Life On the Highest Plane
Vol. 2: The Relation Between Christ and the Christian
The Christian's Choice Self or Christ?
There are two kinds of Christians, easily identified and clearly distinguished from each other. How can there he such a paradox? is the question that must present itself to every thoughtful mind. The fountainhead of the Christian life is the same for all. Then how can there he two streams from it which flow so widely apart? When every Christian, as we have seen, has been brought through God's grace into the same position and put under the same control how does one become carnal and another spiritual? How can two persons, each of whom is born again, live such differing lives? An answer to this question is essential if one is to choose intelligently to be a spiritual Christian and to carry out that choice steadfastly.
THE COEXISTENCE OF TWO NATURES IN EVERY BELIEVER
Every Christian is conscious of inward conflict, of a duality within himself which he experiences but perhaps does not understand. Part of him aspires to be well pleasing unto God, another part of him wants to satisfy every demand of self. Part of him longs for the peace and rest of the promised land, another part of him lusts for the leeks, onions and garlic of Egypt; part of him grasps Christ and part of him grips the world. He has to admit that there seems to be a law of gravitation which tends ever to pull him sinward while at the same time a counteracting law lifts him Christward.
The scriptural explanation of this duality in Christian experience is found in the coexistence of two natures within the believer: the old, sinful Adamic nature and the new, spiritual Christ nature. Let us turn to the first epistle of John for its clear unfolding of this very important truth. The apostle John is a mature Christian and he is writing to those who are at least capable of receiving very deep spiritual truth. In the simplest of language he teaches the coexistence of the two natures in every believer.
1 John 1:8, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If any Christian, no matter how full grown he is or how many special experiences he has had, says that he is entirely freed from the old sinful nature, he deceives himself. But such a person does not deceive his family, or his neighbors, or his fellow Christians, nor does he deceive God. In the next verse God makes provision for the very sins which will come out of the root of sin still existing in this self-deceived Christian (1 John 1:9). These "sins" which are forgiven and the "unrighteousness" which is cleansed, are the sins and the unrighteousness of saints.
But the apostle John goes further. "If we say we have no sin" the inevitableness of logic compels us to say that we do not sin for if the root of sin is eradicated, then from what source could sins come? Every stream no matter how tiny must have a source. A few days ago looking out upon the Alps in a heavy rainstorm I saw ten streams of water flowing down the mountainside. In today's sunshine I look out again and not one of those streams can be seen. If there is "no sin," then the believer "cannot sin." The old apostle uses very drastic language hereit may be that he knew he was writing to some who in the very earnestness and intensity of desire were in danger of believing this unscriptural doctrine.
1 John 1:10, "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him [God] a liar, and his word is not in us."
The gross, vulgar, more open sins may have gone from us but what of the hidden sins of the heart; the pride even in our spiritual attainment, the attitude of self-righteousness toward others who are still on a lower plane, the harshness of judgment of those who do not believe as we do, the secret irritability, sometimes even toward those we love best, the unloving thought toward relative, friend or servant, the intolerance toward the weak or willful, or the countless sins of omission that must be charged against the Christian by the One who said, "To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Sin is not merely an act; it is also an attitude and an absence. It is not alone what we do but what we do not do. It is what we are and what we are not in the innermost part of our being as God sees us. Who that has a scriptural apprehension of sin as it is in man and of holiness as it is in God could ever say he is without sin?
There is in every believer that old nature which can do nothing but sin. John traces this sinful nature back to its original source in Satan. Inherent within the old nature is a threefold inability: it cannot know God, it cannot obey God, it cannot please God. By physical birth every person becomes the possessor of this God-ignorant, God-defying and God-displeasing nature and it remains in him as long as he lives on earth.
But there is in every believer that new nature which cannot sin. The old apostle leads us along the trail to its source in God. Inherent within the new nature is a threefold capacity: it can and does know God, obey God and please God. By spiritual birth every person becomes the possessor of this God-knowing, God-obeying, God-pleasing nature.
1 John 3:6-9, "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
These two natures coinhabit every believer. This truth is repeatedly brought out in 1 John. John wrote to those believers as though he did not expect them to sin because they had within them this God-inspired, God-begotten nature.
