consent to be truly separated when once we spiritually discern how for our sakes He sanctified Himself that we might be sanctified. It is the one, who beholding the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world, says, "He loved me and gave Himself for me" who gladly consents to be crucified unto the world and to have the world crucified unto him.
May the writer bear testimony that it was so in her experience. Life in the flesh and in the world kept her for some years after her conversion and entrance into church fellowship from victory and peace in her inner life and from power in service. Hour upon hour had been spent in argument with a dear friend and a separated Christian upon the harmlessness and rightfulness of her worldly walk. But one day face to face with God the decision of the will was made and the front door of her life was opened and the King of kings and Lord of lords was invited to enter and to take real control. Thereupon the vagabonds and hirelings that had robbed her of her possessions and privileges in Christ sneaked out the back door and desire for and delight in their companionship were gone forever. It was with her in deed and truth "the expulsive power of a new affection" that kept her so occupied with her adorable Lord and so happy in His service that there was no sense of loss but rather of incalculable gain.
It is a Life of Winsome Holiness
Exodus 15:11, "Who is like unto thee, 0 LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?"
1 Peter 1:15-16, R.V., "But like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; Because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy."
God's holiness is His crown of glory. It is His holiness that measures the awful distance between Himself and the sinner. Yet He calls His own to be holy because He is holy and there is no other way by which he may come to have fellowship with Him for "without [holiness] . . . no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
Every Christian is called by his new position in Christ to a life of holiness. But there are many Christians who frankly do not want to be holy. There are others however who truly desire to be spiritual but are nevertheless afraid to be "holy." This may be due to their misunderstanding of what holiness is, either through their own neglect of the study of God's Word or through the false teaching on this subject which makes them shy of it through fear.
If one aspires to life on the highest plane he must be holy according to scriptural holiness. What, then, is it? First, may we say what it is not. Holiness is not sinless perfection, it does not place one beyond the possibility of sinning nor remove from him the presence of sin. Scriptural holiness is not "faultlessness." That is a condition he will reach only upon the return of the Lord Jesus who takes him beyond all contact with a world of sin. Scriptural holiness is not "faultlessness" but it is "blamelessness" in the sight of God. We are to be "preserved blameless" unto His coming and we shall be "presented faultless" at His coming.
1 Thessalonians 5:23, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Jude 24, "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."
This truth was unfolded to me with fresh meaning four years ago when I was called upon to dispose of the personal belongings of a dearly loved sister whom God had called home. Among the things she especially treasured was found a letter written to her when I was seven years of age. She had gone on a visit; I loved her and missed her and that letter was the love of my heart expressed in words. The letter was by no means "faultless" for the penmanship was poor, the grammar was incorrect and the spelling was imperfect, but it was "blameless" in the sight of my sister for it came out of a heart of love and was the best letter I could write. For me, a grown woman, to write the same letter today would not be "blameless" for my experience in penmanship and my knowledge of grammar and of spelling are far greater.
Holiness is a heart of pure love for God expressed in character, conversation and conduct. Holiness is Christ, our sanctification, enthroned as Life of our life. It is Christ in us, living, speaking, walking. The character of even the greatest saint will have in it some lack, his conversation will often fail in magnifying his Lord and his conduct in some respect will fall short of his calling in Christ Jesus. He will not be sinless but his heart will be pure love for God and he will give Christ the place of supreme preeminence in his mind, heart, strength and soul. There will be nothing static in his holiness, but daily by the Holy Spirit's faithful sanctifying work in his inmost life Christ Jesus will be formed more perfectly within him. The result will be a "transformation into His image from glory to glory."
1 Thessalonians 3:13, "To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints."
Such holiness is winsome for it spells the holy calm of God mirrored in the face, the holy quietness of God manifested in the voice, the holy graciousness of God expressed in the manner, and the holy fragrance of God emanating from the whole life. It is God so inhabiting His holy temple, which temple you are, that He reveals Himself through human personality.
A sermon I heard when a student at the Moody Bible Institute thirty years ago brought me the meaning of true holiness. The sermon was not a long one, neither was it preached by a famous preacher. It was a sermon of just six words preached to an audience of one by Amelia, the maid who waited upon the door. Amelia's sermon was occasioned by the call upon me of a very poor woman needing help on a very hot day when I was packing a very big trunk in a very small room. Several times I had gladly gone to this woman's home to help her but on this particular day I did not want to see her. Of course, I did not want Amelia to know that, so smiling sweetly I said, "I will be down soon." Amelia turned and went a few steps, then came back and with a pained expression in her face said, "Why, Miss Paxson, you looked cross!" Amelia taught me that day that holiness is an inward possession and not an outward profession and a possession that implies a Presencethat penetrates to the inmost spirit, that permeates the whole being and that purifies it in every part.The life of the spiritual Christian which has been unfolded is that which every true believer desires but which very few expect to live on earth. To many such a life seems to be the prerogative of only a few rare souls chosen by God for especially high and holy tasks and to be utterly impossible for others. On that contrary, it is not the prerogative of a few but the privilege of all. To some it is a life which they have admired in others but have feared for themselves because of the demand it made for complete surrender. To others there has been utter ignorance either of the possibility of such a life or how to live it. But I believe there are a very large number of Christians today who are not satisfied with the lives they are living and who desire to know what are the cause and the cure of carnality. Diagnosis precedes cure. We have attempted in this chapter to make a diagnosis. Let us now seek to find a cure.