LIVE A VICTORIOUS LIFE IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS!
INTERCESSION, WARFARE, AND DELIVERANCE
Pastor Ted Hegre
For more information about the life and ministry of Pastor Hedgre, E-mail to: email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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As a young man anointed by the Holy Spirit, Ted Hegre (1908-1984) and his wife Lucille, along with four other young couples, began an adventure of faith nearly sixty years ago. God gave them the vision to give up their personal belongings, and live in a community to train, send, and support missionaries around the world, and to establish a literature ministry in Minneapolis. These ordinary men and women did extraordinary things because they simply followed the call. Ted Hegre's exposition of the Message of the Cross is still a very valid study for us to live in faith.
This book is compiled and presented by Thirumalai and Bev Cooley. Our grateful thanks are due to Alex Fene, Eric Burgdorf, and Karen Madison for their loving help in locating the original documents.
1. THREE ASPECTS OF THE CROSS
1. 1. THE DEATH ON THE CROSS: AN EXPERIENCE FOR US
I [Paul] determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I Corinthians 2:2
What we all need today is to know in experience the salvation to the uttermost that is ours through Christ's atoning death on the Cross. The apostle Paul's determination when he came to Corinth was to have not only an intellectual knowledge, but also an experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ and His Cross.
1. 2. DEEPER MEANING OF THE DEATH ON THE CROSS
The initial message of the Cross, which concerns our justification before God, has been regarded as basic throughout the years and has been presented somewhat clearly. But concerning other deeper meanings of Calvary's Cross, there has been, and is, much confusion. Many have not had clear understanding of such passages of Scripture as "I die daily"; "ye have put off the old man"; "crucified with Christ"; "the old man was crucified"; "make to die the doings of the body"; "deny yourself"; "ceased from sin"; sinneth not"; "dead unto sin"; "alive unto God," and others. For this reason even though we are told plainly that He always "giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," and also that "His grace is sufficient for us," many Christians are still living defeated lives.
In many cases, the reason for the confusion and lack of understanding of the deeper meaning of the Cross is that there has not yet been a definite break with sin. All too many have not totally renounced self and so are still making provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:14). Until we come to an end of ourselves and make a full surrender to Christ, we shall never be able to understand the deeper truths of God's Word, for it is written, "The rich he hath sent empty away" (Luke 1:53). But on the other hand, there are those who really want a deeper life with God and who "hunger and thirst after righteousness." To all such, we are trusting the Lord to bring about the fulfillment of His promise, "They shall be filled."
1. 3. A BIRD'S EYEVIEW OF THE WORK OF THE CROSS
With these hungry souls in mind, we are setting forth in this booklet a bird's-eye view of the work of the Cross in three of its main aspects:
- First, Christ Crucified FOR Us - Our Substitute. This aspect of the Cross of Christ deals with the unregenerate man, that is, with perversity-and makes possible the forgiveness of sins and regeneration.
- Second, Christ Crucified AS Us-Our Representative. Here the Cross of Christ deals with the old man, that is, with carnality-and makes possible both freedom from the power of sin and also the filling of the Holy Spirit.
- Third, Christ Crucified IN Us-Our Indweller. This aspect of the Cross of Christ does not deal with sin in the Christian. It deals with the new man, that is, with humanity (or the physical man). The daily Cross makes possible the disciplined control of the physical body, the sacrifice of the body that others too may live, intercessory prayer, and victorious warfare against Satan.
1. 4. WE ALL SEE IT IN PART: AN ELEPHANT IS LIKE A ROPE!
Though all who have been exposed to the Scriptures have some conception of the Cross and its meaning, yet even the most enlightened see only in part. Our capacity to see the whole truth of God's so great a salvation is very limited at best. The simple story of the four blind men and the elephant seems applicable here. One of the blind men felt the elephant's leg and said, "I know that an elephant is like a tree"; another, feeling his ear, knew that an elephant was like a fan; a third felt his side and knew an elephant was like a rough wall; still another felt his tail and said, "I certainly can't see how you all can be so mistaken, for any one would know that an elephant is like a rope."
All saw the elephant-in part. Did any really see the elephant?
1. 5. WE ALL NEED A REVELATION OF THE FULL MEANING OF THE CROSS: NOT COMMENTARIES
In the salvation of our souls, God has provided so much that even if we see in Calvary all that Luther saw, together with all that Calvin saw, and in addition all that Wesley saw, we still would not know the whole of God's tremendous work on our behalf at Calvary. The liberals see and accept only the third aspect of the Cross - a form of self-denial. Some fundamentalists (there are several varieties of those who believe the Bible is the Word of God) generally see only the first aspect. Holiness people see the first and second aspects but as a rule not the third. Others, accepting only the first and third aspects, would not consider the second crisis at all. Then, is not what we all need a revelation of the full meaning of the Cross? We must each appropriate all the benefits of Calvary. To this end may the Lord himself enlighten us now as we look into the three aspects in greater detail.
1. 6. THE FIRST ASPECT OF THE CROSS
The first aspect of the Cross, Christ Crucified FOR Us - Our Substitute, deals with unregenerate man, the man "dead in his trespasses and sins." First, the Holy Spirit begins to convict a man of his sins and to reveal to him that he is lost, outside the fellowship of God, and subject to eternal death. As this sinner responds and confesses his sins, the Holy Spirit through the Word shows clearly that the stroke due him fell on Christ (Isa. 53:8, margin). "Christ died for our sins" (I Cor. 15:3), and "His own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness" (I Peter 2:24).
In this first work of the Cross, the Holy Spirit points out to the sinner the only way of salvation from sins. He reveals that God's plan is to save his people from-not in-their sins. God's terms for our receiving His provision of salvation are twofold: "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). Repentance is turning from sin; faith is turning to, and receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. Only when the sinner repents and trusts does God forgive and regenerate. Therefore the sinner must repent, must forsake his sins, and must believe that Christ died for his sins. "Confess your sins," says I John 1:9.
That is our side of it, and if we do our part and receive Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, God will do His part, applying the benefit and value of the Cross. He will both forgive us and regenerate us, for "He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins." Thus we will be "born again," and it will be true of us as it is declared in Ephesians 2:1: "You did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins." Salvation, then, is not by believing a doctrine or confessing a creed, but salvation is becoming united to a Person, and that Person is Jesus Christ.
1. 7. ONLY FORGIVENESS AND REGENERATION?
But is forgiveness and regeneration all that the Cross can do for us? No, it is neither all that our God can do nor all that He wants to do. He meets the sinner's first need and perhaps his only need at that time as he sees it-namely, salvation from the guilt and penalty of sin. But this is just the beginning of God's work.
Very soon the young convert, now no longer spiritually dead but alive unto God, knows that he needs a deeper work of grace in his heart. He knows that he has other needs besides the forgiveness of sins. Though forgiven, he is not always victorious, for there seems to be a power of sin in his life so that he "may not do the things that [he] would" (Gal. 5:17). He loves the Lord and His will, yet he finds himself in bondage so that he can not obey the Lord perfectly. Nor does he have abiding joy. Within is a conflict, for "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (Gal. 5:17). To be sure, at times he has joy, but very much of his experience is up and down. The great tragedy in the Christian Church is that many are told this is the normal Christian experience, and so lose heart and go back to the world.
It is just here that the Holy Spirit can reveal to the hungry a deeper aspect of the Cross: Christ Crucified AS Us-Our Representative. This aspect deals not with Christ taking upon himself the stroke which was our due, but with Christ bearing us to the Cross. To the soul that really hungers and thirsts for righteousness and seeks for a way out, God reveals that Jesus died as us: "One died for all, therefore all died
that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him" (2 Cor. 5:14-15). God's Word also says that "our old man was crucified with him" (Rom. 6:6).
1. 8. THE SECOND ASPECT OF THE CROSS: DENIAL OF SELF, AND SURRENDER
God's Word declares specifically, "He [Christ] died for all." But it also says, "Therefore all died." Both statements must be accepted and believed. To receive salvation we must accept God's terms, which are repentance and faith-faith in the fact of Christ's death for us as our Substitute on Calvary's Cross.
It is exactly the same regarding the second aspect of the Cross. Though Christ's death as us happened two thousand years ago, in our experience this becomes real only when we meet Christ's terms. What are these terms? Surrender and faith. "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself" (Matt. 16:24).
Surrender is the denial of self-not the denial of things, and not even self-denial (so-called). Denial of self is an utter unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ, including the giving up of all my "rights to myself." Here is the root of sin in experience-my idea that I have a right to myself, or that these are my rights. Thus, the reason that we are so easily irritated, jealous, touchy, impatient, anxious, proud, or angry (to say nothing of the grosser sins) is that we have not denied ourselves.
Our part is to deny self, to nail the disposition to have our own way to the Cross. The Word says that positionally "our old man was crucified with him." It is already done, for there we were crucified, there we died, there we were buried. As far as God is concerned, He is through with the old man. However, in our experience, God will not make this real until we give Him permission by making an absolute surrender to Him-a surrender so complete that death (to self) is the only word that can properly describe it. Then we can go on and reckon ourselves "dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:11).
And so, God's part in redemption through the person of Jesus Christ is already full and complete. Our part is to get rightly adjusted to what Jesus Christ has already done-our part is to come and take all that He has done. Many come and take only the forgiveness of sins; some come and take a little deeper measure of victory; but God wants us to have the full value of the death of Christ. God's table is spread, and "all things are now ready." His great invitation is "Come" (Luke 14:17), for "according to your faith be it done unto you" (Matt. 9:29).
As we mentioned before, the principles involved in "entering in" to Christ crucified as us are the same as in Christ crucified for us. If we will but deny ourselves and forsake all that we have, giving ourselves with full abandonment to God, He will by the Holy Spirit make the Cross real in our experience. Then we will find that we are not only dead to sin (plural)-this must be our attitude if we are Christians at all-but we will also be able to "reckon ourselves dead to sin" (singular). Literally, we will be delivered "out of the power of darkness, and translated
into the kingdom of the Son of his love" (Col. 1:13). This truth, positionally true of all, will become experientially true, so that we will have a right to say no to temptation. We will have a right also too say no to the devil and to the claims of the old life. "If the Son shall make [us] free, [we] shall be free indeed."
Now there are many that think this second aspect of the Cross is a daily dying. But the context very plainly tells us that it is a definite crisis experience, for Romans 6:10, 11 says Christ "died unto sin once:
Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin." This must be a crisis experience, a definite break with sin, a definite break with bondage to the flesh. If this is still a daily experience with us, it must be because we have not utterly denied self, we have not renounced all that we have, and we are still making provision somewhere for the flesh. God's Word says, "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof" (Rom. 13:14).
Here, then, in this second aspect of the Cross of Christ, is God's provision for the old man, for carnality-namely, death. There must be a willingness to die to the old life and all that pertains to it, and then a trusting the Holy Spirit to make real in us what God's Word promises. God's provision is to "put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit
and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Eph. 4:22-24).
1. 9. THE THIRD ASPECT OF THE CROSS: OUR INDWELLER
Finally, there is still a deeper meaning of the Cross of Christ, a third aspect: Christ Crucified IN Us-Our Indweller, which deals with the physical man, or humanity. It is here we have a daily application of the Cross. Jesus said unto them all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). This deeper experience is not a daily dying to sin, but a daily bearing of the cross, and is necessary (as we show in separate booklets later) for several reasons: for the control of the body; for sacrificial living; for a spirit of brokenness; for intercession for others; and for warfare against the accuser of our brethren.
1. 10. THE DISCIPLINE OF THE BODY
First, we shall very briefly consider the control of discipline of the body. Though the old man (which was in bondage to the devil and the world) has been crucified, yet the new man needs to be brought into full subjection to God. Even though we have been forgiven our sins, and also have been cleansed from all sin, there must be right living and growth, and full adjustment to God and His purpose. Genuine though the blessing of sanctification may have been, it is not a state of grace from which we can not fall. It may be list. It is necessary therefore to live a disciplined life- "to keep under the body and bring it into subjection" (I Cor. 9:27, KJV).
In the old life, the body was an instrument of sin and under the dominion of the old man (which was energized by the devil); the body itself was not sin, but was an instrument of sin; the body was not bad, but was simply under the wrong management can come to an end. Through the wondrous working of the Cross, in place of the wrong disposition (the old man), God gives us the disposition of Christ. Therefore we are admonished:
"Neither present your members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Rom. 6:13). The body has appetites, desires, urges, and passions, which are not wrong in themselves; but if these are not controlled by the Holy Spirit, they will become wrong. For this reason we must keep the body under the control of Christ and bear the daily cross.
1. 11. LIVING TO PLEASE GOD
Christ himself had to bear a daily cross to keep His body under the control of the Holy Spirit. We are told concerning Him that "Christ also pleased not himself" (Rom. 15:3). He did not have a sinful nature, yet He had to stay under the discipline of the Holy Spirit.
He lived only to please God. His daily cross was not always seen, but it was a cross nevertheless. For instance, as He was tempted of the devil in the wilderness, He fasted for forty days and then became hungry. Under ordinary circumstances, would it have been wrong to eat? No. But Christ did not eat, for this suggestion to eat was a temptation from the devil, and therefore to yield would have been sin. So, even though Christ's body demanded food, He pleased not himself but chose to trust the Father to feed Him whenever His Father's purpose in the wilderness had been fulfilled.
To sum up this working of the Cross in the control of the body; we will use again two simple illustrations. First, our eating. It is not wrong to eat, but it can become wrong if we eat too much or too often. Just here we need the repeated application of the Cross to keep our body under control. Second, our sleeping. Of course sleep is not wrong; it is necessary. But we know sleep can become wrong if we sleep when God wants us to be awake. Lest our bodies become again the instruments of sin, we must bear our cross and not please ourselves. Moreover, every other appetite and desire of the body-even though the appetite is not wrong in itself-must be kept under the control of the Holy Spirit.
1. 12. GREAT CONFUSION - LOCATING SIN IN BODY ONLY
Great confusion exists right here. So many locate sin in the body, thinking that sin is something material, that it is a sort of "lump of something" that either must be removed by some kind of spiritual surgery, or that must be retained as long as we are in the body. But sin is not material and does not have its seat in the body. Sin, rather, is in the soul, in the spiritual part of man. Sin is a tendency, an attitude, a wrong way of looking at things. Sin stems from self being at the center of the life. But when we surrender fully to Christ and trust Him to forgive and also to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, then sin is removed and the taint gone. The heart that is pure and filled with perfect love is ready for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. But even then, lest we again begin to please ourselves, we need the daily application of the Cross to maintain the decision made in the crisis of sanctification.
1. 13. DAILY WORKING OF THE CROSS NEEDED
Yet we need the daily outworking of the Cross not only in disciplining the body but also in sacrificing the body. That others may live, we must be willing to sacrifice all, even life itself. This is what the apostle Paul means in 1 Corinthians 15:31 where he says, "I die daily." The context is very plain and shows clearly that the reference is to physical death. This is not speaking about sin; this is speaking about Paul's physical body. Daily he was willing to hazard his life to death. The preceding verse says, "We also stand in jeopardy every hour" (1 Cor. 15:30), while the following verse declares, "After the manner of men I fought with beasts at Ephesus" (I Cor. 15:32). To apply this passage to "death to sin" would require the greatest stretch of imagination and the greatest liberty in exegesis.
Here Paul does not refer to sin at all, but to his willingness to sacrifice his life that others may live. We have this truth further explained in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves
For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake
So then death worketh in us, but life in you." Thus, not only must our body be kept under control (so that it does not rule us but we rule it), but also this disciplined body of ours must be used for others. In order that others may live, we must be "broken bread and poured out wine."
1. 14. FRUIT-BEARING AND LIVING SACRIFICE
In Romans 12:1 we are exhorted to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God- "holy and acceptable." But man in his natural state is not holy; he is not acceptable. Controlled by the old man, the body is neither holy nor acceptable. Only the man who has experienced the crucifixion of this old life (the second aspect of the Cross) can present himself to God as a living sacrifice. Thus this third aspect of the Cross goes on to deal not with sin but with the physical body (or humanity), that our bodies may be kept under control and sacrificed so that others may live.
This is the secret of fruit-bearing that the Bible and all nature tells about: "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit" (John 12:24). This verse does not refer to surrendering the old man (self-life) to God, for we do not plant bad seed but good. This verse refers to handing over the new life to God to plant it so that thereby it may bring forth fruit. In order to make bread for others, God will break the one who has already been cleansed from sin, and has already been liberated from the domination of self, the world, and Satan.
1. 15. THE ROLE OF INTERCESSORY PRAYER
There is another application of this third aspect of the Cross - intercessory prayer. This, too, has nothing to do with sin, but rather with the outworking of the purpose of God in the new man. Intercessory prayer is not mere praying for someone. It is "the supplication of a righteous man [that] availeth much in its working" (James 5:17).
Moses broke out in a great sob as he prayed for his people who had exchanged their Deliverer and Supplier of every need for a golden calf. This was no ordinary prayer. This was not just a prayer for someone's blessing. Moses said, "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me
out of thy book which thou hast written." So great was Moses' burden, his agony, his intensity that he could not even finish the sentence. Moses offered himself. It was as if he were saying, "God, You can do anything You want with me-only save the people. If it be possible for me to bear their sin, I will." Of course, his offer was rejected, for there is only one sin-bearer-that is, Christ. However, we see here a depth of prayer that few ever reach. Not many will follow the leading of the Cross to this depth, but the apostle Paul surely did when he prayed, "I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake" (Rom. 9:2-3).
This is not an easy path. No experience of sanctification automatically makes an intercessor, and so one must go on from death to the self-life to this deeper experience of the Cross-intercessory prayer. The cleansed vessel must be broken before the Christ within may be revealed in all His glory. The easiest but yet the hardest way of bringing the lost to Jesus is intercessory prayer. "Who follows in His train?"
1. 16. TO CONCLUDE
In conclusion, let us sum up the three aspects of the Cross. First, we trust Christ to forgive us our sins. Secondly, we trust Christ to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and to fill us with His Holy Spirit. And thirdly, lest we begin to please ourselves, we need the daily application of the Cross, disciplining and sacrificing ourselves for the sake of Christ's kingdom to the ends of the earth.
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2. ETERNAL PURPOSE
Making known ... the mystery of his will ... according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord ... till we all attain ... unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
Ephesians 1:9; 3:11; 4:13
2. 1. CHRIST CRUCIFIED AS US
To learn further of God's wondrous plan for man's salvation to the uttermost, let us approach the second aspect of the Cross -- Christ Crucified AS Us -- from the viewpoint of God's eternal will for man.
In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, God makes known His eternal purpose for man in the words, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen. 1:26). This was what God wanted, and this was what God made -- a man in His own image, after His own likeness. God wanted a man on earth to manifest the glory of God visibly. From this eternal purpose for creating man, He has never deviated, for Jehovah "changeth not." Though man's Fall made redemption necessary, it did not annul or change His purpose. Redemption was not God's afterthought, for long before man fell, even before his creation, provision for his restoration had been made. Therefore the central teaching of God's Word is still "Be ye holy, for I am holy" (1 Pet. 1:16, KJV); and "Walk even as he walked" (1 John 2:6). This is what God expects, and this is what God provided -- salvation to the uttermost, made possible through the redemption of Christ. Any other salvation is an illusion.
2. 2. "VERY GOOD MAN" IN THE HOUR OF TESTING
The reason man in his first estate was pronounced "very good" was a lack of evil rather than a definite choosing of good. But God wanted man to exercise his power of will and definitely choose to be Godlike and holy. Yet to be like God man must be like Him in will, and so Adam was given his own free will to make a deliberate choice (perhaps a series of choices) by which he would transform his state of innocency into holiness.