1 John 2:1, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not."
Yet he made full provision for their sinning because they had within them this Satan-inspired, devil-begotten nature.
1 John 2:1, "And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
God makes no attempt to change or to improve the old nature because it is unchangeable and unimproveable. Cultivation through education and travel do not change it one iota but simply clothe it in a more refined and respectable costume. God makes no attempt to subject it for it is incorrigible and irreconcilable. Government and laws may keep it partially suppressed but it is planning and secretly executing a world revolution aganst God and His government, and stands ready to break out in vehement action at every favorable opportunity. God makes no attempt to eradicate it, because He has a far more wonderful way of conquest over this sinful nature which we shall soon consider.
THE CONFLICT OF THESE TWO NATURES IN EVERY BELIEVER
To admit the coexistence of these two diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive natures is to admit the necessity of fiercest conflict. It is indeed the agelong conflict between Satan and Christ with the believer's inner life as the battlefield. It is self contesting Christ's right to His purchased possession.
This conflict is personalized in the spiritual experience of the apostle Paul. He has been reborn, he was justified and sanctified in Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus had come in to possess His possession and to take control. But there was one who contested His right. A conflict ensued between the old Saul and the new Paul. Two antagonists were fighting a deadly battle for a coveted prize. Romans 7 pictures a Christian torn to pieces by this awful conflict and baffled and discouraged beyond words by it all. He wonders if there is any possible way into victory and rest.
It is this conflict which staggers many a young Christian, and often causes a total eclipse of faith or a gradual backsliding into the world. He took the first step into the Christian life because his conscience was awakened to the evil of his doings. His chief concern was for his sins. He had been convicted of the sinfulness of acts and habits, and felt a sense of guilt because of them. He came to Christ and accepted Him as Saviour that he might be rid of certain sins. In the realization of forgiveness and the assurance of pardon he experiences great joy and gladly witnesses for Christ.
But he soon finds himself doing the old things again; the evil habits persist; the sinful disposition manifests itself in hydra-headed fashion; wicked practices return; worse than all, the joy in fellowship with Christ lessens; the heart grows cold; the spirit is dulled; he grows utterly discouraged. But his love for God has not been altogether quenched and flames up into intense desire under the inspiration of some message from God's Word or by the glimpse into a life which reflects peace and joy. Something in him cries out for God while another something contests every inch of God's claim upon the life. He is wholly nonplussed by this duality within himself.
Something within him will not let him release his hold upon God. Consequently he strives against these sins, agonizes over them, prays for release, makes every effort possible within his own power to get victory. But in spite of all he does his life is a kingdom divided against itself. Then something tells him it is no use trying to live a victorious life and he may as well give up. Over and over again he asks himself the question, Is it all worthwhile? He tries even to persuade himself that the man who makes no profession of Christ is much happier than he. But one day when on the very verge of absolute despair he cries out of deep heart desire for deliverance, "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
What seems like his utter downfall is really his hour of deliverance for it is the time of abject self-despair to which he had to come before God could step in and open before him the way of deliverance.
Dear friend, are you living in Romans 7 today? Are you worn out with the conflict? Do you wish to know the way out? Then just close this book for a moment and tell Him so; then open it and ask Him to show you the way out into conquest and victory.
THE CONQUEST OF THE OLD NATURE
God gives to us very clear and definite instruction regarding our part in the dethronement of this usurper self and the enthronement of Christ as sole Possessor and only Ruler over His inheritance in us.
We Must Condemn the Flesh
God condemns the flesh as altogether sinful (Romans 8:3); He sees in it "no good thing" (Romans 7:18) and no Christian will ever have conquest over it until he accepts God's estimate of it and acts accordingly. This may seem like an easy thing to do but on the contrary it is exceedingly difficult. God's standard is very exacting. He says there is "no good thing" in the flesh. God says that "the flesh" both at its center and circumference is sinful; He condemns both its innermost desires and its outermost deeds (Ephesians 2:3, Colossians 3:9), and declares that it is unworthy of any confidence on our part. The first step which the apostle Paul took to the life on the highest plane was thisto condemn as unsafe, unclean and untrustworthy, the flesh which formerly he had so highly regarded.