From Genesis 3, we know that in the hour of testing, Adam did not stand. He fell. The effects of this fall were far-reaching. Adam and Eve became dead to God but alive to sin and the flesh. Truly their eyes were opened. Thus through Adam "sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned" (Rom. 5:12). Adam was more than just the first man on earth; he was the head of the whole human race, so that in Adam the whole race fell from a sinless level, where there was fellowship and communion with God, to a new level where there was no oneness with God. This new level to which Adam and the race fell is the sin and flesh level -- the carnal level -- where man lives for self. On this level all men are born into the world. On this level sin is inevitable.
God intended His man to walk UPWARD. God's intention was that man should constantly advance -- "increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10). This increase was to have begun in the life of Adam and, we believe, will continue through all eternity -- as God unfolds His treasures, the mysteries of His love and of His grace. It represents God's purpose of fellowship and communion for the man whom He had created.
2. 3. GOD'S FOREKNOWLEDGE OF MAN'S FALL, AND GOD'S GRACE FOR MAN
Because God in His foreknowledge knew man's fall would occur, He made provision for it long before the Creation by the Lamb "slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8, KJV). But for this provision to become actual history, the eternal Word of God had to leave heaven, come to earth, become flesh, and walk on the sinless level -- the same level on which Adam walked before the Fall: "Christ Jesus ... existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped [clung to], but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:5-7). Jesus met on earth every temptation and every trial that Adam should have met (and that he would have met had he not fallen). And in all points He was tempted like as we are, and yet, God says, "without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Jesus did not fall. Surely One who himself hath suffered being tempted is able to succor us who are tempted (Heb. 2:18).
Having fully finished the earthly testings, on the day of His death Jesus stepped down from the sinless level to the sin and flesh level, for He was made to be sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21). Just as soon as Jesus touched our sin, just as soon as He took sin upon himself, He died -- "obedient unto death, yea, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8). That was Calvary!
2. 4. OUR INVOLVEMENT IN MAN'S FALL, AND THE CRUCIFIXION OF ALL HUMAN RACE IN CALVARY
Most of us have not had any difficulty in believing or understanding that we were all involved in Adam's fall, and that we were born not in the image of God but in the fallen image of Adam. This is depravity and is clearly manifested by our weakened bodies, our impaired minds, and our disturbed emotions. It is also manifested in that a child becomes committed to selfishness even before reason has developed. Thus the Bible categorically states that everyone chooses sin: "All we like sheep have gone astray" (Isa. 53:6). This is because of the depravity mentioned above and also because of the devil's temptations, the pull of the world, and almost universal example. We must bear in mind that we are born into an anti-Christ, pro-self world, and the result of choosing self (selfness, selfishness) is moral depravity -- depravity of the free will. Each man is a voluntary transgressor and verily guilty.
Though Adam was the federal head of the human race, the representative man, he was but the "figure of him that was to come" (Rom. 5:14), for the real head is the last Adam, Christ. Yet if Adam, the figure, could take the whole human race into sin, surely Christ, the substance of that figure, could take the whole race back to God. As Jesus Christ hung on the Cross of Calvary, He died not only for us (our Substitute), but as us (our Representative). He was united with the human race and became our representative so that when He hung on that Cross, we hung there with Him. When He died, we died. When He was buried, we were buried. As far as God is concerned, at Calvary the sinful human race was crucified, dead, and buried. "We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death" (Rom. 6:4).
2. 5. VARYING ATTITUDES OF MEN TOWARD CHRIST'S DEATH
The varying attitudes of men and of God toward Christ's death is illuminating. Had Pilate cared to write an inscription on the stone at the door of the sepulcher, he would have written, "Here lies Jesus, King of the Jews." If the Scribes and Pharisees had written the epitaph, they would have written, "Here lies the impostor who claimed to be the Son of God." Had Satan written the inscription, it would have read, "Jesus of Nazareth, whom I have overcome." But if God had written the inscription, it would have read, "Here lies the sinful human race." This then is the deeper meaning of Christ's death. Jesus himself was crucified; but the Bible account declares that "with him were two others, malefactors, one on either side." The truth is that far more than two others were crucified with Him, for He identified himself with the whole sinful race. He bore us all to Calvary. In the person of Christ we all died.
There should be no difficulty in understanding this truth, for we all accept this fact of federal headship in the matter of the Fall. Adam acted for the whole human race so that when he chose sin rather than obedience, he, the head of the race, plunged all of us to that sin and flesh level. (See the lower black line with its downward trend.) Genesis 5:1 and 3 clearly tell us that though Adam was created in the likeness of God, Adam's posterity was begotten in his own likeness. After the Fall this likeness was therefore a fallen likeness, so that we all inherit a fallen nature, which is really not our fault but our calamity. We are not considered guilty simply because we are born with a fallen nature. We are guilty because by sinning we endorse Adam's sin and fallen nature. No one is condemned for being born in Adam's fallen image, but on the contrary for rejecting Christ as man's Savior from this heredity. Our condemnation is for persisting in going our own way, for endorsing Adam's sin by sinning.
2. 6. WE WERE ALL TAKEN THERE!
It is exactly this same principle with regard to endorsing Christ's death on Calvary. Positionally, we were all taken there; in the mind of God the whole human race died with Christ. But as we endorsed Adam's sin by sinning and thus became guilty sinners, so now we must endorse Christ's death by dying to sin and self. Only in this way do we renounce all that Adam entered into by his sin and fall. Jesus struck at the very heart of this fact when He said, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself" (Matt. 16:24). "Whosoever he be of you who renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).
2. 7. ASSOCIATE WITH CHRIST'S DEATH IN AN EXPERIENTIAL WAY
It is possible to know all these great truths and still be entirely without the benefits they confer. To believe in our identification with Christ in His death in an abstract way is not enough. It must be experiential. Let us keep in mind that we become guilty when we endorse Adam's sin by sinning, but we become spiritual when we endorse Christ's death and resurrection by dying and being raised with Him. Jesus says that denial of self (giving up of all personal rights, renouncing everything that belongs to the old life -- in other words, a complete about-face) is a step we must take. Only then will the Holy Spirit make this great truth real in our personal experience so that we will receive its full benefit -- namely, ability to live unto God, and deliverance from the power of sin, of the devil, and of the world.
But if Adam, the figure of Him who was to come, could work such havoc with the race, taking us all down to sin (the level colored black), Christ, the Substance of that figure, can do infinitely more. If Adam's fall was drastic and far-reaching, how much more is Christ's so great redemption and deliverance when He took us not only to death and the grave but also raised us up with Him to the spiritual level. (Notice the blue broken line with its upward trend.) Remember that burial is not the end. The gospel delivered unto us is that Christ died and rose. "We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that ... we also might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). Christ did not remain in the grave, for God raised His Son from the dead on the third day. But since His Son had become identified with man, at His resurrection He raised up a new creation with Him, making it to "sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6). For "if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection" (Rom. 6:5). "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).
2. 8. THE NEW LIFE IS BY FAITH
By birth man is unregenerate or natural. But on the basis of being identified with Jesus both in His death and in His resurrection, man can by faith become spiritual. (Study the chart to clarify this possibility.) Adam before the Fall, and Jesus Christ while on earth lived sinless lives. We too can become spiritual and live on earth free from sin on the basis of Christ's redemption. "Made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness" (Rom. 6:6, 18, 22).
This new life is by faith. As we received Christ initially by faith, so now we are to walk by faith. This does not mean that it is not real. It is more real than the things that are seen, "for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). Therefore "as ... ye received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him" (Col. 2:6).
2. 9. WE CAN CERTAINLY FALL AGAIN!
This spiritual level, however, is not a state of grace from which we cannot fall (though it is one from which we need not fall.) To be spiritual is to be rightly related to Christ; it is to walk and be led by the Spirit of God. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). Certainly the Spirit of God will not lead us into sin; He will lead us into holiness. If we will but respond to the leading of the Spirit, we will walk even as He walked (1 John 2:6) and be holy as He is holy, and so pass the test of being a child of God.
Of course, all outside of Christ live on the carnal level (which is the same as the sin and flesh level). But many who claim to be Christians are also walking on this level. Paul had to write to the Corinthians: "I ... could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ." Thus, in spite of redemption, it is possible to live on the carnal level, for man still has his own free will to choose self or Christ. Redemption must be individually appropriated. A man living on the carnal level by choice is not saved. The salvation of a man who lives on the carnal level through ignorance is dependent upon faith in Christ and full obedience to the light which he has. He who refuses to surrender fully to Christ is rejecting and despising the provision God has made for his full salvation. He is trampling under foot the blood of Christ that was poured out for him. "A man that hath set at nought Moses' law dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10:28-29).
2. 10. CHRIST'S REDEMPTION IS GREATER THAN ADAM'S FALL!
Many seem to think that Christ's power of full redemption is much less than the consequences of Adam's fall, but in Romans 5 we are told five times that the power of Christ's redemption is much more than the consequences of the Fall. There is super-abundance of grace! There is enough grace not only for the forgiveness of sins and to get man into heaven, but enough grace for a victorious life, for a life that will fully please God. "If, by the trespass of one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:12, 17). Rejoice in all such promises.
Long before creation, man's redemption in the person of God's Son was planned, and when the fullness of time came, it was executed and became history. On the basis of that redemption, God's power is now able to save and to restore us to the life God planned for us.
Enoch, who lived long before the Cross became history, is an example of walking on the spiritual level. By faith he so looked forward to the Cross and laid hold of the grace and power of God that he was transformed and had witness borne to him that he was well-pleasing unto God. Hebrews 11:5, 6 says,
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God translated him: for he hath had witness borne to him that before his translation he had been well-pleasing unto God: and without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.
2. 11. A WALK ON THE SPIRITUAL LEVEL, IMPOSSIBLE TODAY?
But a walk on the spiritual level is not possible today, many say. Such people have been trying to live the victorious life in their own strength. To live our lives as best we can after we have believed in Christ and accepted Him as our Savior is not enough. Most Christians agree to this, but they differ concerning how much God can do. But redemption is complete! And if God does not transform a sinner into a saint in walk as well as in his standing, it is because of rebellion or pride! A man's refusal to let God have His full way with him is rebellion! And if a man does not believe that God can save him completely, he is saying that God has finally found a problem He cannot solve. This reasoning is pride of the worst form, for it is making self bigger than God!
With a man who is fully surrendered to Him, God can do anything He pleases. What is needed is that we come to Christ and admit that we cannot of ourselves live the Christian life any more than we could save ourselves. That is why Jesus made so plain to us His terms of discipleship: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24). We must deny ourselves; we must give up all our rights; we must surrender ourselves fully into the hands of God. "Whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33). We must forsake all, or we cannot be His disciples! We must trust Him fully and only. In no other way can God free us from dependence upon ourselves or things. If we will trust Him, the Holy Spirit will reproduce in us the life of Jesus Christ and enable us to walk as He walked.
Some say that they cannot understand how we can walk as He walked. No, it cannot be understood any more than the initial crisis of salvation can be understood by the natural mind. It must be experienced to be understood. Let us not come short of God's eternal purpose for man. God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." "Ye shall be holy, for I am holy." He is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen."
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[Christ] delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.
3. 1. A GREAT SERMON WITH LITTLE RESULTS!
At Athens Paul's witness to the Jews in the synagogue and to others in the marketplace gave him an opportunity on Mars Hill to address a whole assembly of Jews and Greek philosophers. This message, Acts 17:22-31, is often used in homiletics classes as an example of a great sermon. But the results were disappointing. Elsewhere by the power of God, Paul had influenced great numbers to turn from their evil ways to Christ, but in Athens there was no great move of the Spirit. Only a few turned to Christ.
As Paul left Athens, a despised and lonely man, we can imagine that there were questions in his mind: Why did my message not have its usual power? Does the gospel not meet the needs of the upper-class Athenians? Does the gospel have a special appeal and power for the common people only? As he made his journey from Athens to Corinth, perhaps alone, he likely considered the points of his sermon. What had been wrong? He had spoken on creation, repentance, resurrection, judgment, and idolatry. He had used their own poets for illustration. What he had said was right and good. What was missing? He had made no mention of the Cross! For that reason Paul writes to the Corinthians:
And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:1-4).
3. 2. WHEN THE CROSS IS OBSCURED OR LEFT OUT . . .
That was it: in the preaching of the Cross there was power; but when the Cross had been obscured or left out altogether, there was no power. Today also, there is definite need for the Cross to be preached in its fullness.
As we have just seen, Christ's substitutionary death on the Cross is for the unregenerate man and makes possible the forgiveness of his sins and an assurance of eternal life. This is a conscious, crisis experience of new birth received when the God-given conditions of repentance and faith are fulfilled. Soon after this, the babe in Christ receives a revelation by the Spirit of the need of a deeper working of Calvary. He discovers that even though he has been converted, sin has power over him still, and therefore he cannot do the things that he would (Gal. 5:17). He loves the Lord and His will, yet finds himself in bondage so that he cannot fully obey God. Within him is a contrary principle that makes it difficult for him to give instant and glad obedience to the commands of Christ. He determines to obey the Lord in all things but finds that he does not have the power to carry out his good intentions. He discovers that in many ways he is a captive. Outward victory is not so difficult to gain, but within, a battle rages. Again and again he goes down in defeat until he is almost at the point of despair.
3. 3. THE GREATER THE SENSE OF SIN, GREATER THE ADVANCEMENT IN CHRISTIAN LIFE?
Throughout the years in evangelical circles, only the first aspect of the Cross, Christ crucified FOR us, has been generally presented, while the deeper aspects of the Cross -- Christ crucified AS us and also IN us -- have not been so well taught. And so, not knowing God's provision for victorious living and fruitful service, many Christians have remained in bondage. Often a Christian with inner problems such as we have described is told, "This is just the normal Christian experience"; or else he is solemnly instructed, "The greater the sense of sin, the greater the advancement in the Christian life." This is not so. Praise God, there can be an end to inner conflict of the soul. God has provided a way out.
Let us then consider in detail the second aspect of the Cross -- Christ Crucified AS Us, Our Deliverer -- and thereby learn two basic facts: every Christian's need for the Deliverer, and the way of a Christian's deliverance.
3. 4. A BASIC TROUBLE
A good indication of the basic trouble is found in Romans 7, especially verses 15-24, where the personal pronouns I, me, and my are repeated at least thirty-three times. The basic problem is simply I trouble or self-trouble.
That which I do I know not: for not what I would, that do I practice; but what I hate, that I do. But if what I would not, that I do, I consent unto the law that it is good. So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not. For the good which I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I practice. But if what I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me. I find then the law, that, to me who would do good, evil is present. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?
To Paul's question, "Who shall deliver me?" the answer comes, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." But the next sentence which says, "So then I of myself with the mind, indeed, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin," reveals that this fact of Christ as Deliverer is only mental knowledge and not heart experience. The defeated one sees Christ as Deliverer; but then he sums up the best he himself can do -- that is, continue to live as a dual personality (serving God with the mind, and sin with the flesh). This is indeed a wretched state. It is the carnal level of Christian living mentioned by Paul to the Corinthians: "I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ" (1 Cor. 3:1). They were in Christ and truly born again, but they were still carnal, walking after the manner of men, in jealousy, strife, and divisions.
3. 5. THE INNER CONFLICT
These very sins are as much in evidence in the Church today as they were in Paul's time. Believers indeed need more than the initial forgiveness of sins. They need both cleansing from sin's defilement and also deliverance from its power. Many who are living in a state of justification still have an inner agreement with sin. They have not been delivered completely from the love of sin. They may not really love sin, but they do love their own way and will sin to get it! They are still in bondage and consequently need the deliverance which Christ paid such a great price to procure for every man.
To understand better this inner conflict described so graphically in Romans 7, let us study in detail man's original condition in the Garden of Eden, as well as man's Fall and its results, as recorded in Genesis, chapters 1, 2, and 3. God declares His eternal purpose: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion ..." (Gen. 1:26.) This is what God wanted and made -- a man in His image and after His likeness, someone on earth to manifest the glory of God visibly. From this eternal purpose God has never deviated, for He changes not. Today He still wants on earth a visible representative of himself: men who are "pure in heart" (Matt. 5:8), "perfect" (Matt. 5:48), and "not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing" (Eph. 5:27). On this matter, our standard, which is God's Word, is extremely plain; and its central teaching is still "Be ye holy."
3. 6. EVERYTHING REVOLVED AROUND GOD: CONCERNING HOLINESS, MAN IN GOD'S OWN IMAGE
Concerning holiness, God has also said: "Follow ... sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14); "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" (Rev. 19:7-8). We need to be reminded that a holy God must have holy followers, and that sin must not be only forgiven but removed altogether, for "the Lamb of God ... taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29); He "was manifested to take away sins" (1 John 3:5).
According to Genesis, then, God's eternal purpose was to have a man in His own image. In Genesis 2:7 we read, "Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." This word life is in the plural -- lives. God breathed into Adam both the animating principle of life and spiritual life. Thus the newly created Adam was unique, for he possessed both earthly life and heavenly life. Through his body he had correspondence with the earth; but through his spirit, quickened by the breath of God (which is the Spirit of God), he had correspondence with heaven and so was a partaker of the divine nature. God was the center of his life. Everything revolved around God.
Of this man and his wife the Word says, "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). But though Adam and Eve were "very good" in their present condition, they needed to be tested. Through obedience, their innocence needed to be transformed into holiness. Even though God had breathed into them the breath of life (His Spirit), this did not mean that Adam and Eve were filled with the Spirit. For instance, in the New Testament Jesus Christ the Son of God breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22); yet until Pentecost, some fifty days later, the disciples were not filled with the Spirit. Adam and Eve, however, had the opportunity of being filled with the Spirit through faith and obedience, even as Christians do today (though they did not need cleansing as we do, for they had not yet entered into conscious transgression).
3. 7. TWO-FOLD WRONG ACTS
Then came the awful facts of our first parents' failure and transgression (Genesis 3). As rational, self-conscious beings, they were confronted with conditions requiring the exercise of choice. To guide them aright, the Lord had carefully given them instruction and commandments. Both their endowment and environment were such as to enable them to continue in fellowship and union with God. Yet the devil, the enemy of their souls, tempted them successfully. Their first mistake was in listening to him. This resulted in the awakening of a wrong desire, which resulted in a wrong choice, which led to a wrong act. The Fall became an accomplished fact.
The wrong act of Adam and Eve was twofold: first, their act was disobedience to their God and Creator, and so broke fellowship and union with Him; second, their act meant that they had yielded to, obeyed, and established a relationship, a fellowship, and a union with their unsuspected enemy, the devil, so that he whom the Scriptures call "the god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4) now became their new master.
3. 8. CHANGE OF CENTER: MAN BECOMES THE CENTER
The Fall of Man resulted then in a change of center. Up to this time God had been the center of Adam's life, so that everything revolved around God. (Glance at the chart on the inside front cover, noticing the two centers -- self and Christ.) Adam's real sin was rejecting God as the center of his being, thereby elevating and substituting self as the new center and ruling principle. From then on, Adam ceased to be God-centered; now he was self-centered, a slave to Satan. Moreover, Adam's choice involved his progeny, for Adam was not only the first man but also the federal head of the human race. Because of his fall, he lost his federal headship and never regained it. Yet his fall involved the fall of the whole race, and so all his progeny manifest the same tendency of self-will and of self-centeredness. Even though Adam, we believe, was subsequently saved, he was not saved as the federal head of the race but as an individual.
And so, the evil of man's fallen nature is selfness or self-centeredness, rightly termed depravity, or sinfulness of nature. Many wrongly think of this sinfulness as the injection of a literal poison into the bloodstream, or the placement of a material substance called sin within the human nature, and that this has to be eradicated. Isaiah explains this sin principle as "all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." Therefore this sin principle may be called our own-wayness -- that is, the substitution of our way for God's way. Basically, fallen man is selfish. The manifestations of this are many: sometimes it is manifested in a coarse, gross way, boldly insisting on "my rights"; at other times, subtly and quietly but just as definitely, it is manifested in trying to engineer things so that self is pleased. Every single sin man can possibly commit can be traced to this basic selfness. Jesus himself bore witness to this truth, for He insisted that first of all each one of His disciples deny self. Thus He laid His axe at the very root of this principle of sin within man which is responsible for all his wrongdoings. This selfness is the law of sin that Romans 7 speaks about.
3. 9. A GLORIOUS TRUTH
But over and over again Paul states a great and glorious truth about deliverance. He says that when a person is saved, the old man comes to an end: "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 be in bondage to sin" (Rom. 6:6). Strictly speaking, the old man died when Christ died. This great fact becomes our heritage when we are saved. Paul, however, seemed to anticipate both our blindness and our unwillingness to accept and believe this truth; and so he adds proof after proof in this wonderful sixth chapter of Romans to establish the fact in our minds that for the Christian the old man was crucified (v. 6), has died (v. 7), and has been buried (v. 4).
Our part is to reckon on this great fact. We are not to make it true, for it is not a matter of imagination but of reckoning on the unalterable Word of God. When we are born again we are new creatures in Christ Jesus, for "if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).
It is a sad fact that simply because the majority of Christians do not know the truth of their deliverance, they still are dominated by their former manner of life. But God says, "Put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man ... and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Eph. 4:22-24). This is another way of saying, "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God" (Rom. 6:11).
In the former manner of life before our renewal through the redemption of Christ, the old man directed the life, allowing the flesh to have its way, so that the whole being was largely, if not entirely, ruled by its appetites, desires, passions, and senses. Many are confused right here, thinking the flesh and the old man are the same, but they are not the same. The old man comes to an end when a person is saved, so that for the Christian, the old man is crucified, dead, and buried. On this fact we are told to reckon, count, believe.
3. 10. FLESH ALLOWED TO RULE IS ANARCHY
On the other hand, nowhere in Scripture does it say that the flesh (human nature) is dead, though it does speak of the flesh being crucified: "they ... have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof" (Gal. 5:24). There is nothing essentially wrong with the flesh except when living for itself. The only time flesh or human nature is wrong and sinful is when it rules. God never intended the flesh to rule but rather the Spirit; and when the Spirit rules, the flesh is pure and right. But the flesh allowed to rule is anarchy.
Romans 8 speaks of "the mind of the flesh," but reference to the original makes it clear that Paul says it is the minding of the flesh that is enmity against God. "The mind [minding] of the flesh is death ... because the mind [minding] of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:6-8). This word is plain enough so that it needs no explanation. Luther used to say, "Do not tell me what the Word means; tell me what the Word says." As clearly as possible, this passage states that the end result of continuing in this wretched state of minding the flesh is death!
3. 11. A SOLUTION TO OUR AWFUL PROBLEM
Galatians 5:24 gives the solution to our awful problem: "They that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and lusts thereof." The Cross is the answer. The Cross is not only the place where Christ died, and not only the place my old man died and came to an end, but the Cross is also the place for the flesh. The flesh as a ruling principle must be crucified and be deposed, and the Spirit of Christ enthroned as the very center of the life. This is the only solution. We do not get far by saying "less of the flesh" or "less of self." The flesh must be deposed altogether. God never intended the flesh to rule. It was only after the Fall that the flesh began to rule the life; so we need to be saved not from sin and hell only, but also from our own deranged nature, and from the dominance of the flesh. The flesh is crucified in the sense that its dominion is ended and its place of rulership given to the Spirit, who wants our spirit dominating and our body a willing servant. While the flesh is ruling, it accumulates many new garments, or habits, which must be put off.
Yes, the Fall of Man in Eden brought disaster to the human race. But the most hopeful thing about the disaster of Eden was that it was God's child who was in the wreck. Let this simple illustration illuminate this point:
The engineer of Train No. 1 had a running order from his father, who was the train dispatcher, to take a certain siding and wait for Train No. 2. He disobeyed the order and a collision resulted. The news of the disaster flashed over the wires, including the fact that the engineer of Train No. 1 was pinned under his engine and would die if not soon rescued. Calling the division superintendent, the father demanded a "special" train and also a wrecking crew at once, exclaiming, "My son is in the wreck! I know he disobeyed my orders, but he's my child, and he's under the engine. Man, can't you understand? Give me that train quick! A thousand dollars, did you say? No matter what it costs, order that train! My life for his life!"
What truth is revealed when this story is applied spiritually! In the Garden of Eden, God's son (Adam) disobeyed orders and was in a "wreck." But because he was God's child, he must be delivered -- no matter the cost to the Father. Thus, foreseeing the disaster of man's disobedience before the foundation of the world, God, with His father-heart, took command of the forces of heaven and earth, and then, to rescue His child, himself suffered death and conquered hell -- offering His life for a life! And so, in the person of Jesus Christ, God came to earth as the last Adam, as the representative of the human race, identified himself with man and also with sin, and then bore the sinner and his sin to an awful death on the Cross and then into the grave. There He brought this old creation to an end. "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf" (2 Cor. 5:21).
3. 12. NOT ONLY A SAVIOR, BUT A DELIVERER TOO!
Jesus came, then, to be not only our Savior but our Deliverer. At Nazareth He entered the synagogue and read from the book of the prophet Isaiah concerning himself: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: he hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19). Afterward He said, "Today hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21). Christ came into the world not only to forgive sins and give eternal life, but also to bring release to those who are in bondage to self-will and to set at liberty those that are bruised by the devil.
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4. WHO WILL MAKE US FREE?
"The truth shall make you free."
"The Son shall make you free." -- John 8:32, 36
4. 1. BONDAGE TO SELF-LIFE
Every Christian has experienced forgiveness of sins and has assurance of eternal life. But every Christian has not experienced deliverance from the self-life. "Self," William Law once said, "is the whole evil of man's fallen nature." Self is expressed in the desire to have and maintain one's own way and one's own rights -- instead of giving them up as Jesus enjoined. Yet because one who is full of self cannot be filled with the Spirit, any salvation that will truly meet the need of fallen man must deliver from the power of the self-life. Indeed it is in this connection and to meet this very need that the Holy Spirit reveals to the hungry a deeper meaning in the Cross of Christ -- Christ Crucified AS Us.
Although almost every Christian admits some need of deliverance from bondage to the self-life and to the devil, in most cases the realization of this need has not become acute. For instance, one who had been faithfully witnessed to freely admitted her self-centered condition but excused herself by saying, "I am jealous and irritable and self-centered, I know; but I had the experience of salvation when I was a little girl. When most other Christians are manifestly living for themselves, why should I be bothered about my self-centeredness?" The Church of God today certainly needs the "recovering of sight to the blind," for the Bible pointedly says, "Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God" (1 John 3:10). Small wonder, then, that these words of God in John's Epistle so shocked an honest and awakened soul that one day she cried out, "Either this Word of God is not true, or else we are not Christians."
4. 2. FIRST STEP IN DELIVERANCE
Again and again in both the Old and New Testaments God declares His standard for men. In his first letter the apostle Peter says, "Like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living" (1 Peter 1:5). This refers not to positional holiness but to practical, everyday holy living. This is impossible to the natural man, for all descendants of our fallen parents, Adam and Eve, find themselves hopelessly in bondage to the self-life. (Peter calls it the "vain manner of life handed down from [our] fathers," and Paul calls it the "old man.") But for man's lack there is a God-given provision which Peter declares in 1 Peter 1:18-19: "Ye were redeemed ... with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ." Here, then, is God's great answer for our desperate need of deliverance -- Christ has redeemed us from that selfishness handed down from our fathers.
We have stated that the first step in deliverance is the realization that God has been aware of our problem and has already made provision according to our need. To work out deliverance by our own resolution or determination is impossible. By grace through faith we are delivered from the self-life, even as we are saved by grace through faith. As federal head of the whole race (a headship lost by the first Adam and then transferred to the last Adam), Christ bore us to Calvary and died as our representative. We were identified with Him in His death. Paul's testimony is our testimony: "I have been crucified [together] with Christ." Here, then, is God's method of dealing with the sinfulness of our nature -- "our old man was crucified with him" (Rom. 6:6). Thus at Calvary, not only Christ was crucified and died, but we were crucified and we died; there, not only Christ was buried, but we were buried. Ever since Calvary, God has been through with our old man. As far as God is concerned, when a person is saved, the old man comes to an end. This wonderful truth Paul states over and over again in Romans 6.
4. 3. DYING UNTO SIN IS NOT A DAILY DYING: A DEFINITE CRISIS EXPERIENCE
To the soul who really hungers and thirsts for righteousness and is seeking a way out from his conflict in soul, God reveals that Jesus died as his representative: "One died for all, therefore all died" (2 Cor. 5:14); "ye died" (Col. 3:3). This is God's truth for every single person, just as Christ's substitutionary death is for every person. Positionally, all are dead. Jesus Christ crucified is the ground of deliverance, the very same as He is the ground of salvation, so that all salvation and all deliverance is dependent upon what Jesus already accomplished on the Cross two thousand years ago. Yet just as only those who definitely accept Him as Savior are saved, so only those who reckon Christ's death as their death actually experience the crucifixion of the old man. Romans 6:10?11 says, "The death that he died, He died unto sin once: ... Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin."
Some think that reckoning oneself to be dead to sin is a daily dying unto sin, but the context shows that it is not so. Reckoning self dead to sin is a definite crisis experience. The Word says that Christ "died unto sin once." Even so, we are to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin (Rom. 6:10-11). Having died with Christ is a fact whether it has become true in one's experience or not. If our daily experience requires a new decision every day, it is because we have not settled the issue, utterly denied self, and renounced all that we have. In spite of the Word's telling us to "make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (Rom. 13:14), we are still making provision for the flesh somewhere.
4. 4. PAUL'S LIST OF SINS
In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul catalogues the works (sins) which are the result of a flesh-controlled life. Let us go through the whole list one by one: "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness" (these are the terrible sins of impurity). Next in the list is "idolatry." Any idol (anything we put in place of God) is an indication that we are still controlled by the flesh; and the flesh, we have already learned, is incapable of guiding the life aright. All self-seeking (which is self-love) is really self-worship, and self-worship is idolatry of the grossest form. For instance, too often we cannot give an immediate answer to the leading of God because we must first bow to ask permission from our idol (family, money, security, comfort). Truly this form of idolatry is subtle, but so often it is the chief hindrance to obeying God. On the contrary, when the apostle Paul was called, he "conferred not with flesh and blood" but obeyed instantly.
Next in Paul's list of sins resulting from a flesh-controlled life come the following: "sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths" (Gal. 5:20). Thus, if we are angry with our brother, if we have any grudges, if we are irritable and self-centered, the flesh is in control. In this state we need more than forgiveness. We need deliverance from the dominance of the flesh-life. It must be deposed, and the Spirit given His rightful place. The flesh in control leads to "wraths," as well as the remainder of the sins in the list: "factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like" (Gal. 5:20-21). In conclusion, we might list other expressions of the self-life in control, such as touchiness, impatience, anxiety, laziness, gossip, resentment, levity, self-pity, self-love, self-esteem, criticism, pride, dishonesty. All these sins stem from the center of self. (Perhaps a glance at the chart at the beginning of this booklet will clarify this point.) Certainly when self is the center, we cannot expect anything worthwhile to develop in the life.
4. 5. TO HELP DISCOVER OURSELVES TO OURSELVES: RESOLVING THE CONFLICT OF DUALITY
To help discover ourselves to ourselves, to open our eyes to our true condition, we might ask ourselves these five questions: Am I absolutely truthful? Am I absolutely honest? Am I absolutely pure? Am I easily offended? Am I living for something really worthwhile? If we find evidence of the works of the flesh in us and cannot give the right answer to these questions, it is a positive indication that we have not been delivered. We are still walking after the flesh.
Until the issue is settled and there is a definite break with bondage to the flesh, this experience of inner conflict is a wretched state, for in this condition the Bible says "ye may not do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5:17). A person who is born again may not altogether go into sin, for the Spirit is there; but on the other hand, unless the flesh has been deposed, the Holy Spirit cannot have His way completely, for the flesh insists on ruling. Because one in this state cannot be altogether bad or altogether good, this condition often ends in confusion, frustration, and sometimes even insanity.
Paul gives us an awful warning that to continue in this state of duality is not only truly wretched and wicked, but dangerous. He says, "Of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:21). This is God's Word.
"But I am saved!" you say. "I know I am a Christian."
That makes no difference. The Bible says very plainly that if these things continue in your life, you shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
"But wasn't I truly saved, then?"
Yes, you may have been, but this is a dangerous state that you are in now, and you must settle the matter of whether you are going to walk after the flesh or after the Spirit.
You reply, "Oh, it can't mean that."
All right. Try to get peace of heart by changing the Word of God. You will never get it that way. The only way you will get real peace of heart is to agree with the Word of God and appropriate the blessings and benefits of Calvary. The reason God tells us plainly that these awful things are the result of the flesh-controlled life is to bring us to admit our sin, confess it, and receive the deliverance He offers us. May the Holy Spirit of God so convict us that we will be willing to accept the truth. Real repentance is simply being honest before God, opening up our hearts and calling the things we find there by their rightful names. We must turn from sin and be willing to hate what He hates and love what He loves. God hates the works of the flesh; God hates sin. And we, too, must be willing to hate the works of the flesh (self-life) and to hate sin so that we will be ready to meet the conditions for the wonderful deliverance that He has provided through Christ's so great salvation.
4. 6. GOD'S SOLUTION FOR THE INNER CONFLICT
Better than any other passage of Scripture, perhaps, Galatians 5:16-25 explains not only the two contrary principles at work (in those who have not yet found victory), but also God's solution for the inner conflict.
I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh, for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would (Gal. 5:16-17).
To be delivered from bondage to self and to the devil, we see the absolute necessity of a definite choice. We, too, as Adam, are confronted with conditions requiring the exercise of choice. The issue in our case, as it was with Adam, is that of choosing Christ or self. It is on the basis of the redemption of Jesus Christ that we can and must choose to walk after the Spirit instead of after the flesh. We cannot obey the Spirit and the flesh, for these are contrary to each other. We must choose one of two roads: the road of the self-life or the road of the Christ-life.
The self-will road is broad and smooth at the beginning, but the pleasures of the world and the satisfaction enjoyed through self-pleasing prove to be all too temporary. Soon both the pseudo-freedom and counterfeit happiness are dimmed by fruits of unrighteousness, such as inner conflict, jealousy, resentment, touchiness, dissatisfaction, self-pity, rebellion, irritability, unbelief, hypocrisy, selfishness, criticism, despair, impurity, and a host of other sins that eventually destroy peace of heart.
The other road, the Christ-way road, may begin narrow, at least from the world's point of view, but it is not too narrow for one who has yielded all to Christ. On this road we find the fruits of righteousness such as victory, peace, joy, satisfaction, rest, assurance, purity, brokenness, sacrificing love, power, fruitfulness, and other blessings both temporal and eternal. The crowning joy will be at the end of the road when faith turns to sight -- a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Christ himself.
4. 7. A CHOICE OF SECOND CROSSROAD
This choice of roads is a crisis experience, a sort of second crossroad. At the time when we make our initial choice -- the choice of our eternal destiny -- we receive Christ as Savior from past sins and Lord of our life for the future. Generally, however, the full implications of salvation are not understood until later. As we have seen, the second choice or issue is between Christ and self as absolute ruler in our present life. But these are mutually exclusive, for to choose Christ is to make a complete renunciation of self, which has ruled for years, and built up unnatural appetites, passions, and desires that still clamor for attention. Christ can never be our deliverer from the "vain manner of life handed down from our fathers" unless we make a complete renunciation of all we are and of all we have. The flesh must be deposed; in other words, we must renounce all allegiance to the first Adam and all he fell into. This old way of life must be entirely set aside so that the Spirit of Christ may be enthroned as the new ruling principle and may lead us into the new life, a life of union with the last Adam, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ who have not denied themselves and taken up the cross to follow Him. They have changed the level of their living, but they are still living for self. God has given us a wonderful illustration of our deliverance from the self-life in Israel's crossing of the Jordan River on their way to Canaan. We read that
when the people removed from their tents, to pass over the Jordan ... and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brink of the water ... the waters which came down from above stood, and rose up in one heap, a great way off ... and those that went down toward the ... Salt Sea, were wholly cut off ... and all Israel passed over on dry ground, until all the nation were passed clean over the Jordan (Josh. 3:14-17).
In considering what this account has to teach us, it is interesting to notice first that the water rose up in a heap thirty miles upstream at the city of Adam. Nothing is unimportant in Scripture, not even names. The fact that the cutting off of the flow of the river was at the city of Adam is God's way of telling us that the power of the Cross avails right back to our forefather Adam. From this vain life handed down from our father, we have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Thus Christ's redemption touches original as well as actual sin. Praise God.
Consider secondly that Israel's deliverance was gained by a definite act of crossing the Jordan. One specific morning the Israelites left their tents on purpose to cross the river. Perhaps many times before, the Israelites had left their tents for other reasons. But there came a time when they left them on purpose to cross over the Jordan. In obedience to God's command, they also took twelve stones from the old side of the river and deposited them in the river bed.
Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests ... stood: and they are there unto this day (Josh. 4:9).
4. 8. COMMIT OUR OLD MAN TO THE CROSS
Even so, by one definite act we must commit our old man to the Cross. We too are literally to hand ourselves over to Christ in a full surrender so that He may crucify the old man. (We have said before that the crucifixion of the old man was a fact. This positional truth must now become actual and personal.) Because He has given us a free will, He waits for this surrender and full consecration. If we want to, we can refuse and resist and defy God to His face. Yet in His love and mercy He will patiently wait for us, and will bring about experiences, circumstances, and conditions to cause us to will to surrender ourselves wholly into His hands. He wants to make the Cross real in our experience. He wants the Cross to stand between us and the old life as definitely as the Jordan River ran between Israel and the wilderness life.
But Israel also took twelve stones from the river's bed to the Canaan side for a memorial.
Joshua said unto them ... "take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel" and they took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan ... and they carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, did Joshua set up in Gilgal (Josh. 4:5, 8, 20).
4. 9. AN ASSURANCE OF VICTORY IN EVERY SITUATION
Our experience of sanctification must be just as vital, definite, and conclusive as it was for Israel, of whom the Word says that they "were passed clean over the Jordan." The Israelites crossed over into a new land. On the other side of Jordan everything was new. They no longer lived by the manna or by water out of the rock. No longer were they wandering about in the wilderness -- wandering and oftentimes wondering. They were to live on the old corn of the land, to enter into their very own land which God himself had deeded to them when He promised Joshua, "There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of good courage" (Josh. 1:5-6). Here Joshua was given an assurance of God's presence so that He would make Israel's way prosperous and they would have good success. In other words, they were given an assurance of victory in every situation.
As Christians, having crossed our Jordan (the Cross), we have Christ as our new center, who so rules us through the Holy Spirit that we will manifest the fruit of the Spirit -- "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22). The Spirit-walk is a walk according to the will of God, while the flesh-walk is simply a walk according to our own desires. What a contrast between the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh! What a difference! Yes, the fruit of the Spirit is what we want and that is a natural result, not of striving after these good things, but of a right relationship to Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit -- of walking by the Spirit. Romans 8 gives the only satisfactory answer to the problem of our deranged nature: the "I" of Romans 7 has been changed for the Spirit of Christ, who is offered to take the place of the law of sin and death which we inherit from our father Adam. Romans 8:2-4 says,
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. 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: that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
The possibility of walking by the Spirit is plainly set forth in God's Word, and this is what every Christian should seek -- not only for occasional times of need, but as a settled, consistent way of life.
4. 10. A STATE OF GRACE FROM WHICH WE CANNOT FALL?