Philippians 3:3-4, "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more.
But we do have a great deal of confidence in the flesh. We divide it into the good and the bad. Certain things in the flesh we are compelled to distrust because they have got us into trouble. Certain other things we have gone so far as to acknowledge as weaknesses, faults, possible danger points. But there is another good-sized portion of the flesh that we rate rather high and in which we trust without reserve. It may be our refined and cultured tastes; the opinions and judgments which are the product of our educated minds; our generous, noble, philanthropic feelings; our high standard of morality; or, like Paul, our ancestral heritage. So that when we make a cross section of our "flesh," taking good and bad together, it seems in our sight to measure up fairly well; at least we can see no reason for such a wholesale condemnation of it as God makes.
But let us put this best product of the flesh to the test. Let us take it from a home in which love reigned and sweet companionship was its daily portion, where books lined the library shelves, beautiful pictures adorned the walls, snow white linen covered the table, and from a community life which offered everything needful to satisfy the intellectual, social, aesthetic and spiritual desires and needs. Transplant this life to an interior village on the mission field to live within a house with several people of varying temperaments and tastes, with limited household appointments, with untaught, untrained servants, with nothing without upon which to rest the eye but mud walls and dirty narrow streets, surrounded by jarring voices and unpleasant odors, and a furlough seven years offwould this best product of the flesh stand the test and come off more than conqueror? More than one missionary has left the mission field even before furlough was due and for no other reason than that "the flesh" broke down under the test.
Or let us put it to a different kind of a test. Perhaps "the flesh" boasts of that godlike quality of character called love. So choose the deepest, purest human love we can find and place it alongside of the love of 1 Corinthians 13. Is it a love that in nothing or at no time seeketh its own, that is absolutely free from the slightest taint of jealousy? Does it suffer long and is it always kind or is there sometimes not a feeling of secret irritability toward the one most deeply loved? Has it unfailingly been so charitable that it has never taken account of evil? Would it not have to blush with shame at its jealousy, envy, snobbishness, intolerance, selfishness, impatience and irritability? Has our "flesh" never broken down under this divine test?
May we make one more analytical test of "the flesh." This time let it be a chemical analysis in God's laboratory. Here is a man who boasts of his generosity and is considered one of the best givers in the city. He lavishes expensive gifts upon his family and gives costly dinners to his friends and subscribes largely to campaigns when the newspapers print the list of donors. But he grinds the most possible labor out of his employees for the least possible pay, he quarrels with his tailor over his bill, and h, and he robs God of even the tithe which is His by right. Here is a woman who rides triumphantly upon the social wave as one of the most gracious and charming women in the community. But she nags her husband, is impatient with her children and scolds her servants. "The flesh" always has its blind side.
But I can almost hear someone rise up in defense of "the flesh" and say, But is it not natural to resent wrong? to dislike some people? to crave certain things? to stand up for your own rights? Yes, it is natural and that is just why it is sinful. That is just what "the flesh" is, it is our natural life; including all we call highest and best as well as all we deem worst and weakest. What God asks us to do is to take the cross section of "the flesh" we have made and condemn it all, to believe in its utter impotence to do good and in its mighty power to do evil.
We Must Consent to the Crucifixion of the Old Man
Having condemned "the old man" as a hideous, hateful, heinous thing we are prepared for the next step God asks us to take. He has declared "the old man" worthy of crucifixion, in fact, He has already accomplished his crucifixion with Christ. Now God asks the believer to give his hearty consent to this transaction and to consider it an accomplished fact in his experience. Again this would seem like an extremely easy thing to do. In theory it is, in practice it is not, for "the old man" will fight like a tiger for his life.
"Self will make any concession if allowed to live. Self will permit the believer to do anything, give anything, sacrifice anything, go anywhere, take any liberties, bear any crosses, afflict soul or body to any degreeanything, if it can only live. It will consent to live in a hovel, in a garret, in the slums, in faraway heathendom, if only its life can be spared. It will endure any garb, any fare, any menial service rather than die."