Is this experience a state of grace from which we cannot fall? No! But it is a state of grace from which we need not fall. It is simply Jesus delivering us from inward agreement with self-pleasing, and trusting Jesus to keep us from sin. It is renunciation of the love of sin. We all know He can keep us from some sin. But if we have fully yielded to Him, it is no harder for Him to keep us from all sin. Anything less than this is making provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof. Even though the old life is ended and the new life begun, the Christian must still keep choosing to walk not after the flesh, as in the past, but by the Spirit. Instead of changing His Word to conform with our lives, we must trust the Spirit of God to change our lives to conform with His Word.
4. 11. STEPS FOR THE SOULS SEEKING THE VICTORIOUS LIFE
In conclusion, let us state briefly the three steps that have been helpful to souls seeking the victorious life:
First, know that there is a way of deliverance. God's redemption in the Person of Jesus Christ is full and complete. It is for all to get rightly related and adjusted to what Jesus has already done. Many come and take only the forgiveness of sins. Some come and take a little deeper measure of victory, but God wants us to have the full value of the death of Christ. God's table is spread. All things are ready. His invitation is to come and "according to your faith be it done unto you" (Matt. 9:29).
Second, surrender. Consecrate your life to Christ in total abandonment so that He can make the Cross real in your experience. Believe not only in an outward Cross but an inward Cross. Actually go through the Cross as Jesus did. Let the Cross set you free from all bondage. "If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Then you will find that you are not only dead to sins (if you are a Christian at all, your attitude must be that of being dead to sins), but you will be delivered literally "out of the power of darkness, and translated ... into the kingdom of the Son of his love" (Col. 1:13). This truth, which is positional for all, will now become experiential. You will have a right to say no to the devil. You will have a right to say no to the claims of the old life.
Third, trust God to accept and deliver as you yield fully to Him. Trust the Holy Spirit to apply and make real in you all that God in Christ has done for you. This then is God's redemption. This is His way of deliverance. The Son of God died for you and His blood bought you. His redemption is far greater than the results of the Fall, for if
by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:17). "Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25).
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The fruit of the Spirit is ... self-control. --
5. 1. A PRELUDE TO THE THIRD ASPECT OF THE CROSS
Before we begin a detailed study of the third aspect of the Cross, Christ Crucified IN Us, it may be helpful to review very briefly the first two aspects of the Cross. First of all, we considered the aspect, Christ Crucified FOR Us, which deals with unregenerate man and makes possible the forgiveness of sins and assurance of eternal) life. This crisis experience of the new birth takes place when any man or woman, boy or girl, fulfills the God-given conditions of repentance and faith.
Then we considered the second crossroad, sanctification, an experience as conscious and as definite as salvation. We learned that Christ was crucified as us, even as the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "One died for all, therefore all died; and he [Christ] died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him" (2 Cor. 5:14-15). Again one must make a choice -- this time choosing to die (to sin, to self, to the world, and to the devil), to surrender fully to Christ, and to become truly "alive unto God."
5. 2. THE CRISIS OF SANCTIFICATION: THE CASE OF THE DEMONIAC
Before we go on to study the discipline of the believer's body by the Holy Spirit, it is absolutely essential to reemphasize the crisis of sanctification. If the great blessing of sanctification has not been experienced, any discipline would be merely trying to improve the old man, and this would be impossible. The Scriptures declare that the old man is dead, for Christ embraced the whole sinful race and bore us all to Calvary. But it is up to us to consent to this truth (that in the mind and purpose of God we died), and to trust the Holy Spirit to make it so real in our experience that we can go on and do what the Scriptures enjoin us to do -- "Reckon [ourselves] ... dead unto sin, but alive unto God" (Rom. 6:11). Nothing is removed in the crisis of sanctification except sin, for God does not dehumanize us. The old nature is the human nature tainted by sin; the new nature is the human nature purged from sin -- the very same nature in a different relationship. As we see it, sanctification is not the eradication of a nature at all but the cleansing of the whole personality of sin. No part of us can or should be removed.
The best illustration of a change of relationships is in the record of the once wild, untamed demoniac who lived in the tombs (Mark 5). No man could tame "him that was possessed of demons." They could not tie him up; he would break the chains. They could not clothe him; he would tear off the clothes. They could not do a thing with him and so were afraid of him. One day Jesus came and delivered the demoniac from the evil spirits that possessed him. Afterward, we find this same man sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. He is the same person before and after deliverance. When he was related to the devil, he was wild, tameless, uncontrollable, and dangerous; but when delivered from his relationship with the devil and rightfully related to Christ, he was quiet, loving, harmless, and filled with a strong desire to follow his Deliverer. Why the difference? Because of a change in relationship. Even so is it today. By the Cross, Christ sets the Christian free, delivering him from the power of sin and of the devil.
Even though there is much resistance to the truth of sanctification, we must not bypass this crisis. The Church today needs the message of sanctification. For lack of proper instruction on this subject, converted people have not gone on with God; therefore we must make known this truth. In no other way is the sinfulness of the heart so completely exposed as in its opposition to holiness. Someone once said, "It isn't the doctrine I object to so much, but your constant insistence upon it. You preach it all the time."
The answer was, "That's true, but if you preached to defeated, unfruitful Christians, what would you preach?"
The reluctant reply was, "The same thing that you are preaching."
Someone once told a Keswick minister that his preaching was lopsided. "Yes," he remarked, "but I preach to a lopsided people."
5. 3. THE CRISIS OF REGENERATION
There is then a crisis of regeneration, followed by a crisis of sanctification. But after sanctification, then what? What kind of daily life will now be consistent with this profession of freedom from the power of sin and the devil? How shall we live the sanctified life? Having seen that the "old man" needs the Cross (a real denying of self in a conclusive act), we must now go on to see that the "new man" also needs the Cross. This introduces us to the third and still deeper aspect of Christ's Cross -- the daily application of the Cross to the new man in daily disciplines, daily sacrifices, daily brokenness, daily intercession, and daily warfare. In Luke 9:23 Jesus goes on from the phrase, "Deny [yourself]," and adds, "take up [your] cross daily, and follow me." It is that word daily that He emphasizes. The new man that walks in newness of life must be disciplined. Unless the new man bears a daily cross, he will have the same old trouble.
Because most of our temptations are addressed to the body, its control is absolutely necessary. Since the devil cannot directly touch the soul's inner relationship to God, he spends most of his time attacking the outer man, the house in which we live. Therefore, this outer man must be kept under control and bear a daily cross. The apostle Paul, speaking of the control of the body, says,
I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof. Know ye not that they that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run; that ye may attain. And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air: but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected (1 Cor. 9:23-27).
The real need in the human life is not only that we be cleansed from all sin but also that we get things back into God's order -- making the body to be the servant rather than the master. So many have confessed that their prayer life is not what it ought to be and are trying to do something about it. Their only time for real prayer is in the mornings, for their days are so full. But though rising early for several days in succession is comparatively easy, yet soon all kinds of reasonings advise staying in bed a few minutes longer -- such as, "It was late last night"; or "I was extra tired"; or "I did not sleep too well." So, because the body has been allowed to dictate, the eyes close again; prayer is forgotten. The body must not have that position. One version translates "buffet my body" "beat black and blue." I must keep my body in control, the spirit ruling, the body obeying and not ruling.
Mathilde Wrede, the cultured daughter of a provincial governor in Finland, well educated and a gifted musician, gave herself over to the Lord in her teens to work out His purposes in her. God called her to minister to criminals in prison. She lived on the same fare as they, and the prisoners loved her for it. Early in the morning she would bring them food and encouragement and then tell them about the Lord, His gift of salvation, and the life in Christ that they could live. All was not easy for her, but she knew by the Spirit how to buffet her body. She spent herself to the utmost. After a sleepless night when she felt almost unable to resume her usual duties, Mathilde would reassure her poor, tired body that it had always cooperated with her in doing her Father's will before, and she was sure it would be patient, loving, and obedient that day also. For Christ's sake and by the power of His Spirit, Mathilde Wrede had her body under control.
Similarly, as a soldier on a battlefield was going "over the top," he once was heard to remark, "Body of mine, if you knew where I'm taking you today, you'd shake more than you're shaking now." That is what it means to bear the daily cross in the matter of discipline.
That is the spirit we must have.
5. 4. TO BEAR THE CROSS DAILY COSTS!
Of course, to try to discipline the body by self-energy always fails, for self-control is not of ourselves but is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). True self-control is never separate from the Cross. There is a fleshly attempt to discipline, and there is a spiritual way. The spiritual way is the way of the Cross-yielding gladly on any and every point, in obedience to the Holy Spirit.
To bear the cross daily costs. Are you doing all things for the gospel's sake? Or do you say: "Others expect too much of me. If it were not that my body says, I'm too tired, I would be witnessing to more souls"? May God save us from pampering or coddling our bodies. Rather, let them be yielded as willing servants. It was said of Jesus that He "was not yet fifty years old." He was only about thirty, but may He not have looked nearer fifty because He had burned himself out in prayer? "In the morning, a great while before day, he rose up and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed" (Mark 1:35). In the original, this passage indicates that it was not an occasional but a continual thing. It was evidently His habit to rob His body of sleep (if necessary) in order to find time for prayer.
5. 5. A TRIPARTITE ORDER: TO RULE AND DISCIPLINE
Scripture says we are tripartite beings: "May your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire" (1 Thess. 5:23). Yet more often than not, this phrase is quoted in the reversed order -- body, soul and spirit. Why? Because to us the body is more important than anything else. If you don't believe that for you the body is the most important, just ask yourself, "If I get up too late in the morning for prayers and breakfast, do I skip prayers or do I skip breakfast?" Most of us would skip prayers. How we need this daily cross -- not a crisis but a process! The Lord asks us to be a living sacrifice, to be disciplined continually. We are complex beings, but why do we seem more complicated than we really are? Because we are not unified. Because we are out of God's order. The Spirit is not directing the life -- with the soul interpreting, and the body carrying out the decisions that the spirit dictates.
Through the spirit (with its faculties of conscience, worship, and intuition) we are God-conscious. Through the soul (with its faculties of intellect, emotions, and volition) we are self-conscious. Through the body (man's visible part, together with his senses) we are world-conscious. We cannot see the real person; we can see only the house in which he lives. But the body is not the important thing. Far more important is the hidden man of the heart -- the personality. Therefore we must not let the body rule us, but we must rule and discipline the body. At the Fall, man was not only tainted by sin but turned wrong side up. Instead of the spirit being supreme, the body became supreme. Though we may not like to agree with this, on checking into many of our decisions, we will find that the spirit actually received very little consideration -- at least it received much less than the body. We need to be turned right side up to have the order that God intended.
The running of a factory affords a good illustration: There is an inner office for the proprietor or general manager; there is an outer office, where the clerks and secretaries do their work; and there is the factory, the shop itself. Directions should always come from the inner office, then be interpreted and put into force in the outer office, and finally be fully executed in the factory or the shop. As long as the inner office has control of the outer office and of the factory, everything goes right. But if the outer office workers or the shop workers go on a strike, what happens? There is no production. Unless some solution is found, the business fails, everything is disrupted, and the owner gets no profit out of his investment.
So it is with us. Unless the whole personality is in the God-appointed control, neither God nor our own personal spirit will receive any eternal benefit. Too often the body dictates and demands that this or that appetite or passion should be satisfied. For instance, we are called to minister. But invariably it is at the wrong time -- either it is mealtime, or bedtime, or a time when we are all worn out. Usually there is opportunity to refuse. Yet in such cases our feelings should not rule, but rather our own personal spirit indwelt by God. Orders must not come from the body but from God, and God will never call without supplying strength to obey. The body generally tries to bluff us and save itself, but just here we must demonstrate the spirit ruling the body.
5. 6. THE SPARTANS
The disciplined lives of the Spartans (500 b.c.) are a challenge. The one purpose of their education was to make soldiers. Their young boys were taken from their homes at the age of seven and never slept under their mother's roof again. From then on they wore the same weight clothing summer and winter, cooked their own food, and slept on a mat of rushes instead of an ordinary bed. On festival days they were publicly whipped before the altars of their temples to test their endurance. Rather than cry out under the lash, some would die. Spartan training produced strength of body -- though hardness of heart. Everybody was trained to live not for himself but for the state.
As a result of disciplining their bodies, Greek military exploits were almost unbelievable. For instance, though outnumbered more than two to one in the Battle of Marathon, yet the Spartans were victors. This is what discipline will do. A little later, in 479 b.c. in another decisive battle fought near Plataea, the Greeks again were victorious. Of Persia's 260,000 soldiers, only 3,000 returned to their homes, while the Greeks lost only 154 men out of their 100,000. Their overwhelming victory was largely the result of the discipline and valor of the Spartan heavy infantry.
The Spartans trained and disciplined themselves for their country's sake. How much more should the Christian be willing to train for Christ's sake. The fact is that much of our trouble after sanctification is because we were not properly disciplined when young. We would not be so apt to withdraw our surrender when the going becomes difficult if we knew disciplining of the body. Because we were never disciplined and always have gone the easy way, begin to say, "A surrendered heart and life is wonderful, but is it really necessary? There surely must be an easier way." But for the disciple of Christ there is no easier way than the way of the Cross. We are continually choosing either to follow the way of the Cross or to go back. And God's Word says, "If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him" (Heb. 10:38, KJV).
5. 7. LIFE AFTER SANCTIFICATION -- WAIT FOR THE HEAVEN?
Many think that after the crisis of sanctification everything is settled, and all that is needed is to fold one's hands and wait for heaven, so to speak. But this is not so. The Lord does not make a new character for us at the crisis of sanctification, for we are to make our own character. Yet He does deal with our disposition to have our own way and brings it to an end so that the Spirit and the Blood cleanse the heart. He also gives us a new disposition. However, we ourselves must continually put off many habits, carried over into the new life, which neither glorify God nor belong to the new man. Every habit that is off-color and off-size must be put away. One day God may say to put off a habit which He may never have said anything about before, but now He does not want it in our lives any longer. The next day or week He may point out another habit, not wrong in itself but something we are better off without. We are to put off progressively these old habits related to the old man, lest life again turn to self-pleasing.
So many confuse the old man and the flesh (human nature). They are not the same. When God speaks of His relationship to the old man, it is always of a conclusive fact: "Ye are dead"; "that the body of sin might be destroyed"; "we died with Christ"; "we were buried therefore with him." But nowhere in Scripture does it say that the flesh is dead. God does not kill the flesh. (Nor are many of us looking for the flesh in us to die -- for when the flesh is dead, that is the end of the body until the resurrection day.) The flesh must be deposed as the ruling agent and then kept in the place of crucifixion. Essentially, there is nothing wrong with the flesh except when it rules and lives for itself. God condemns sin in the flesh. "They that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof" (Gal. 5:24). The flesh is crucified in the sense that its dominion is ended and its place of rulership given to the Spirit. The Lord does not want to "de-flesh" or dehumanize us. What He wants is to get us cleansed from sin and then returned to His right order (where the spirit dominates and the body is a willing servant).
5. 8. PUTTING OFF OLD GARMENTS: THE STORY OF A THREE-STEAK MAN
Because while the flesh was ruling it accumulated many "garments," or habits, these must now be put off. We are like the resurrected Lazarus, who was once all wrapped up in grave clothes. Having raised him up, Jesus said, "Loose him and let him go." We too must put off habits related to the old man -- grave clothes that do not fit us anymore. This is the way of the Cross, the way that Jesus himself walked. The Spirit led Him and He obeyed the Spirit in all things. He is not asking anything of us that He did not do himself. He had flesh like every other man, for the Word speaks of Him "in the days of his flesh." The only difference was that His flesh was not sinful; it was not ruling. Only sinful flesh (human nature as a ruling agent) must be rejected and deposed. Only when the flesh rules is it sinful. When the Spirit rules, the flesh is pure and right, a visible expression of the personal spirit.
A very homely illustration may help us in this matter of putting off old habits. A man was once given to eating far more than he needed, more than enough for two ordinary men. Thus he was decidedly overweight. He generally ate his meals at the same restaurant; the waitresses knew him well. Because when he ordered his dinner he always said, "I want three steaks, extra potatoes, and two (sometimes three) pieces of pie," he was called the three-steak man.
But one night while proceeding toward the restaurant on a different street, he was drawn to a gospel meeting through hearing a song that his mother used to sing. It was the first time in many years that he had been in such a meeting. Something moved in his heart, a tug that he had never experienced before. He listened intently to the message of salvation through Christ. More and more his heart was drawn out, and finally he was led to Christ. The three-steak man was born of the Spirit.
With a light heart he left the mission hall on his way to order his dinner. More hungry than usual (it was about two hours later than his mealtime), he ordered only one steak.
"Did I hear right?" asked the waitress. "I presume you want three steaks as usual?"
"No," he said in a firm tone, "just one, and one piece of pie." Never had he done this before. What had happened? For years and years he had been eating more than twice what he needed, but now he realized that it was wrong to eat like that. Gluttony was a sin. So he said no to his abnormal appetite, and ate just an ordinary meal. That first night he could hardly sleep. It was a terrible struggle, but he went back the next morning and ordered no more than an ordinary breakfast. In a week or two he was perfectly satisfied with a normal meal.
5. 9. SAY, NO! AND BE READY!
As it was with the three-steak man, so it may be with us. We may have many bad habits that need to be controlled and to which we must say no. For instance at mealtime, even though we may still seem to be hungry and every nerve in our being clamors for immediate satisfaction, we often must say no and refuse to give in to our strong desire for more. The same principle holds true for other flesh-controlled habits. They must not rule us. If we want to be disciples of Christ and remain so, we must put off many old habits, take up our cross, and follow our Lord.
Some say that we live on half of what we actually eat, and the doctor lives on the other half. I believe there is much truth in that. The most common ways of letting our body rule are through our eating and sleeping, and our other appetites or We must do what Paul says and keep the body "under," for we are running a race and want to run so that we may attain. It is absolutely necessary that "every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things." Those early Greek boys disciplined themselves not only in eating but in those other habits that the rest of the world indulged in. Just for the purpose of making their bodies strong to fight better or to attain a "corruptible crown," the Greeks lived clean lives. How much more should we discipline our bodies for a "crown that fadeth not away"? What a difference there would be today if all Christians disciplined themselves to become better soldiers for Jesus Christ.
Lord Roberts was a field marshal in the English army at the time of the Boer War. England was greatly distressed in the dark situation and asked Lord Roberts if he would lead the campaign. Quietly he said, "Yes." Thinking he surely did not understand the difficulties and the perils of the time, they began to explain the situation and then asked him again to lead the forces. Lord Roberts said not a word until they were through. Then he replied, "For twenty years I have been training for this campaign." Lord Roberts was ready!
5. 10. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN READY?
How long have you been in training to be a soldier for Jesus Christ? How long have you disciplined yourself in the matters of exercise, of eating, of sleeping, of prayer life? We too are in an army. Jesus Christ, the Commander in Chief, is calling for soldiers who are willing to discipline themselves, take up the cross, and deny themselves not only that which is sinful but also those things that may be right. He is calling for those who are willing to lay aside every weight so that they might run for Him, not in self-energy (creaturely activity) but in the power of the Holy Spirit operating through their lives in the new man.
The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood-red banner streams afar:
Who follows in His train?
*** *** ***
King David said ... Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for Jehovah, nor offer a burnt offering without cost. -- 1 Chronicles 21:24
6. 1. THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP
"When Christ calls a man to himself, He bids him come and die," says Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book The Cost of Discipleship. The words of Bonhoeffer, who sealed his testimony with his own blood (he was killed by Hitler), are true; and in them is the essence of Christian discipleship -- "come and die."
6. 2. THREE KINDS OF DYING: THREE DIFFERENT INROADS OF THE CROSS
There are three kinds of dying, or should we say three different inroads of the Cross of Christ. Each creates a deeper fellowship with God and a greater conformity to Christ's death. As a result, even as Christ promised, God releases the very life of Christ through men in an unhindered stream of grace so that "from within ... shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). As we have already said, the first kind of dying is death to the old life in the initial crisis of justification. "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). Thus, for the sake of Christ, the Substitute, all who repent and believe in Him are pardoned and born from above.
Later, there is the death of the old man, that is, the carnal mind, the "sin that dwelleth in us," the contrary principle in those who are justified but not sanctified. As the Holy Spirit reveals the self-life in all its subtle forms, we Christians discover our deep derangement and the enslavement of our nature to the things of the world. Longing and seeking for a deeper deliverance from these problems of the inner life, we learn that Christ took the sinner, as well as his sins, to the Cross. Then a crisis occurs. From then on, we reckon on the fact of the death of our old man -- we reckon ourselves dead and alive -- dead to the whole sordid business of self, but alive unto God and His kingdom of love. Then, in place of the old bitterness and jealousy, the envy and impatience (to say nothing of temptation plaguing us to greater sins), we can begin to bring forth the ninefold fruit of the Spirit -- love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
But there is a third kind of dying -- the death of the new man. This deals neither with the sinner nor yet with his sin but rather with the "new" man, that is, with cleansed humanity and the physical body. (In this is included death to creature comforts, to security, and to avoiding pain at any cost.) To maintain the decision made in the crisis of sanctification, there must be a daily handing over of the new man to God that He may plant it and thereby bring forth fruit. Paul calls this "always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body."
6. 3. DYING DAILY
The Apostolic Church knew this dying daily; therefore it produced genuine disciples, true learners of Christ. But about a.d. 300 the chill of worldliness crept into the Church and began to produce nominal Christians. When the true followers of the Master spoke against this low level of Christian living, the leaders, too wise to deny there was a higher level, offered opportunity for those who wanted to be out and out for God, to join a monastic order where they could separate themselves from the world and live only for God. Though such communities were founded by sincere men whose motives were right, yet these leaders did not solve the problem of Christian living, but merely recognized two levels. Ever since, we have wrongly had two classes of Christians.
Today, all admit that the Church at large is not what it ought to be, yet for the most part the idea is prevalent that discipleship with its demand for cross-bearing is wonderful but not necessary. And so, to be called a Christian today does not necessarily mean that one takes up his cross and follows Christ. The commonly used term Christian is no longer synonymous with the term disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Men who are not disciples of Jesus also use the term Christian. But a true Christian must follow the example of Christ in daily dying. One word in the Apostles' Creed that sums up Christ's whole life and sayings is the word "suffered." Even so, Jesus not only expects us, His followers, to have the joy of forgiveness and divine peace and assurance of eternal life, but to follow Him in lives of sacrifice. Having been "taken" by the Cross, we are not only to live sacrificial lives but to find that the only life that satisfies is the life of sacrifice. The Spirit of Jesus dwelling within will lead us by the way of suffering and the Cross, and then from the Cross blessings of life and salvation will flow.
6. 4. TO USE THE DISCIPLINED BODY SACRIFICIALLY
In the last chapter we showed that this way involves disciplining and ruling our body by the Spirit, and not allowing our body to rule us. Let us now go on to discover how this disciplined body must be used sacrificially for others. The way of the Lamb is the way of sacrifice. But how can we sacrifice? Primarily, there are two sacrifices which we can make: first, sacrificial giving; and secondly, sacrificial living. We can sacrifice what we have, and what we are.
When we sacrifice what we have, we call it sacrificial giving. Remember David at the threshing floor of Araunah? When Araunah, a yielded Jebusite, offered David oxen for the sacrifice, as well as the threshing instruments and the yokes of the oxen for wood, David refused to accept them without charge, saying, "Nay; but I will verily buy it of thee at a price; neither will I offer burnt offerings unto Jehovah my God which cost me nothing." So, too, giving without cost is no sacrifice. To learn sacrificial giving, we must be prepared to pay the price.
6. 5. THREE LEVELS OF CHRISTIAN GIVING
In the New Testament we find three levels of Christian giving: First, there is proportionate giving, for Paul tells us to lay aside according to the degree in which God has prospered us. He does not state the amount, but no doubt expects at least what is commanded in the Old Testament (which was ten percent plus some extras, which made it fifteen per cent). The second level of giving is illustrated in Zacchaeus, who, when he was saved, gave half of what he had. (The fourfold restitution perhaps took the rest.) But there is still a third and deeper level. We find it in the case of the widow who did not have much but gave all that she had. This pleased Jesus so much that He called His disciples' attention to her act. Today God is looking for men who will give sacrificially. Lest in any wise we think we are giving too much, read Brenton Thoburn Hadley's "The Nail-Pierced Hands":
Lord, when I am weary with toiling,
And burdensome seem Thy commands,
If my load should lead to complaining,
Lord, show me Thy hands --
Thy nail-pierced hands,
Thy cross-torn hands --
My Savior, show me Thy hands.
Christ, if ever my footsteps should falter,
And I be prepared for retreat,
If desert or thorn cause lamenting,
Lord, show me Thy feet --
Thy bleeding feet,
Thy nail-scarred feet --
My Jesus, show me Thy feet.
O God, dare I show Thee
My hands and my feet?
6. 6. REVEAL THE CHRIST WITHIN!
The true Christian life is a sacrificial life. Not only must we sacrifice what we have, but also what we are. It costs more than money. It will cost time, effort, comfort, and security. We must learn how to live in such a way that we no longer seek to save ourselves but are willing to be broken, and thereby to reveal the Christ within. There are countless ways to give of ourselves. Sacrificial living is not only sharing our funds but, as Isaiah says, drawing out of our souls to the hungry, satisfying the afflicted soul (Isa. 58:10).
This is the way Paul lived. He said, "I die daily" (1 Cor. 15:31). As we have mentioned before, the context is very plain and shows clearly that this reference is not to dying to sin but actual physical death, a daily willingness to hazard his life to death. The preceding verse says, "We stand in jeopardy every hour." The following verse says, "After the manner of men I fought with beasts at Ephesus." It would require the greatest stretch of the imagination and the greatest liberty in exegesis to apply this phrase, I die daily, to death to sin. It does not at all refer to sin here but to Paul's willingness to sacrifice his life that others might live. Someone has said, "I once saw the trail of a bleeding hare on the snow." That describes the life of the apostle Paul: "in deaths oft." Wherever he went, he left his blood as it were. He never saved himself, but over and over literally sacrificed himself.
Yes, friends, when we are "taken" by the Cross, we too will live sacrificial lives because we love Christ. The crisis of sanctification, including cleansing from indwelling sin and the filling with the Holy Spirit, merely gives quality to our life so that we can present it to God as a living sacrifice. The crisis of sanctification is no substitute for sacrificial living. Those who have already been made pure, holy, and acceptable are called by the mercies of God to present themselves as a living sacrifice. The crisis of sanctification is not the end but merely the means to an end in the Christian life. God saves and also sanctifies us in order that our lives will have the proper quality that can produce good fruit. Jesus said the same thing in a slightly different way: "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit" (John 12:24). We plant good seed, purified seed, seed with life in it. But it is planted not for purification but for reproduction. It is necessary first for us to be made pure and made holy so that our lives will have proper quality. Yet we must not stop there, but allow ourselves to be planted into a deeper experience of death so that fruit will be the result.
6. 7. TO LIVE AMONG MAN-EATING LIONS
That great soldier of the Cross, Willis Hotchkiss, was once telling of his early life in Kenya Colony, East Africa. In those days of pioneer mission work (about 1895) missionaries had to live on native fare (even ants), for they could take along little equipment and no special food. Once he lived, so he said, for two and one half months on beans and sour milk. Another time, for weeks on end he was without the commonest of all necessities -- salt. He also mentioned his fear of attacks from man-eating lions. They had other sufferings too. After giving a long account of the dangers of living there, of how many lost their lives, and of the costliness of the whole thing, he concluded by saying,
"But don't talk to me about sacrifice. It is no sacrifice. In the face of the superlative joy of that one overwhelming experience, the joy of flashing that miracle word, Savior, for the first time to a great tribe that had never heard it before, I can never think of these forty years in terms of sacrifice. I saw Christ and His Cross and I did this because I loved Him."
Then he quoted Isaac Watt's matchless song:
When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
"Do you like your work?" someone asked another missionary in Africa. "Like this work?" he replied. "No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonably refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse. We do not like association with ignorant, filthy, brutish people. But is a man to do nothing for Christ which he does not like? God pity such a one. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to go and we go. Love constrains us." Such is the drawing power of the Cross.
6. 8. GOSPEL MESSAGE WITHOUT THE CROSS
When the gospel message today leaves out the Cross, it has no chance of having its claims taken seriously. The strength of the appeal of communism lies in the call to the crucifixion of self. It copies more of the Christian principle of the Cross than present-day Christianity. The human heart instinctively recognizes the sign of the Cross as the sign of God. Self-sacrificing Communists find their power in the principle of a cross. This power enabled them in six years to increase the extent of the Kremlin's dictatorship from 193 million to 800 million -- about 100 million per year! But theirs is a cross without Christ; therefore, though it is powerful, it has for them no lasting benefit.
A Communist's reproach of Christians appeared in Paix et Libert้ and was quoted in the British Dawn, March 1952:
The Gospel is a much more powerful weapon for the renewal of society than is our Marxist philosophy; but all the same, it is we who will finally beat you. We are only a handful, and you Christians are numbered by the millions; but if you remember the story of Gideon and his three hundred companions, you will understand that I am right.
We Communists do not play with words. We are realists and seeing that we are determined to achieve our object, we know how to obtain the means. Of our salaries and wages, we keep only that which is strictly necessary, and we give up the rest for propaganda purposes. To this propaganda we also "consecrate" all our free time, and a part of our holidays. You, however, give only a little time and hardly any money for the spreading of the gospel of Christ.
How can you believe in the supreme value of this gospel if you do not practice it, if you do not spread it, and if you sacrifice neither time nor money for it? Believe me, it is we who will win, for we believe in our Communist message, and we are ready to sacrifice everything, even our life, in order that social justice shall triumph; but you people are afraid to soil your hands.
What an indictment! What a reproach to soft, promise-seeking, cross-evading, self-centered, disobedient Christians of today!
It is humiliating for us Christians today to contemplate the fact that godless communism makes deeper claims on the person than present-day Christianity. In our orthodox emphasis on the blood, we have forgotten the Cross and its claims. We preach the blood and insist on its mention in almost every paragraph, but we do not live the sacrifice related to that blood. The practical application of the blood is needed, as it is referred to in Hebrews 12:4: "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin."
6. 9. KNOWING THAT POWER COMES THROUGH THE CROSS
Christianity has not always been as weak and Cross-less as it is today. The early Methodist preachers knew what it meant to burn out for God. Their average life span for the first fifty years after Wesley's death was only thirty-two years! The saintly Samuel Rutherford said, "It is folly to think to steal to heaven with a whole skin." Luther said, "God's mark is upon everything that obeys Him. No tree bears fruit for its own use, nor eats of its own fruit. The sun does not shine to warm itself. In God's will everything gives itself." Only Satan and men under his influence seek their own. Everything that "seeks its own" closes itself to the inflow and outflow of divine love.
That pioneer warrior for Christ, C. T. Studd, knew the power that came through crucifixion of self. When almost at heaven's gate, he was urged to retire and take it easy. A friend wrote him saying in the language of his old sport, cricket, "You've played a good inning, now out; now it is time for you to declare, and hand the bat to a younger man; then I will see that you spend your last days in comfort." After thanking his friend most sincerely, Mr. Studd answered, "I'm the captain of a small army. The enemy is pressing on the right hand, on the left, and in front. Our hands are cleaving to our swords. What, shall I turn my back upon the enemy and leave my little force to fight alone? Never! I will die with the sword in my hand." And so he did! Incidentally, ten thousand Christians who had been raw heathen when he came to the field sixteen years before attended a memorial service a year after his death.
We must preach Christ and His highest call with the widest and deepest application of the Cross so that the believer may be delivered from the power of sin, Satan, the world, and the flesh. We are commissioned to make not nominal Christians but disciples. Only in this way will we have the power in the Church that will not only equal but greatly surpass the claims and power of communism. This is the day of grace, and we still have the opportunity of a great revival. We would have the greatest revival the world has ever had if Christians would return to biblical, Christ-centered, cross-bearing Christianity.
Is it too much for our Lord to expect us to leave all and take up our cross and follow Him? One look at Calvary and at Christ's thorn-crowned head, marred face, blistered hands, bloodstained feet, spear-pierced side; scourged, torn, wound-scarred body and sin-crushed heart should awaken in us such unutterable love for Him that we would count it a joy to know the fellowship of His sufferings.
Wilbur Chapman looked into the rugged face of General Booth one day and asked, "What is the secret of your power and success?" Tears came to his eyes and ran down his cheeks. Then brushing back the hair from his brow, furrowed through years of battles, trials, and victories, he said, "I will tell you the secret. God has had all of me there was to have. There have been men of greater opportunity, but from the day I caught a vision of what Jesus Christ could do, I gave all to Him."
That is the spirit we need today.
*** *** ***
Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire,
lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
7. 1. THE ROLE OF TEMPTATION IN A SAINT'S LIFE
"Temptation," says Luther, "is one of the three things needed for a saint's development." If this be true, and it certainly is, temptation must not be viewed as an altogether evil thing, having no good purpose whatsoever. Temptation has a definite purpose, for in infinite wisdom God left His redeemed children temptable and tempted. That definite purpose, according to James 1:3, is the proving of our faith. We must therefore face the fact that every temptation is meant by God to be a means of grace, an opportunity to prove to God that we love Him supremely. He has made us willing, choosing, loving beings. He longs for us to express and prove our faith and love for Him when we are not only capable of self-love, but even when we are living in an environment where there is much opportunity for self-seeking. God does not want us to be automatons, forced into loving and serving Him; He wants us to love Him because we want to love Him.
A little illustration may help to show us these things (even though it is totally inadequate when applied to our Father in heaven.) Pastors, evangelists, and other workers for God often find it necessary to be away from home for periods of time. On their return there is a spontaneous expression of joy and love from the family -- especially if the separation has been for a long time. But suppose the returning father, who finds himself almost embraced to death by his little children, asks, "Why do you cling to me so?" and then receives the answer, "Because we have to and because it is our duty." Don't you see how the joy and gladness of his heart would depart? Yet, though keenly disappointed, the earthly father would seek in some other way to cause his children to want to love him.
7. 2. TEMPTATION IS SOMETHING TO OVERCOME, NOT FLEE FROM
Even so, our heavenly Father has always been doing everything He can to win our love. Though He has allowed temptations, these have given us ample opportunities to prove our love for Him. Viewed in this way, temptation is not something to flee from, always one step behind us, ready at any moment to overtake us, but temptation is something to be overcome. In its fiercest hour and in every opportunity in which we could do the very opposite, God wants us to win a positive victory by choosing Him and His will. In this way it is possible to count temptation all joy and thus enter into the inheritance promised from the Word to the man that endureth temptation: "For when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him" (James 1:12).
As we continue to study in detail this subject of temptation, we shall confine ourselves chiefly to the Christian's temptations (though one who is not saved may also find truths that may be helpful in seeking and understanding the life offered by our Lord Jesus Christ). Thoroughly converted Christians need special instruction on this subject because again and again they yield to temptation through a lack of understanding of the essential factors in temptation. That our crafty, wily foe, Satan (who knows exactly where to strike), may have no ground to work on in us, let us carefully examine three major aspects on this subject of temptation. Let us study Adam and Eve's temptation along three lines: the devil's method of attack on Adam and Eve; the responses which the tempted ones gave to the devil's suggestions; and finally, how to overcome in the hour of temptation.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve did not have any lack either in their condition or their environment. Though they had no sinful nature, yet in God's infinite wisdom they were allowed to face the intrusion of Satan and temptation. We are mistaken, therefore, if we think that in a soul cleansed from indwelling sin there is nothing for the devil to tempt. Before the Fall Adam and Eve were tempted, even though neither of them had any sin. Conditions in the Garden of Eden were more ideal than they have ever been since; yet even so they were temptable. (So was Jesus Christ, the last Adam, temptable.) Not only could Adam and Eve sin; they did sin. Nor must we confuse temptation with sin, or let Satan, the accuser of the brethren, weigh us down with false condemnation. It is not sin to be tempted, for we are told that Christ was tempted on every point, yet He did not sin.
7. 3. SATAN'S WAYS
In Genesis 3 we see Satan busy tempting two souls through a serpent, the pre-Fall serpent, who was no doubt an erect and beautiful creature. Why Adam was not on his guard when he found this animal talking, we are not told. Surely the strangeness of an animal talking should have been enough to warn him. In addition, it was clear that God intended Adam to refer all things to Him and never to strike off in independent action. For Adam was not omniscient, even though he possessed a degree of intelligence far above that of anyone born since the Fall. Yet Adam's understanding and knowledge were limited, for the very name of the tree from which he ate, called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, would seem to indicate this.
What then are Satan's ways, both in the Garden of Eden and to this present day? The enemy of our souls, the father of lies, attacked our first parents by means of two lies, insinuating one and asserting the other. The first lie, which the devil only insinuated, was this: "Yea, hath God said, `Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden.' " Satan was lying, for he was really saying, "God does not love you, Adam and Eve. If God really loved you, He would not put restrictions upon you or deny you the pleasure of eating the fruit of this beautiful tree. Is God as mean as all that? Surely you understand that He does not love you!"
Today the devil is still a liar and the father of lies. He approaches man as he did thousands of years ago and tells him that God does not really love him. He knows that if we are absolutely convinced God loves us and is concerned about us and is seeking only our highest good, we can bear anything. But if we believe this insinuated lie, then discouragement, depression, self-pity, despair, and countless other sins occur. Through believing the devil's lies, men remain defeated, weak, sick, and unable to lay hold of God's promises that are repeated over and over again in Scripture. But what a difference it makes to be thoroughly convinced that God does love all men! Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). One of these truths told over and over again in Scripture is that God does love us, for God is love (1 John 4:16). "He is an eternal will to all goodness!" He showers forth His love upon all, the bad as well as the good. Eve should have known and did know this, but was temporarily caught off balance. Even though she had not yet taken the plunge, she was already being tempted, and beginning to respond to temptation.
7. 4. SATAN'S DIRECT LIE AND TODAY'S CARNALITY
Satan's second lie to Adam and Eve was a direct one: "Ye shall not surely die" (Gen. 3:4). He did not insinuate now, but dared to make a statement that was the direct opposite of what God had said: "Ye shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17). He did not dare to start out with a direct lie; but now that he had their attention and his questions were already in their minds, he dared to contradict the spoken word of God.
This second lie is deeper and more dangerous than the first. It says, "You can sin and get by with it. Disobedience will not result in death. Punishment is delayed, so you will escape. You can sin and not suffer the consequences." No wonder men today are bold in their sin. No wonder there is no conviction for sin. If men in our day knew that their sin would be followed by inevitable consequences, how many would dare to sin? Truly the devil is the father of such false hopes. How often today the devil tries and succeeds in the very same thing, not only with sinners but also with Christians.
What else but Satan's lies can be the cause of today's carnality, selfishness, and low level of Christian living? We are in danger of being so unbalanced in the matter of grace that we actually use it as a license to sin; in fact, some have such a light view of sin that they believe God wills for sin to continue in a Christian in order to keep him humble. But Jesus is the Savior from sin as well as from hell. Even after we have fallen into sin, He who saved us is certainly able to cleanse us. He is also able to keep us from falling if only we will refuse to believe the devil and his lies, and rather believe God's truth that "if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
7. 5. GRADUAL RESPONSE FROM US, TEMPTED THROUGH OUR NATURAL DESIRES
We have just considered the line of the devil's direct attack. Next, let us see the gradual response from the ones attacked. "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat" (Gen. 3:6). Here we learn the temptability of man: the tree was "good for food," "a delight to the eyes," and "to be desired to make one wise." The apostle John calls these "the lust of the flesh," "the lust of the eyes," and "the vainglory of life" (1 John 2:16).