But God says nothing short of the crucifixion of self will do. This was the second step which the apostle Paul took to life on the highest planehe gave his whole-souled consent to his cocrucifixion with Christ Jesus and considered it something now past.
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.
"The Cross only severs what you consent to part from. The severing of the Cross is not an actual experience, unless the will of the believer desires and consents to the actual separation in fact and practice."
Have you consented to your crucifixion with Christ? There can be no reservations, no holding back part of the price. The whole "I" must be counted dead. God asks you to put your signature to this statement, "I have been crucified with Christ." If you have never done so, will you do it today?
We Must Cooperate With the Holy Spirit in Keeping the Old Man Crucified
1. Reckon yourself dead unto sin.
Romans 6:11, "Likewise reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Through the crucifixion of "the old man" with Christ, the believer has been made dead unto sin, he has been completely freed from sin's power, he has been taken beyond sin's grip, every claim of sin upon him has been nullified. This is the flawless provision of God's grace but this accomplished fact can only become an actual reality in the believer's experience as faith lays hold upon it and enables him moment by moment, day by day, though temptation assail him, "to reckon" it true. As he reckons the Holy Spirit makes real; as he continues to reckon, the Holy Spirit continues to make real. Sin need have no more power over the believer than he grants it through unbelief. If he is alive unto sin it will be due largely to the fact that he has failed "to reckon himself dead unto sin in Christ." We cannot expect God to do His part and our part too. His part has been done perfectly, He waits now for us to cooperate with Him through faith in making this perfect salvation a reality in experience. Through grace "the old man" was nailed to the cross and buried in the tomb: through faith "the old man" will be kept there. Continuously reckon yourself to be totally severed from all that belonged to the old life and all that pertained to the old sphere, and faith will eventuate into experience.
Because I know in personal experience the defeat and discouragement that ensues from failure to reckon one's self dead unto sin and because I believe it is the common experience of scores of Christian workers I am quoting at length from a letter received from a missionary. God will use this testimony to help many, I confidently believe, to see the place of failure.
"Last night I had a long conference with my Father. It was like other nights in my life, when after long periods of perplexity and prayer for light, the Lord has settled matters for me. I asked Him to show me why I was failing, why my life was not more even and assured. He knew I was keeping back nothing, and that I believed Jesus had met the whole sin question, branches and root, on the Cross. Why was my experience so fluctuating?
"It was not long before the answer came, and I saw, what I had never realized before, that while I had taken the work of Christ on the Cross as the perfect and complete satisfaction for the guilt of my sin, so that the devil in all his assaults had not been able to move me from my confidence that all my sins, past, present and future are under the blood, and powerless to bring me again under the condemnation of God; I had never appreciated to the full the value of His dealing with the root of sin in me. I believed He had dealt with it. I believed He had identified me with Himself on the Cross, and that in Him I was crucified, "dead unto sin and alive unto God." I believed it as a fact in the Lord's glorious work, but I had been appropriating the value of it only piecemeal, so to speak. It had been the way of victory to me for years. Many of the temptations resisted, the victories won, were through a definite reckoning of myself as dead to sin and alive to God. Such victories have lasted months sometimes, blessed seasons! But I saw that just as I would have fallen into distressing condemnation under Satan's assaults, if I had not taken Christ's atoning work in its entirety, once for all; so my failure to appropriate the work of the Cross for my sinful self, in its entirety, had left me an occasional prey to its power. I had been reckoning just parts of myself dead, instead of my whole self. As a result I was afraid of self, often uneasy and not sure of victory. And he that feareth is not made perfect in love.
"Your words Sunday helped me, "Who giveth us the victory, not victories.' Well, dear friend, I have taken Christ in death and resurrection as the full and perfect solution for the whole of the sin problem. He has done it and it is done. I have asked for the same immovable assurance about sin as I have enjoyed for years about my sins, and I believe He has given it and will maintain it. He has given me deep calm about it all.