To be tempted, man does not need to have a sinful nature; in fact, he is not tempted through a sinful nature, for that is not the object of the devil's attack. Man is tempted through his natural desires. These are not wrong in themselves, for they are God-given, and so are for man's good. But through wrong use, man's desires may become defiled, especially if the wrong use is habitual. Yet if properly controlled, these desires may remain pure and good.
7. 6. THREE FUNDAMENTAL DESIRES
In the divine record of the first human temptation, these three fundamental desires are clearly indicated. First of all, there is a natural desire to enjoy things. The Word says Eve saw that "the tree was good for food." Here is a natural desire for the things of the body -- for food, sleep, sex, etc. These are not wrong in themselves but must not be misused. The second is the desire to get things and is indicated by the words "the tree was a delight to the eyes." This brings to one's attention things outside oneself that he could obtain in one way or another. The desire is not wrong in itself but may lead to something wrong by trying to get it in the wrong way, or else by getting more than God wants one to have. The third desire, to do things, is referred to by the words "the tree was to be desired to make one wise." This is the desire to accomplish things for self, for the world, or for God. Here, too, this desire is not essentially wrong but may lead to pride if we seek to accomplish more than God has led us to do.
Christ's temptation by the devil, as recorded in Luke 4:1-13, follows the same pattern. He attacked Christ on these same three points:
First, "If thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it become bread."
Second, "He led him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, `To thee will I give all this authority, and the glory of them: For it hath been delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship before me, it shall all be thine.' "
Third, "He led him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee, to guard thee: and, on their hands shall they bear thee up, lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone.' "
Regarding Christ's temptation, we are told in Hebrews that He was one "that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (4:15). We conclude, therefore, that Christ's threefold temptation was a total temptation. It took in all points of man's nature, not necessarily tempting Him with every individual sin possible for man to commit, but tempting Him on every single point or every side of His nature (including body, soul, and spirit). This is a total temptation.
Jesus Christ had these same three desires, and the enemy of our souls tried to cause Him to fail both as a man and as Savior by leading Him to satisfy His desires in a wrong way and at the wrong time. The devil's suggestion that He make bread out of stones, of course, was addressed to the desires of His body to enjoy things; his suggestion that He fall down and worship him as the price of receiving the kingdoms of the world was addressed to Christ's natural desire to get things. Surely He came to get the kingdoms of the world, and He will get them someday, but not in a wrong way. This was the devil's suggestion that He sidestep Calvary. This temptation, as well as the first, was refused. The last suggestion was that He jump off the pinnacle of the temple and thus not only do the miraculous, but do the miraculous in such a way that the Jews might receive Him as the Messiah. This was an appeal to His natural desire to do things.
7. 7. WE HAVE A TEMPTABLE NATURE
The devil therefore seeks entrance through one or all of these three natural, fundamental desires -- to enjoy things, to get things, and to do things. Dr. Kyle's definition of temptation is rather difficult to improve upon: "Temptation is the incitement of our natural desires to go beyond the bounds set by God." We are tempted by Satan along the lines of our human desires. The devil does not tempt a sinful nature; there is no point in tempting evil with evil. In our case, human nature is a fallen nature, but not in the experience of Adam and Eve, nor of Christ (for they had no fallen nature). They did have a human nature which was temptable, for it had these three fundamental, natural desires which could respond to temptation. While man is temptable through these desires and can respond to the enticements or the allurements of the devil or the world, yet by the promise of Hebrews 2:18, "He is able to succor them that are tempted." Praise God for this truth!
To the devil's planned attack on their three fundamental desires, Eve and then Adam responded fully. They took the fatal plunge, for we read, "She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat." The awful result of their fall was threefold: God-ward, it resulted in alienation from God, manifested in spiritual and physical death. Self-ward, its results were condemnation and corruption, and their inner nature defiled. Satan-ward, the Fall resulted in enslavement to a subtle, cruel, crafty foe who, having succeeded in causing their fall, sought to accomplish their destruction.
7. 8. CALVARY MEETS OUR BASIC NEEDS
But praise God for the truth that our so great a salvation (accomplished for us by Christ on Calvary) meets man's three basic needs:
First, God forgives the sins of all those who repent of their sins and believe on Jesus Christ our Substitute, who died in our stead. By receiving Him, we have eternal life and are reconciled to God.
Second, through His blood and Cross He makes possible the cleansing and altering of our very nature so that we need no longer continue being defiled but may be cleansed and purified. We read that "the blood ... cleanseth us from all sin," and that God "cleansed their hearts by faith."
Third, through the indwelling Spirit and His consequent power for daily life, He makes possible the deliverance from the power of the devil.
7. 9. A POSITIVE ELEMENT IN TEMPTATION
But God allows Satan to tempt the Christian. Therefore we are to conclude that there is a positive element in temptation. Temptation is not for the purpose of causing our fall but rather to make us strong and to give us an opportunity to prove our absolute love and devotion to Christ (even though we are perfectly free to do the opposite). The Epistle of James gives a good exposition on temptation:
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death. Be not deceived, my beloved brethren (James 1:12-16).
Man is tempted "when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed." Usually we attach a bad meaning to the word lust, though strictly speaking, it means nothing more than a strong desire. The meaning of the Greek word lust is to "set the heart upon, to long for" (rightfully or otherwise). This is where the battle is joined. It is through his desires that man is enticed. Only when lust has conceived does it bring forth. Until the will marries the wrong desire, there is no conception. Unless the will yields to the enticement, there is no sin. Only when the will yields to the desire is there a conception and sin; the child of lust is born.
7. 10. DEALING WITH TEMPTATION
Someone has said, "Temptation begins with a simple evil thought; the next step is a strong imagination; then, a delight; and finally, a consent to the thing itself." Only when the thought reaches the point of consent is it sin. (These four stages may all occur in the mind without an outward act.) It is necessary, however, to deal with the suggestion at the very first before it becomes easier to yield or consent to it. The whole tone of the Word of God is that we be saved and kept from sinning in order that we might delight the heart of Jesus by doing His works. "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them." Indeed, "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). Note here that it does not say when we sin, but if we sin. If it so happens that we sin, God in His mercy has made provision whereby we can come back to Him, confessing our sin. He will forgive and restore us again to that fellowship we enjoyed before the sin occurred. This ought to be done instantly, for as soon as we are conscious of sin or failure of any kind, we ought to flee to Christ, confessing all, and thus enjoy His constant fellowship. This is what it means to walk in the light.
Have you ever noticed the great passage on temptation in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it"? This promise is placed between two warnings: The first, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall"; and the second, "Wherefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." This proves that God holds forth the possibility of absolute victory in every circumstance, and His own Word tells us that we will never be tempted above that we are able. But at the same time, God exhorts us to be eternally vigilant to keep our desires under the control of the Holy Spirit, not letting them strike out for themselves, not letting them clamor to the point where we yield our will to what we know of a surety is not God's plan for us. Remember, every temptation is a means of grace and a real opportunity to prove to God that we love Him supremely. In this way we are approved, and shall receive "the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him."
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8. INTERCESSION AND WARFARE
The Lord wondered that there was no intercessor. -- Isaiah 59:16
8. 1. INTERCESSION
The disciples of Christ were privileged to witness His wonderful works; in fact, it was amazement upon amazement and wonder upon wonder as they saw the deaf hear, the blind see, the leper cleansed, the sick healed, and the demon-possessed delivered. Daily their Master performed acts far above them. No doubt time after time, especially when they were alone, they discussed among themselves the power He displayed in His wonderful works. They also saw a definite connection between His works and His prayer life. Again and again when they noticed that early in the morning He was missing, they would later find Him on the hills or in a grove alone with His Father in prayer. This caused a great desire to spring up in their hearts to learn from Him the secret of prayer -- to be like Him in prayer.
Today, too, Jesus' example in prayer produces the same desire in us to know the secret of a better, richer, longer, and more alive prayer life. God has called every Christian to be an intercessor for others, for our task is to stop the plague of sin and corruption that is in the world, and to stand between the spiritually dead and the living. Yet very few Christians are really satisfied with their prayer ministry for others.
8. 2. INTERCEDE ON BEHALF OF OTHERS
The nation of Israel was also called to intercede on behalf of others. At times they fulfilled this ministry. For instance, in Moses' day, when a judgment was on Israel as the result of Korah's rebellion, and when Korah himself and his ringleaders were speedily judged, a plague began. But when the people complained and murmured, Moses told Aaron the remedy -- intercession.
Take thy censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and lay incense thereon, and carry it quickly into the congregation, and make atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from Jehovah; the plague is begun. And Aaron took as Moses spake, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed (Num. 16:46-48).
8. 3. GOD WANTS WATCHMEN
God wants watchmen that shall "never hold their peace day nor night." He wants remembrancers to "take no rest, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isa. 62:6-7). And so, if there is any truth of Scripture that ought to break the heart of man, it is found in the following passages where God says He found no intercessors. The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel saying, "I sought for a man among them, that should build up the wall and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none" (Ezek. 22:30); and "The Lord saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor" (Isa. 59:16). (It may be that some of these prophecies refer to the future as well as to the past, but certainly the principle involved in them -- that God is looking for intercessors -- remains the same.)
Earlier in this prophecy of Isaiah, the Lord God had said to His people, "Produce your cause ... bring forth your strong reasons" (Isa. 41:21). The Christian's "strong reasons" are the promises of God. God's revealed will for His people is a walk of faith and prayer, and His way of finding faith in His people is for them to remind Him of His Word and of His precious promises. God, then, expects us to pray according to His Word, remembering His promises, and reminding Him of them. When in His time He will answer according to His Word. What a place of responsibility is ours as intercessors! But alas, too often God cannot find those who will take hold of His promises. We are like Israel of old, like God's chosen people who, looking everywhere else for help except to God, were ultimately defeated and taken captive and their city destroyed.
8. 4. INTERCESSION NOT A PRIVATE PRAYER
Intercession is far more than a seemingly satisfactory private prayer life. It is a dreadful responsibility for a Christian to be an intercessor. This is dramatically revealed in the following incident in the visions of Ezekiel 9. After Judah's apostasy, as well as her abominations, had been revealed to the prophet Ezekiel, God instructed him in a vision to call together the leaders of Jerusalem beside the brazen altar. There a man in white linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side, was to go through the midst of the city and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sighed and cried because of the sin in their city. After that, those with weapons in their hands were commanded to slay utterly everyone who did not bear the mark (the mark of an intercessor), beginning at the sanctuary! While they were smiting, even Ezekiel thought this was too much -- too dreadful. The Word says, "While they were smiting, and I was left ... I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord Jehovah! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy wrath upon Jerusalem?" (9:8). God had to use drastic means to cause His people to realize their position and responsibility as intercessors.
An intercessor, then, laments and sighs over the condition of the world. But a true intercessor does more than that. He prays with authority. God gave mankind authority on this earth in the very beginning, for Adam was told to subdue the earth and have dominion over it (Gen. 1:28). This promise of authority, though spoken to man in his unfallen state, has never been revoked. It was temporarily forfeited because of the Fall and because of sin in the world, but through regeneration (that is, the restoration of the image of God) this authority is restored to man. Therefore a Christian's main commission is to cause life -- to bring about the salvation of sinners. We are to replenish the earth with living Christians. The celebrated Pascal once asked, "Why has God established prayer?" and then answered his own question: "To communicate to God's creatures the dignity of creation; to give us a touch and taste of what it is to be a creator." As God's word to Adam was "have dominion" (Gen. 1:28), so God's word to us is Matthew 28:18-19: "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations." Obedience to this command of Christ is possible only through proper intercession.
8. 5. DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PRAYER WARRIOR AND AN INTERCESSOR
Man has been hunted and hounded and beaten; he is discouraged and distressed and frustrated, all because he does not understand his position of authority and does not know how to pray. In many cases he is not willing to pray. Long after the Fall, God said, "The heavens are the heavens of Jehovah; but the earth hath he given to the children of men" (Psa. 115:16).
It is still God's will that we take our proper position as sons of God and exercise the dominion that belongs to us as redeemed, regenerated people. Although "Jehovah hath established his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all" (Psa. 103:19), He rules over all through His people. These represent Him; they do His will; they fulfill His purposes. How does man exercise the dominion that is his? Through prayer and intercession, taken seriously. We must have a clear grasp of both our privilege and our responsibility, and besides that, a willingness to believe and to obey.
There is a difference between a prayer warrior and an intercessor. A prayer warrior has a burden; an intercessor has a purpose. A prayer warrior prays for things; an intercessor offers himself to God for the fulfillment of His purposes. Prayer warriors expect to get their prayers answered; intercessors must get theirs answered. Intercessors know God's will. They offer themselves. They let nothing stop them from seeing God's wonderful purposes realized. Christ is their example. He is not only Savior, but Intercessor. He interceded at Gethsemane; He interceded all His life. As a result, the Church was born and is living to this day. Even now, Christ is interceding and looking for other intercessors.
Consider Moses and Paul, two of the great intercessors in Scripture. Moses knew both the privilege and blessing of intercession. In his time alone with Him on the mountaintop, he learned much from God. After Israel's great sin, he climbed the mount to meet God again and to pray that He would forgive His people. He knew that they deserved nothing but judgment. Yet to the people he said, "Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto Jehovah; peradventure I shall make atonement for your sin." His intention, the secret locked in his heart, was to offer himself as an atonement; so he prayed to God, confessing Israel's sin: "Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin ... and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written" (Ex. 32:31-32). In this prayer is an unfinished sentence. Perhaps the reason was that Moses broke out in a great sob and was weeping for his people. This is intercession. This is prayer. God, of course, could not accept Moses' offer to die for his people, for only Christ could do that. But on the basis of the coming sacrifice of Calvary, God did forgive Israel in answer to Moses' prayer (Deut. 9:19; 10:10).
The apostle Paul also knew how to intercede. He prayed much like Moses when he said, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:13). Paul, fifteen hundred years after Moses, had the spirit of Calvary. He knew how to pray. He too entered into the very spirit of Calvary. As a result Israel will be restored and saved as a nation. (This seems to be taking place in our day, for though Jews are returning to their land in unbelief, the day is coming when as a result of Paul's intercession a whole generation of Israel will again turn back to God.)
8. 6. EVANGELIZATION OF THE WORLD IN EVERY GENERATION, PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS
If the Church would only awaken to her responsibility of intercession, we could well evangelize the world in a short time. It is not God's plan that the world be merely evangelized ultimately. It should be evangelized in every generation. There should be a constant gospel witness in every corner of the world so that no sinner need close his eyes in death without having heard the gospel -- the good news of salvation through Christ.
Now there is another important aspect of the whole subject of intercession to consider: the priesthood of all believers. We evangelicals are very proud that we know every Christian may have direct contact with God. We are sure that no mediatorial priest is needed. Thus, one of the cardinal doctrines of evangelicals is "the priesthood of all believers." So assured are we of this fact that we even object to calling a minister a priest, and over and over again we declare: let him be called a prophet but not a priest. All believers, then, are priests.
For this doctrine we have scriptural grounds. Does not the apostle John say, "He made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father" (Rev. 1:6)? The apostle Peter states the same thing: "Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9). Likewise the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says, "Having ... brethren, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh" (Heb. 10:19-20). Such passages of Scripture state categorically that every Christian is a priest, with the unspeakable privilege of coming into the very presence of God, into the holy of holies. In olden times such a great privilege was not allowed to all. The ordinary priest could not enter into the holy of holies. This office belonged solely to the high priest, and that only once a year. But today the priesthood is for all believers.
8. 7. UNIVERSAL PRIESTHOOD OF BELIEVERS, WHAT IT INVOLVES?
This position of the priesthood of all believers is freighted with privilege, with benefits, and with blessings. Therefore, it is no wonder that this doctrine has been taught in evangelical circles. However, the question comes: Has it been well taught? Do we know what this great fact, the priesthood of every believer, really involves? I am afraid not. Benefits and blessings as priests are great, but the responsibilities are even greater. Sad to say, we have magnified our privileges but minimized our responsibilities. To come to a knowledge of these priestly responsibilities by a careful study of the office of the priest in the Old Testament would doubtless bring a reluctance to claim the privileges of that priesthood. However, a Christian cannot take the blessings without taking the responsibilities also.
Now it was not for himself that the high priest came into the holy of holies (except as a member of the nation Israel). Not for his own sake but for the people's sake he entered into this sacred place. For them he brought in the blood, sprinkled it on the mercy seat, and there made atonement. Before God he presented the blood (emblematic of the blood of Jesus Christ) in order that the living God could forgive Israel's sin because of the blood.
The universal priesthood of believers is also a New Testament doctrine. Today, the true believer priest presents the blood of Jesus Christ before the Father, both for the individual and for the lost world. He does for the lost what they will not do for themselves. He pleads the value of the shed blood of Christ for their forgiveness. He intercedes. The believer-priest then not only asks petitions of God, but supplicates. He makes intercession; he bears the burden of the sins of the unrepentant. Of course he cannot bear sins away as Christ did; only the Son of God can make atonement with His own blood. But on the basis of the blood of Christ, every Christian can come to God and make intercession. Truly we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Holy Spirit helpeth our infirmity and maketh intercession through us -- all on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
8. 8. INTERCESSION MOVES OUR HEARTS
Israel's high priest bore the names of the tribes of Israel over his heart (Ex. 28:29). This was emblematic of his being moved in his heart, his bearing Israel on his heart. Such praying was not any cold "God bless Johnnie and Sue; God bless Aunt and Uncle; God bless our church, etc." Real praying, today, is knowing something of the agony of the damned; it is feeling, in anticipation, the pains and pangs of those who shut God out of their lives and who refuse to repent and believe on Christ. Not many are willing to take on their hearts the members of the church (or even of their family). This would mean suffering -- not the kind of suffering that can atone for sin, but the suffering that can feel the lostness of those outside of Christ.
Moreover, Israel's high priest bore the names of each tribe not only on his heart but also on his shoulder (Ex. 28:12). This refers not so much to feeling the infirmities and sins of those for whom he was interceding. His bearing them on his shoulder refers rather to bearing their burdens, doing for them what they would not do for themselves.
Bearing burdens is intangible. It can hardly be explained, but everyone who has experienced it understands. How we need this strong praying today! Too much of our praying is wishful thinking and wishful sighing. We need men who will take hold of burdens and bear them -- men who will open their hearts for the lost, who will allow God to bring them into travail of soul until Christ is formed in others. Only thus will we have success in this day of apostasy. Never in the history of our country has there been a time when religion, even the Christian religion, was so popular as today. Never has there been a time when professed Christianity has been so void of that moral quality which results in great ethical changes in both the church and the business world. For instance, the recent revelation of almost universal dishonesty in one of the greatest mediums for the transmission of knowledge -- television -- has shocked our nation. But the true believer-priest feels these things. He prays for persons, for the church, for the whole world. His praying is more than mere asking God to do something. It is supplicating and interceding and travailing for men and women until prayer is answered.
8. 9. FUNCTIONS OF A PRIEST
Remember, too, that in the Old Testament a priest was not allowed any possessions. He had a place to live but no inheritance of land for his tribe. God was his possession. In evangelicalism today, how many believer-priests would care to submit to this condition? With the true facts in mind, I wonder how many would be clamoring for the office of the universal priesthood of the believer. Today's believer-priests scramble (as the rest of mankind) for the world's possessions; yet this is in direct contradiction to Christ's word, "Lay not up treasure upon this earth." What a rude awakening many will have at the judgment seat of Christ when they discover that they have flatly disobeyed the direct word of Him who is Judge as well as Savior! Were it not for the fact that believer-priests have sought first for possessions and then for the fulfillment of their office as believer-priests, the world would have been evangelized long ago.
Included in an Old Testament priest's responsibilities was the religious instruction of the people, as well as the discernment of the extent and effects of an Israelite's sin. Thus a priest had many functions. Consider his office regarding that dread disease of leprosy. It was his duty to pronounce a person clean or unclean. How many today who claim the priesthood of every believer would care for this solemn work in an age when we are superficially told not to judge. But if the benefits of priesthood are claimed, we ought to be accepting the responsibilities also.
Yet many of the day's would-be priests are like the chief priests in the time of Christ -- busy with rituals meaningless to them -- ignorant of the true nature of their office. Many are unwilling to receive or obey the true light. Yet God is looking for true priests who, in accordance with their office, will "offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." He wants those who know how to mediate between a rebellious world and a God who is merciful and willing to pardon those who repent and believe in Jesus.
8. 10. A BELIEVER-PRIEST
Perhaps this wonderful office of believer-priest is portrayed most graphically of all in the witness of Stephen before the Sanhedrin (a priestly group, by the way). Stephen had just revealed the rebellious course of Israel's history and had brought a charge of guilty upon all those who listened. Then, in the words of Scripture,
they cast him [Stephen] out of the city and stoned him: ... And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this he fell asleep (Acts 7:58-60).
The result? A religious rebel, Saul of Tarsus, became the Spirit-led Paul, the famed apostle to the Gentiles. This is priesthood! This is intercession! In this our day may God raise up true priests -- true intercessors!
8. 11. WARFARE
They overcame him [the devil] because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death. -- Revelation 12:11
In speaking of "the cross and intercession," we referred briefly to this subject of warfare and the authority of the believer as one of the missing aspects of prayer today. Because in the Church of Jesus Christ there is a condition of great weakness right here, very much more ought to be said on this subject.
Prayer is worship (one should prepare himself for this wonderful exercise); and prayer is work. (Luther used to speak of prayer as "sweet on the soul"); but above all, prayer is a battle, for an enemy has usurped the authority of the believer. Today, far too much of our praying is on the level of plaintive pleading, or is a kind of crutch to support sagging spirits. Someone has said that prayer has three directions: there is the upward prayer of worship, of praise, and of adoration; there is the downward prayer of petition; but there is also the outward prayer of warfare. That prayer today is largely downward and petitionary is self-evident. For instance, when a boy was once asked if he prayed every day, he replied, "No, some days I don't need anything." This may sound humorous, but in the prayer experience of so many of us, this is all too true. Surely we must reverse this condition. We Christians must learn to war in prayer!
8. 12. HOW TO BE AN OVERCOMER? AUTHORITY OVER SATAN
Revelation 12:7-12 is a classic passage on Christian warfare and how to be an overcomer. No doubt it has a special application to a future time, but our present concern is with the universal, eternal principle set forth in these verses. According to verse eleven there are three conditions for exercising victory over Satan.
The first and basic condition for authority is the blood. We overcome Satan "because of the blood of the Lamb." Personal victory over the flesh and the enemy is ours by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We Christians have a right to claim this authority because, though we have no strength of our own, nor any merits of our own, we have confidence in the finished work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose blood washed away our sins.
Secondly, according to verse eleven, we not only have the right to exercise authority over Satan, but we must give testimony to our authority: "They overcame him ... because of the word of their testimony." This is testimony directly to Satan himself. Because of our union with Christ, we have authority to speak out our command over Satan and his hosts of evil spirits.
Lastly, this text of Scripture gives one more condition of power and authority. It declares that this authority is only operative in those who "loved not their life even unto death." Authority is only for those who do not seek to save themselves but who, embracing the Cross, die to sin, to self, to the world, and to the devil. Thus, to have authority over Satan, it is absolutely imperative that one have the complete realization that one is a new creation in Christ Jesus. One must stand on the ground of the death of Another, and on the utter crucifixion of the self-life. Such a one (and only such a one) walks with a sure and certain tread because the old life has been crucified, has died, has been buried, and has been left in the grave. There are no "landing strips" for the enemy to land on.
8. 13. GOD'S PROMISES CONCERNING WARFARE
To believers who fulfill these three conditions and thus are said to be "on Calvary ground," God has given wonderful promises concerning warfare. Let us review some of these promises in Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
First, in chapter 1, Paul says that God has "blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (1:3); and again, "that ye may know ... the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe" (1:18-19). Only the blood-washed and God-kept can believe in such power. Next, the apostle Paul explains that the power available to us is the same as the power needed and used to raise Christ from the lowest estate of man (death) and set Him at the very right hand of God in the heavenly places (vs. 19-20).
Think of it! The very same power manifested in the resurrection is available to us! That this passage in Ephesians has definite reference to victory in our battle with Satan, the enemy of our souls, is made plain, for now Paul goes on to explain that our position is "far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (v. 21). Besides all this, the apostle shows that we believers are joined to Christ, our Head, and therefore we are in Christ's position of power and authority over the enemy. Our exalted position is also unmistakably evident in the next chapter where Paul says that we believers were "raised ... up with him [Christ], and made ... to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus" (2:6).
The fact of our warfare as Christians is again set forth graphically in Ephesians 6. Here Paul admonishes the Christian soldier to be "strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might," and to "put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Here Paul brings in a most important distinction: "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities ... against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." He goes on to say, "Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand." Then the apostle reminds us that for the child of God, there is a girdle, a breastplate, a shield, a helmet, and a sword, the Word of God. To conquer the enemy, the soldier of Christ must know the Word, know his place, know his position, and know his authority.
Next, one would expect the apostle to give detailed instructions on how to "hack" the enemy to pieces, but instead he says "with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit" (v. 18). This "all prayer" is no ordinary prayer but that outward prayer of authority over the enemy which the apostle John referred to as "the word of their testimony" in Revelation 12:11. "All prayer" is testifying to the power and authority that is ours through faith in an experience of the blood and Cross of Christ. "All prayer" is testifying to the utter defeat of Satan on Calvary's Cross.
8. 14. DO NOT ALLOW ENEMY TO LAUGH
Too many Christians know nothing about this warfare because they are too occupied fighting their own inclinations and desires of their flesh. If they should enter the war, they would be defeated instantly. But for those who know that they have been crucified with Christ, that they have been raised with Him, that they are united with Him, and that they have a place of holiness and power, there is a battle -- a great warfare. In this battle we are assured of victory all the way, even as Israel before crossing the Jordan to possess the land of Canaan was promised, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, to you have I given it" (Josh. 1:3).
The enemy laughs, I am sure, to see Christians fighting each other when they ought to be united in fighting the devil. Of the war in Korea (called "police action") it is said that it was a wrong war, fought in a wrong place, with the wrong people, with the wrong weapons, at the wrong time! This is exactly what the enemy of our souls seeks to cause us to do. This explains why there is so much fighting amongst carnal people. They are using carnal weapons. God would say to us through the apostle Paul: "We do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds); casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
For us Christians, the battle is on. Yet so many, forgetting this or knowing little or nothing about warfare, blame people or circumstances or even themselves for their problems and defeats. Others may be to blame, but surely we must know that the enemy takes advantage of every situation that he can use against us Christians. Often he is behind people (Matt. 16:23). He works against the church collectively and individually -- causing divisions, heresies, jealousies, fanaticism, ritualism, and a host of other "isms." Though these isms are produced by men, they are surely inspired by the enemy. Thus for the Church today, the great need of the hour is to learn to discern what is flesh and what is Spirit, and to learn how to bind the enemy and loose souls to the glorious liberty of the children of God.
8. 15. SATAN'S FAVORITE WAYS OF WORKING
Among individuals, Satan has three favorite ways of working. One way is through oppression, caused chiefly by circumstances. Things go wrong; people seem impossible; accidents occur. Yet so many of these circumstances are caused by demon activity. Evil spirits know how to bring the one singled out for attack into circumstances that will result in a difficult time. As a result, the person attacked is in a state of frustration, futility, oppression, and weariness. (By the way, Satan is not personally omnipresent, though he is almost so through his myriads of fallen angels -- the evil spirits and demons.)
Another favorite way of the enemy's working in individuals is what is called obsession of the mind. Here the enemy is not working so much in the outward circumstances but rather within, the mind itself. The one worn out through Satan's oppressive tactics is a ready subject for invasion of the mind. Satan begins by planting his seed-thoughts in a mind and causing negative thinking about almost everything, even about the goodness and power of God. Satan has succeeded in making many think that they cannot pray, cannot believe, cannot serve God, cannot do anything right. Given a little wedge along this line, the enemy will finally come in like a flood. Progressively the condition then grows worse -- worry, anxiety, and negative thinking; then nervousness, fear, an inability to control the mind; eventually even a nervous breakdown, or in some cases, serious mental derangement.
What the evil spirits want, however, is the third stage, which is called in the Bible demon possession. Here the enemy does not work so much in the circumstances, nor in the mind, but busies himself in gaining control of the will. Eventually such a person is under the power of an evil spirit, and, as a rule, is unable to help himself. He is possessed.
Today, the enemy's master weapon among Christians is ignorance of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11). He has succeeded in causing the majority of people, even Christians, to disbelieve in the possibility of being possessed by evil spirits. These Christians contend that when Jesus walked on this earth, He accommodated himself to the prevalent opinion existing in Bible days, and therefore used existing terms, including the idea of demon possession. Some others say that in the days of Christ demon possession was common, and even is common now in foreign lands where idolatry is prevalent, but that in civilized lands this experience is certainly not present today, and surely not common. Yet how is it that we all admit many have a strange oppression, are obsessed mentally, seem unable to think logically, and have experiences similar to those described in the Scriptures? Surely today Satan is a wily foe (Eph. 6:11), and not the least of his wiles is causing great numbers of Christians to be ignorant of his devices. Paul the apostle speaks of the wiles of the devil.
8. 16. STEPS TO LOOSE THOSE WHO ARE HELPLESS
The first step, then, in loosing those who are helpless victims of demon activity is to diagnose the need. There are times when we really need to discern that many of the problems which we have attempted to solve through carnal methods have been caused by demon activity. All such problems can be solved only by exercising the authority given by Christ to each believer.
Moreover, one who is experiencing demon activity must first cooperate in admitting the source of the problem. If the source is not known, he should at least admit the possibility that it may be from the enemy. His next step could well be to testify, declare, and renounce the enemy by saying, "In Jesus' name, I renounce the devil in all his works and all his ways; and I take back all ground and advantage that I have given him consciously or unconsciously. I put my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior and Deliverer, and I put the blood of Jesus Christ between me and the enemy. I yield wholly to my Lord Jesus Christ."
This declaration is merely a guide, for victory is never a matter of repeating mere words from a written prayer. Victory is gained by a definite renunciation (which of course should include the same ideas as the sample declaration just given). Since dealings with Satan must be in such a way that Satan can hear and know our stand, it is important that it be audible. Satan cannot read the depths of our minds (only God can do that), but Satan can hear all we say and also read surface things. And so, I repeat, it is important that the one attacked should say audibly, "In Jesus' name, I take back every advantage and all ground I have ever given to the enemy." All this is simply using the authority that is every Christian's by virtue of union with Christ.
8. 17. HOW TO PROCEED
Once the problem is discerned as satanic, we ought to know how to proceed, for Jesus said, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall in anywise hurt you" (Luke 10:19). He also said, "These signs shall accompany them that believe: in my name shall they cast out demons" (Mark 16:17). Those who are helping in this work of mercy should make sure that they themselves are on Calvary ground, and then should command the enemy to leave, for Jesus said, "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19). Satan can be bound and cast out; and he can be left bound.
In Mark 11:23 Jesus calls this form of prayer saying the word of faith: "Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou taken up and cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he saith cometh to pass; he shall have it." This is neither plaintive pleading nor simply reminding God of His promises. This is the word of our testimony. This is the word of our declaration. This is the prayer of authority -- the prayer of one who knows that he is a son of God, that he is joined to Christ, and that he is seated with Christ in the place of rule and authority and power, even in heavenly places. Such prayer is creative, for it "causes things to happen." God is waiting for believers to trust Him and exercise their rights, privileges, and responsibilities. "All things are possible with God" (Mark 10:27). "All things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23).
Many experiences could be cited concerning methods used in present-day cases. But rather than cite examples, it seems to us that the Holy Spirit should be free to lead in an original manner, that is, not according to any pattern from previous experiences. If given an opportunity, the wonderful, heavenly Holy Spirit will lead each case in detail.
In the first chapter of Genesis God said, "Have dominion" (Gen. 1:24-28). God's original commission to man in his unfallen state when he was pure and innocent included dominion. And even though sin and the Fall occurred, nowhere in the Scriptures do we read that God has changed His mind or revoked this dominionship and authority given to man. It is true that sin, defilement, and separation from God all interrupted and temporarily caused man to be unable to exercise his original commission. Yet now, through redemption and regeneration, man is restored to the image of God and qualified again to exercise power from on high. Christ promised the disciples power after the Holy Ghost was come upon them. Through that power they were to preach the gospel; through that power they were to heal the sick; through that power they were to cast out demons; through that power they were to deliver the oppressed.
Today Satan, the usurper, has robbed us of the proper understanding of God's Word concerning these truths. As a result, we have not exercised the power that belongs to us. But once we know that God's original plan and purpose have been restored again through the Cross of Calvary, and then enter into God's program for us, we will do the very works that Jesus did, for He promised, "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 the Father" (John 14:12).
(Scriptures quotations are taken from the American Standard Version of the Bible, unless otherwise noted.)
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Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. -- Galatians 3:13
9. 1. THE CURSE AND CORRUPTION
The curse of God was first pronounced in the Garden of Eden when God said unto Adam, "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee" (Gen. 3:17-18). Then there are references to the curse right to the very last book of the Bible, where we find these wonderful words: "There shall be no curse anymore" (Rev. 22:3).
The creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:21-23).
9. 2. LIFTING OF THE CURSE
The complete worldwide or, shall we say, universe-wide lifting of the curse will not take place until redemption's full and final consummation after the millennium. Then there will be nothing that defileth; then pain and sorrow will be gone forever; then death and crying will be no more; then stenches, thorns, and stings will all be gone, as well as all fevers, unbearable pains, and wasting disease. Instead of all this, we shall have Christ in His fullness; we shall see Him as He is; we shall begin to enjoy what our Lord has been preparing for us ever since His ascension.
Words fail us whenever we attempt to describe either the happy prospects of the saved, or the awful agony of the damned -- who will have their pain, sickness, disease, weakness, and deformity forever, with no promise of alleviation of their awful sufferings. However, while the Scriptures faithfully set forth God's awful damnation and curse upon unbelievers, they also reveal for believers God's awful curse applied prophetically to Christ our Substitute, for we read:
If a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree; his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him the same day; for he that is hanged is accursed of God (Deut. 21:22-23).
That this is a prophetic word concerning Christ becoming a curse for us is made plain by the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:13, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." Thus, for all who will put their trust in Christ, there is eternal hope.
9. 3. APPLICATION OF THE CROSS TO THE CURSE
Yet this redemption from the curse by Christ's becoming a curse for us is not only to be relegated to the final future consummation. Paul, in the very next verse of Galatians 3, connects our redemption from the curse with our receiving of the Holy Spirit, saying, "that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (v. 14). Therefore, while we know that the fullness of our redemption (including the final, complete, creation-wide, permanent lifting of the curse from the whole creation) remains for the end time, nevertheless, wherever we apply the Cross to our present personal situations, we can by faith see the curse lifted in this present dispensation.
A clear application of the Cross to the curse is to be seen in the history of Israel just after their deliverance from the power of Pharaoh. Having crossed the Red Sea, they went three days' journey into the wilderness without water and then came to Marah. All were overjoyed to find the one thing they all wanted -- water -- so no doubt many drank hurriedly. But alas! The water was bitter, unpalatable, and unfit for use.
The scientific cause of the extreme bitterness or saltiness would be the continual evaporation; however, the disproportion which we find everywhere between the evaporation and the water that pours in is the result of the curse. And so, the bitterness of the water to the children of Israel was really caused by the curse on all creation because of Adam's sin.
9. 4. CURSE IS THE CUASE OF SICKNESS
The curse is also the cause of sickness and disease, for in this situation at Marah, sickness, bitterness, and disobedience are linked together (Ex. 15:25-26). But God showed the remedy. After the drinking of Marah's bitter waters, there was much crying out against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?" As usual, Moses cried unto the Lord, and He "showed him a tree, and he cast it into the waters, and the waters were made sweet" (Ex. 15:25).
The tree that the Lord showed to Moses was a type of the Cross. In the Old Testament the Cross is always called a tree. It is also called a tree in the Acts and in the writings of Peter and Paul. Applied to the bitter waters of Marah, the tree lifted the curse, and the waters were made sweet. This miracle symbolized the lifting of the curse because of Christ's having been made a curse for us by hanging on a tree. It was nothing with God that historically Calvary did not exist at the time of the miracle (c. 1491 b.c.), for He is from eternity to eternity, and the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world. Moreover, the efficacy of Christ's atonement reaches not only backward but also forward, even to us who live in the dispensation after Calvary. Every mercy and blessing we receive today, as well as all the blessings those who lived in the old dispensation received, comes on the ground of redemption. They looked forward to the Cross; we look backward. Thus through faith in the atonement, we all receive the blessing God longs to bestow upon us.
In the concluding two verses of the passage in Exodus 15, notice that the Lord connects the curse with one of the three main results of the Fall -- namely, sickness, and thereby He applies the Cross to our personal experiences wherever there is a real need.
At Marah, then, Moses cast the tree into the waters, and they were made sweet.
There he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them; and he said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of Jehovah thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his eyes, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon thee, which I have put upon the Egyptians; for I am Jehovah that healeth thee (Ex. 15:25-26).
9. 5. RETURN TO OBEDIENCE
The great scholar Adam Clarke, in his commentaries, writes that God often in Scripture is represented as doing what He merely permits to be done. In certain cases He does indeed put diseases on certain people because of disobedience, as in the case of Miriam in Numbers 12:10-11 and of Gehazi in 2 Kings 5:27.
If sickness is experienced by people who do not walk in His ways, they can return to obedience and faith and be healed according to the great and faithful promises found in the Scriptures. God is not the author of sickness. However, sickness is something that our heavenly Father "suffers" or "permits" in this fallen world. God goes on to say, "I am Jehovah that healeth thee." All healing, then, is on the basis of the Cross; and so, if today we will apply the Cross (and all that is included in Christ's so great redemption), we too will find that the results are the same as in the case of the Israelites.
9. 6. HEALING IN THE PRESENT SITUATION
What then does it mean to apply the Cross to a present situation? It means that it is not enough to believe in the Cross in an abstract way. The Cross has to become personal and practical. This is true, we know, in the first crisis of our salvation; for before the Lord could justify and regenerate us, there had to be personal repentance and faith. Even so, in our present situations, though we find within us inner conflict and much that just will not obey God, yet if we will accept the Cross in its deepest meaning of death to self, and death to all that is contrary to God's will, then we will find that by His grace we can obey God in everything (Rom. 8:1-4). Truly we will then be able to ask in faith for healing or for any other promised gift.
To see exactly what God has promised in the matter of healing, it is important to give ourselves to the study of God's Word. For instance, in Proverbs 4:20-22, note the progression: "My son, attend unto my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thy heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh." Many rob themselves of blessing by spiritualizing the promises of God.