"I see how my failure to trust fully the work of the Cross has hindered the inflow and outflow of the Holy Spirit. The failure to give Christ the full glory due Him has meant that my carnal self was able to keep me, much of the time, without the Holy of Holies of the presence of Father and Son, where in the Spirit it is my privilege to dwell.
"Glory be to God, the triune God! You will give Him glory with me, for this unfolding of His truth to His unworthy child. I believe this was the one thing needed to enable me to be used to work all the good pleasure of His will."
2. Make no provision for the flesh.
Romans 13:14, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof."
Galatians 6:8, "For he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
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 8:4, "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Here before us is very definite and practical instruction on the way of conquest of "the old man" which is constantly ignored and often willfully disobeyed by Christians. How can the Holy Spirit make real within us ourmple provision for the renewal of that life within us by feeding him upon the food that makes fat? What is food to "the flesh" is fodder to the Spirit and vice versa. Search your own life under the Spirit's guidance to discover what stores you have on hand that are making "the flesh" fat in you and then throw the entire supply away and stock your shelves with those things upon which the Spirit can feed.
God's law of sowing and reaping in the spiritual realm is as inexorable as it is in the material realm. If we sow to "the flesh" we shall reap of "the flesh." What folly for a Christian woman to think she can sow to "the flesh" in mannish hair, dress, indecent clothes, trashy books and worldly pleasures and then reap in return an unspotted husband, Christian children and spiritual fellowship in the home! And what inconceivable absurdity for a church to sow to its young people the dance and the movie and expect to reap a prayer meeting or a revival! To which are you sowing your time, your strength, your moneyto "the flesh" or to the Spirit?
What things do you "mind"? It is a strong word. Upon what things are your mind, heart, will set? In what kind of things are you so immersed as to be oblivious to other things? With the desire for what kind of things are you saturated? With a consuming, compelling passion for what kind of things are you filled? You are responsible for the direction your desires take because in cooperation with the Holy Spirit He will direct you away from the things of "the flesh" toward the things of the Spirit. Are you making provision for "the flesh" in the things that you "mind"?
The world judges a Christian very largely by his "walk." To a world deaf to every other kind of a message the Christian may witness by his "walk." But what kind of a witness is the Christian if the worldly man finds him walking just where and just as he walks? What power will a Christian walking "in the flesh" have to deliver a sinner from the sphere of the flesh? Here is largely the secret of the shameful fruitlessness of the Church of Christ in the world today. Are you walking "in the flesh" or in the Spirit?
God commands every believer to take a definite, decisive attitude toward "the flesh" and to maintain it by the Holy Spirit's power under all circumstances.
1 Peter 2:11, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul."
Galatians 5:24, "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and the lusts."
It resolves itself into a total abstinence of all that feeds or fosters the life of "the flesh" and a full appreciation of all that starves and stifles it.
3. Ignore the claims of the flesh.
Romans 8:12, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh."
"The flesh" is a fighter and will never abdicate the throne of its own will nor will it ever renounce its claim upon the believer's life. We owe "the flesh" nothing: we owe the Saviour, who severed us from its deadly, deathly poison, everything. Our invariable, unswerving attitude to every claim of "the flesh" upon us should be one of insistent refusal. It is the believer's privilege in the face of any claim it may advance to quietly, persistently say, "I am dead to that thing." Take sides instantly with the Holy Spirit whenever "the flesh" puts forth a claim to any part of your life and victory in Christ will be yours.
4. Mortify the members of the body.
Colossians 3:5, "Mortify therefore your members which are upo,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif" SIZE="-1">
Colossians 3:5, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
Romans 8:13, "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."
The body is the playground of "the flesh." Through it as a channel the believer is continuously open to temptation; its members have long been the tools of sin. But by yielding every member of the body as an instrument of righteousness to Jesus Christ we may cooperate with the Holy Spirit in routing "the flesh" from its long fortified stronghold.
We Must Cast Off the Old Man
Ephesians 4:22, R.V., "That ye put away as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit."
Colossians 3:9, "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds."
The old nature is cast aside as a filthy, worthless garment. It is as though a beggar had become betrothed to the King of all the earth andD JESUS IN CONTROL
But the conquest of the old nature is but the negative side of a life that is spiritual. The positive aspect of it is the supernatural control of every department of the believer's being by the Lord Jesus. It was not enough that the children of Israel should cross the Jordan, they were commanded to possess the land and by dispossessing every enemy live in victory and peace.
We Must Crown Jesus Christ as Lord
2 Corinthians 5:15, "And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."
Galatians 2:20, B. V., "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me.
Philippians 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
The very purpose of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection is to dispossess, to displace and to dethrone that old "I," and to give the throne of the human personality to Him to whom it belongs by the right of creation and of purchase, that He might reign there as its sole Lord and King. "To me to live is Christ" is the life God expects every believer to live. The apostle's cry of despair, "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" and his shout of victory, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord," were spoken almost in the same breath. By one supreme act of the will he seemed to step out of the grip of the old nature into the control of the new.
Dear friend, has Christ's coronation day as King been celebrated yet in your life? Who sits today on the throne of your being, self or Christ? Unless by a definite act of your will you have chosen Him as Lord it is futile for you to expect Him to control your life.
We Must Covet the Things of Christ
Colossians 3:1-3, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
It will never do merely to crown Christ as a puppet King by an act of the will and then live under the democracy of self-desire. Of self, for self and by self, seems to be the threefold principle governing countless Christian lives. If self-will dethrones God in human lives today, it is self-love that votes to keep Him dethroned. It is not enough to have the will fixed in its purpose to crown Him as Lord and then have the affections lusting for the things of the world, the flesh and the devil. The desires of the heart must keep step with the decision of the will; the believer must "seek those things which are above" and joyfully, eagerly, "set his affections" upon them. How incongruous for him to be "in Christ" seated in the heavenlies at the right hand of God and hid away with Christ in the Father's innermost sanctuary and yet be hankering for the things of earth and of time and of sense!
If one truly covets Christ, he will be willing to count all things loss. He will not only cut loose from every besetting sin and entangling alliance but he will stand ready to lay aside every hindering weight. He will make himself ready to be a victor in the race of life here on earth (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), and he will have his bridal robe ready for the coming marriage to the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-8).
Philippians 3:7-8, R.V., "Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ."
Hebrews 12:1, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."
The apostle Paul put before him a prize to be gainedChrist Jesus Himselfand this prize he coveted above all else in life. His passionate desire for the Lord Jesus made him willing, even eager, not only to renounce all known sin but even to cast aside anything and everything that tended to make his spiritual experience stagnant and sluggish.
The Alpine climber prepares to ascend the Jungfrauat last a long-cherished ambition is to be realized. Into his pack go necessities as he thinks them to be. A heavy load it becomes. Early in the climb he is overcome. His body is wearied through its excessive burden. Finally the guide tells him a choice must be made because not only is he hindering his own progress but that of the other climbers to whom he is roped. He must either give up his hope of reaching the summit or he must cast aside the weights. Does he covet his prize enough to count all these things but loss that he may gain the summit of the Jungfrau?
My friend, have you been living in the valley, self-satisfied and self-complacent? As you have gone with me through these studies has your eye traveled up, up, up to the very summit of spiritual experienceChrist Jesus, crucified, risen, ascended, exalted, living in all the fullness of His beauty, power, glory, and holiness in human life, conforming it to His image, and then using it to bring other lives into the same conformity? Have you aspired to reach the topto live your life on that highest plane? The ascent is steep and difficult but it is possible and a thousand times repaying. But, if you attempt it, you will have to follow the explicit direction of the Guide not only for your own sake but for the sake of others. The divine Spirit will command you to renounce all known sin; He will even ask you to cast away some things which He sees are weighing you down and wearying you so that you cannot keep pace with your spiritual companions, which, if carried, will keep you from reaching the top. Perhaps He will require you to make that choice today. God grant that you may count all things but loss that you may win Christ.
We Must Cooperater With the Holy Spirit in Keeping Christ Enthroned
It is not crowning Christ as Lord that troubles many an earnest soul but the keeping Him enthroned. It is not reaching the high altitude in the spiritual realm but it is the maintaining of life on that highest plane. But for this specific purpose God's second gift, the Holy Spirit, was bestowed upon every believer. Through His indwelling the Christian He enables him to glorify Christ in character, conversation and conduct. But His omnipotent working depends upon the believer's constant and consistent cooperation. And He tells him just what he must do to cooperate.
1. "Reckon yourself alive unto God."
Romans 6:11, "Likewise reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Through identification with Jesus Christ in His resurrection the believer has been made "alive unto God." Through the burial of "the old man" with Christ in the tomb he was completely separated from all that belonged to the old creation. Through the emergence of "the new man" with Christ from the tomb he was completely separated unto all that belongs to the new creation. This is the faultless provision of God's grace for every believer. Every believer is already in the heavenlies in Christ; Christ is now the source and sustenance of every Christian's life. All that the Man in the glory is and has is the rightful possession of every believer here and now. But what God provides through grace He expects the believer to possess through faith. Emissaries from the realm of darkness and death will come to lure him away from his hidden life in Christ but as he "reckons himself to be alive unto God" he will be able to resist the evil one and to maintain his position in Christ. As he "reckons" upon this accomplished fact based on his Saviour's resurrection the Holy Spirit works within to make it real. As he continues to "reckon" moment by moment that he has no life but life in Christ, the Holy Spirit keeps him abiding.
2. Make every provision for 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."
The moment the believer becomes the possessor of the new nature he leaves the sphere of the flesh to abide in the sphere of the Spirit, and the Spirit comes to abide in him. In other words, he is in the Spirit and the Spirit is in him. The maintenance of such a life in such a world as this requires the most careful and constant provision.
Only the Holy Spirit knows what will sustain and strengthen life in His sphere. He alone can provide that food. This He has done for every believer and all He asks is for the acceptance of the food He offers. He knows both the age and the capacity of each believer and will suit his food to his need.
1 Peter 2:2, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby."
Hebrews 5:14, "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
3. Follow the leading of the Spirit.
Romans 8:14, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
The only way to combat successfully the claims of the flesh is to obey implicitly every prompting or motion of the Spirit, be it ever so slight. Whether it be a warning, a check, a leading, or a teaching, all are given by Him as He sees necessary, and should be followed instantly.
4. Yield to Christ the control of every member of the body.
Romans 6:13, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."
It is utter folly to talk about Christ's control over and use of our lives if we have blinded our eyes to His vision and deafened our ears to His voice and tied our tongues as His witnesses and fettered our hands as His tools and lamed our feet as His messengers, through yielding them to the devil as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin. But it is just such a stultified life that countless Christians expect Christ to use. If Christ's control is to count for anything in our lives and through us in the lives of others, every member of our bodies must be at His absolute disposal.
We Must Clothe Ourselves With Christ
Galatians 3:27, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
Romans 13:14, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof."
Did you discern in reading these two verses that in the first one God declares that the believer has already put on the Lord Jesus Christ and in the last one He exhortsmay we put it stronger yetHe commands him to do so? Through the grace, mercy and love of God the believer has been unclothed and clothed upon in the new position in Christ to which he has been brought. The snow white linen of Christ's righteousness and holiness are his. But God requires the cooperative response of the believer's love, devotion and faith in keeping these garments clean and rightly fitted to the believer's daily walk and warfare.
Dear fellow Christian, perhaps we have come to the second crucial milestone in your spiritual experience. Already you have accepted Christ as Saviour. You faced the choice of your sin or God's Son and you chose Christ as your Saviour. But have you wandered forty years in the wilderness of defeat, of discouragement and oftentimes of despair? Are you weary and footsore? Does your heart cry out for the peace, joy, victory and power you see others enjoying? If so, are you ready just now to take the second step into the life on the highest plane by crowning Jesus Christ as Lord over your spirit, soul and body and by placing your whole being unconditionally under His control? Before you is this choice, self or Christ?
"Oh! the bitter shame and sorrow,
"Yet He found me: I beheld Him
"Day by day His tender mercy,
"Higher than the highest heavens,
End of Volume 2
Volume 3: The Believer's Response to the Holy Spirit's Inworking
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