It is not possible to spiritualize this particular passage because it says specifically that God's Word is health to all their flesh. In these verses notice God's fourfold emphatic command to keep relying on the Word: "Attend unto my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thy heart." It is not enough to read the Word once; we must meditate on it and keep the Word active in our minds and hearts. Moreover, this passage also explains why many good people are not healed -- they simply have not found the word of healing. Even as many attend church for years without finding the word of salvation, and many Christians, justified for years, have not yet found the word of sanctification, so it is in the matter of healing. Comparatively few people have found the word of healing. Yet Proverbs 4 is saying that the Word of God is life to those that find it and health to all their flesh. It is absolutely necessary to base our faith for healing on the Word. Jesus said, "My words are spirit and they are life."
When Christ was here in the days of His flesh, He healed all who needed healing, all that came to Him, and all that were brought to Him. Peter said, "Jesus ... went about ... healing all that were oppressed of the devil" (Acts 10:38). And Jesus Christ is the "same yesterday, and today, yea and forever" (Heb. 13:8). If it was God's will to heal all then, we believe it is His will to heal all who come to Him today. He is the same and always will be the same. He has not changed. It is always God's will to heal, to save, to sanctify.
9. 7. CHRIST HEALS ON THE BASIS OF HIS DEATH
According to Isaiah 53, when Christ heals, it is on the basis of His death. There on the Cross He paid the price not for our sins only but also for our sicknesses and infirmities. Yet the prophet Isaiah may well ask again today, "Who hath believed our message? and to whom hath the arm of Jehovah been revealed?" (Isa. 53:1). Even as many who heard Jesus and saw His works when He was on earth would not believe on Him, so it is today. Many who believe He can save from sin do not believe He can save from sickness. Thus they limit Christ and preach another Christ. The true gospel is this: On the Cross Christ met all our needs, including the healing of sicknesses -- "Surely he hath borne our griefs [Heb., our sicknesses], and carried our sorrows" (Isa. 53:4). Verse 5 goes on to say, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5).
Just as we are all saved potentially because of Christ's redemption, so we are all healed potentially through Christ's great sacrifice on Calvary. But it remains for us to appropriate healing, as we have appropriated the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Healing is mentioned specifically in Isaiah 53, even though the words in this passage are often spiritualized. But Matthew 8 quotes this passage and makes very plain that healing applies to physical sicknesses as well as spiritual: "They brought unto him many possessed with demons: and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases" (Matt. 8:16-17).
Some say this cannot refer to the Cross, for Christ was not yet crucified; but we have already referred to the fact that the Lamb was slain "from the foundation of the world," and that every blessing that saints in the Old and New Testaments enjoy is on the basis of the Cross (whether healing, or salvation, or sanctification, or power for service). Christ took to the Cross our sins and also our sicknesses. On the Cross every single claim against the body (as well as against the soul) was met. There our Lord Jesus Christ lifted the curse. And so it is up to us to appropriate by faith the blessing that is ours on the basis of His so great atonement.
Upon hearing this truth proclaimed, some people object by saying, "If this were true, then a Christian would never have to die." True. Jesus himself said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my word, he shall never see death" (John 8:51). To Martha He said, "Whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die" (John 11:26). A Christian does not die like a sinner. Death has lost its power. For the Christian, it is not death; it is life, a gateway through which he enters into a higher life. The apostle Paul calls this experience "falling asleep." God leaves us on earth to complete our time of service and probation; but when probation is finished, He takes the Christian home to himself. He who gave us life at the first can just as easily take away our breath without a wasting disease.
Christ's death on the Cross and its application in our own experience is but the negative side of Christ's redemption -- that is, a death to all sin and sickness and selfishness. But there is also a positive side plainly set forth in Romans 5: "If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10). To the sinner the most important thing is the death of Christ (which is the basis of his justification); to the Christian the most important thing is the life of Christ. This is explained in Romans 8: "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom. 8:11). The Spirit of God within a Christian wants to quicken him not only spiritually but also physically, and so the Word says that He quickens even the mortal body. Therefore we must trust the indwelling Spirit to manifest himself not only in our hearts and spirits but also in our bodies. This quickening power of the Holy Spirit will supersede the claims of sickness or infirmity.
9. 8. THE LAW OF GRAVITY AND THE LAW OF VITALITY: GOD'S WILL IS TO HEAL
Because of the law of gravity, a man's hand naturally hangs down; but within us is a law, the law of vitality, that can take precedence over the law of gravity. Through the law of vitality a man can raise his hand upward and hold it toward heaven. Similarly, the natural tendency of the human body is toward sickness. But it is possible to introduce a new law, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," which is able to make us free from the law of sin and of death.
It is clear, then, that it is God's will to heal. Healing, however, is only a small part of what we have in the atonement. Christ met our every need on the Cross. Every claim that stood against us was met there in His body as He was crucified as our Substitute and Representative. To supply in a positive way all the power we need (not only to get well but to remain well in body as well as in soul and in spirit), we also have within us the quickening power of Christ's own blessed Spirit through union with our risen Lord. God longs to bestow this great blessing in times of sickness.
To help us still more in the receiving of this blessing of healing, God has condescended to our limited capacity of receiving spiritual truth and instituted the ordinance of anointing with oil for healing. Let us study in detail the ordinance of this anointing with oil.
God says, "Is any among you suffering? let him pray" (James 5:13). This does not refer to sickness but either to chastening of some kind or to persecution. The provision then is prayer, either prayer that we learn our lesson quickly or prayer that we may receive grace to bear persecution and suffering. But the next verse sets forth the provision in case of sickness:
Is anyone among you sick? let him call for the elders of the church: and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him. Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working (James 5:14-16).
9. 9. TO LAY HOLD OF HEALING
To help us lay hold of healing, God has given us something to do -- call for the elders, for in this way we can act out our faith. God has also given us something we can see -- oil. This is not the first time that God gave a material sign (anointing with oil) to indicate a spiritual blessing. He did the very same to the Old Testament believers in the case of circumcision and of the different offerings, etc.; in the New Covenant we have the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Thus God meets us on the level of our present experience. Because we are comprised of material elements, as well as spiritual, He uses material elements as a sign of invisible, spiritual elements.
The anointing with oil is freighted with deep meaning. As with most symbols it has a twofold significance -- manward and Godward. On the manward side, oil is a symbol of consecration; on the Godward side, oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. You will remember that when the tabernacle and the temple were completed, each part (whether the altar, the furniture, the vessels, or the tabernacle itself) was anointed with oil to signify that these were dedicated to God -- set apart for holy use. Even so, on the manward side, the anointing of oil indicates that the sick one is to dedicate himself entirely to God as expressed in Romans 12:1,
I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.
We are to yield ourselves to God unconditionally. Then God manifests himself. When all sin is confessed and abandoned and washed away in the precious cleansing blood, and when we are fully surrendered to God, God's hand is stretched out to meet our hand of faith with the great gift of healing. This is the Godward side -- the Spirit of Jesus Christ himself coming upon the Christian to perform the needed work of healing. When there is a proper meeting of God's supply and man's faith, healing is always the result.
Notice that the sick one is to call for the elders of the church. This is an expression of the sick one's faith. As they anoint with oil in obedience to God's Word, God honors the faith both of the elders and the sick one. Then, when this is done, according to the Word God will raise him up. What a wonderful provision for sickness -- all because of Calvary! How it must grieve God's heart that in a time of sickness so few take advantage of it!
Let us then put our trust in God's Word, for God will not fail to fulfill the promises He has given us himself -- such as: "I am Jehovah that healeth thee" (Ex. 15:26); "With his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5); "Himself took our infirmities and bare our diseases" (Matt. 8:17); "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; Who healeth all thy diseases" (Psa. 103:3). Man is prone to invent other ways, but God's way is the best way -- placing our faith in Him who in His death has met our every need.
O Jehovah my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. -- Psalm 30:2
9. 10. "I AM JEHOVAH THAT HEALETH THEE"
"I am Jehovah that healeth thee" is a precious word, showing us not only that God is able to heal and does heal, but also that our God is a healing God -- that is, it is His very nature to heal. Yet today, though the Scriptures are filled with many promises of healing for God's children, there seems to be an organized resistance to the truth of divine healing. Though there are individuals and whole groups of people who agree to believe God's Word, yet more often, perhaps, whole groups disbelieve and explain away the promises of God. It was so in Christ's day. Thus the Gospels record collective faith and unbelief (as well as individual faith and unbelief) and also the result of each. For instance, the men of Gennesaret "besought [Jesus] that they might only touch the border of his garment: and as many as touched were made whole" (Matt. 14:36). But in Nazareth "he could ... do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief" (Mark 6:5-6).
9. 11. THE HEALING PROMISES OF GOD
Let us repeat some of the blessed promises of healing for the body which we have already considered in greater detail.
- Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; Who healeth all thy diseases (Psa. 103:3).
- My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thy heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh (Prov. 4:20-22).
- Surely he hath borne our griefs [Heb., sicknesses], and carried our sorrows; ... But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (Isa. 53:4-5).
- Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases (Matt. 8:17).
- The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life (John 6:63).
- To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
- Is any among you sick? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him (James 5:14-15).
9. 12. IT IS GOD'S NATURE TO HEAL; ARE WE READY TO RECEIVE?
As has been stated already, it is God's nature to heal, so that we do not have to change God's mind by much praying; rather we must by faith get into the right relationship with Him, and thus receive the healing grace that is always proceeding from Him to all who are in the right condition to receive it. Much of our praying is on the level of pleading -- of trying to convince an unwilling God to do what we think ought to be done. But that is all wrong. God has made some very plain promises which He always keeps. If we will but believe, we will receive. It is up to us to return to obedience and the proper application of the Cross to our inward life, so that what blessing our Father longs to give we may receive. We are not able to do so if unbelief or disobedience or any other sin is allowed to get between us and God. The sun, for instance, is continually giving out its rays of blessing; but if we let something obscure the sun's rays, we shall soon experience both coldness and darkness. So it is with the blessing flowing from God.
That many Christians do not get healed is very true, even as it is also true that many sinners do not get saved. But yet a Christian who does not get through to God for healing no more disproves the fact of healing than does the sinner who remains unsaved disprove the fact of salvation. Our unbelief (or shall I say our unwillingness to believe) limits the work that Christ longs to perform in us. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and He longs to cleanse the temple from sickness, as well as the soul from sin.
9. 13. HEALING NOT A NECESSITY FOR SALVATION
But healing of a weakened body, though a privilege for every believer, is not a necessity for salvation. To understand this, recall that the Fall resulted in a threefold loss for man: first and most important of the three, he lost the image of God (heart holiness); second, his mind became impaired; third, his body became weakened. Ultimately, those who are in Christ will be restored fully, but at present a Christian can be saved without full restoration -- that is, he can be saved and still have an impaired mind and a weakened body. But notice that he cannot be saved without a restoration of his first loss -- heart holiness, for a heart change is a moral issue and most essential. Thus, to be a child of God, his sins must be forgiven, and his spirit and soul must be cleansed by Christ's blood while he is on earth.
But the Word of God adds that it is possible (though not a necessity) for man's mind to be awakened, enlightened, and renewed here and now so that he may "prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2). Like the restoration of the mind is the restoration of a weakened body. Though a man cannot go to heaven with an impure heart, he may go to heaven with an impaired mind and a sick body. However, since God has promised and provided so much for both the mind and the body, why should we be satisfied with so little? Most of us live far below our privileges. For the redeemed soul, God has blessings and gifts that go far beyond the initial crisis of justification. Through the reading and rereading of His promises, we can and ought to become "strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that [we] may be filled unto all the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:18-19).
Consider the example of the woman with the issue of blood. She had been sick for twelve years, had spent all she had in trying to get well but "was nothing bettered but rather grew worse." Then she heard of the Lord and of what He was able to do. In her heart she believed: "If I do but touch his garment, I shall be made whole." Then one day Jesus came by, and she had her first opportunity to touch Him. With all the strength that her weakened condition afforded, she pressed through the crowd to "touch the border of his garment." Immediately she was healed (Matt. 9:20-22; Luke 8:43-48). Jesus, knowing at once that power had gone out from Him, asked, "Who touched me?" Admitting it was she, the woman gave the reason for her touch of faith and then testified that she had been healed instantly. Jesus replied, "Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace."
At that time Jesus was surrounded by souls who were blind to the possibilities of grace that this sick woman saw. All enjoyed the blessing of Christ's nearness (and other privileges that came from close fellowship with Christ). All of them often witnessed His healing acts. But she alone experienced the healing power of His presence, for by faith she knew "if I but touch Him, even the border of His garment, I shall be made whole." Today the Lord is longing for others to touch Him with this hand of faith, yes, touch no more than the border of His garment and thereby receive virtue (power) and His healing, delivering, and sanctifying grace. He is more than enough to meet the needs not only of soul and spirit but also of the body. Christ is the source of unlimited power.
9. 14. ELEMENTARY AND ADVANCED FAITH
Now Scripture precept as well as example seems to teach that there is both elementary and advanced faith. The faith needed to obtain the forgiveness of sins and eternal life is comparatively elementary, and is only the first step into the Christian life. Next, a saved man is faced with a new crisis -- full surrender and faith in God for sanctification -- which is necessary for justification. But it seems that faith for healing is still more difficult, especially at a time when the Church as a whole is so reluctant to accept the teaching of the Scriptures in this matter. One who seeks healing must almost he a trailblazer, fighting his or her way through the crowd of those who do not believe that it is God's will today to heal the sick. It is not easy to take the step of faith for healing under these circumstances. Yet whenever the conditions are fulfilled, healing is lifted out of the realm of the impossible and made a blessed reality.
9. 15. SEVEN CONDITIONS FOR HEALING
It would be good now to consider, one by one, seven conditions for healing. First and most important is a clean heart.
- In 1 John 3:21 we read, "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward God; and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight." Unless we have a clean heart, we will never have the boldness to step out in faith for healing. Because a doubleminded man is unstable in all his ways, there is an absolute necessity of full yielding to Christ and of positive faith in His blood to cleanse from all sin. For this reason, the act of healing must usually be preceded by much teaching, and the ministry of healing must include not only instruction and encouragement to receive Christ's supply but the preparation of heart for this act of faith. The first step toward healing, therefore, is heart-searching with its consequent cleansing. (Cleansing always follows when sin is confessed and abandoned, and faith in the blood of Christ is exercised.)
- Secondly, we need to encourage faith by feeding on God's Word. We ought to read and reread the words of God about healing and then feed on them literally, for as we allow the Word about healing to be planted in our minds and hearts, it creates faith. Here are four such passages to strengthen our faith:
I say unto you, "All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mark 11:24). Jesus said unto him, "If thou canst, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23). This is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we have asked of him (1 John 5:14-15). Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and will show thee great things, and difficult, which thou knowest not (Jer. 33:3). (See also Romans l0:17).
People often give premature declarations of faith which result in nothing but embarrassment. To avoid this and to let faith come to maturity, we must feed on God's Word until we are fully assured that what God has promised He is not only able to perform but will perform. Remember at Jericho how the Israelites under Joshua's leadership demonstrated that they believed God's promise by walking around Jericho's walls six days, and then on the seventh day, seven more times. But it was not until the seventh time around on the seventh day that faith reached such a level that they could declare the word of faith.
At the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for Jehovah hath given you the city. So the people shouted ... with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city (Josh. 6:16, 20).
- Thirdly, another condition for healing is definiteness in prayer. For instance, the blind beggar at Jericho, on hearing that Jesus was passing by, began to cry for mercy. He made such a disturbance that those around him felt that they had to rebuke him, and they did. But he cried louder than ever, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me." Then Jesus sent word to have him brought to Him, and when he came near, He asked him, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" He answered, "Lord, that I may receive my sight." (From this account we know that it is not enough to cry for mercy. Jesus is not satisfied with a general plea but looks for a specific request.) Jesus replied, "Receive thy sight; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God" (Luke 18:35-43).
When we seek God for healing, we must be definite. This is no time for general prayer; we should state our particular need. Moreover, it must also be settled in our mind that it is God's will to heal, so that after we have made the petition, we do not add the words, "if it be Thy will." God says, "This is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him" (1 John 5:14-15). We should first find out the will of God and then ask accordingly. Several Scriptures make it perfectly clear to us that it is God's will to heal. We would do well to reread Scripture passages on healing, for because of sectarian prejudices, many minds are closed to the teaching of healing.
- Fourthly, after we are definite in our prayer, we must be just as definite in our expectation from God. Some people once went to church to pray for rain and afterward were taunted by an unbeliever with, "If you had really believed that God would answer, you would have taken your umbrellas along."
There are, then, two classes of unbelievers -- those who manifestly do not believe God will keep His promises, and those who profess but do not actually believe. The blind beggar of Acts 3 was so impressed with Peter and John and the faith they radiated that he expected to receive something from them. Peter said,
Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that I give thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. And he [Peter] took him by the right hand and raised him up: and immediately his feet and his ankle-bones received strength. And leaping up, he stood, and began to walk; and he entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping, and praising God.
- Fifthly, it is not enough to be definite in our request; we must be just as definite in accepting the answer to our prayer and in acting upon that answer. Solomon says, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven" (Eccles. 3:1). So it is with healing. There is a time to ask, and there is a time to receive. At Ai, Joshua was disheartened at his defeat and fell on his face before God in prayer, but God had to say to him, "Get thee up; wherefore art thou fallen upon thy face?" (Josh. 7:10). This was a time for action and not prayer, even though there is a time for prayer.
We seldom come to faith in an instant of time. There seem to be three stages of faith: the labor of faith, the fight of faith, and the rest of faith (Heb. 4:10-11; 1 Tim. 6:12). First, there may need to be some labor of faith, a continuing to pray until we have assurance. This is not easy, but finally after we have "prayed through," we receive assurance of the answer. Then comes the fight of faith. The devil will do everything he possibly can to cause us to leave our position of faith. For this reason Paul told Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith. If we stand our ground against the devil's lies and our own misgivings, sooner or later we shall enter into the third and final stage of faith -- the rest of faith -- or full-grown faith where one has ceased from his own works and is relying fully on God to do what He has promised. At this stage of faith one looks for encouragement to God alone, not to an improved condition nor to the experiences of others.
- Sixthly, for healing of the body we need to stand our ground. The devil will come a thousand times and tell us, "That's not so! God does not mean what He says! God doesn't mean that word for you anyway!" Or, if we have been definitely healed past all argument, the devil will say, "Oh yes, you were healed, but you are no longer healed. Don't you see that the disease has returned?" Through a failure to stand, many have lost the blessing of healing. Thus we must be prepared to be tested and rest ourselves upon the Word of God, for God will never fail.
- Seventhly, we must be willing to act out our faith. James says, "As the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead" (James 2:26). Jesus told the man with the withered hand, "Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, as the other" (Matt. 12:13). God will always give us ample opportunity to act out our faith, and here we must not fail.
Finally, if we have fulfilled all these conditions for healing, then we will be ready to do as God commands us in James 5:14-15: to call for the elders, to let them pray over us and anoint us with oil in the name of the Lord. After obedience to this word, we can rest in the assurance that God has done the work, regardless of symptoms or circumstances. From this time forth, every thought and act about our condition must be positive, based upon the sure and unfailing promises of God.
9. 16. SHOULD DOCTORS BE USED?
Many ask, "Should means be used (such as doctors, medicines, hospitals, etc.)?" Some believe it is lack of faith or an entire denial of the Lord. Now the Bible does not say, "Call the doctor when you are sick." God says, "Call for the elders" (James 5:14-15). But it does not say that we should not call the doctor. And so, the first thing to do is to seek God's direct help and to be open to any leading the Lord may give. He knows our hearts and the quality of our faith, and He will lead.
Sickness, as well as sin, we believe, is from the devil. Sickness came in through the Fall, so in order to eliminate it, any God-given means is legitimate. We should do anything the Lord leads us to do. Many of our diseases are the result of wrong habits of hygiene (lack of rest, improper food, insufficient exercise), and therefore it may be necessary to consult one who has the proper training and experience and who is qualified to give competent advice. Thus the Lord may lead us to consult a doctor or to take medicine. Doctors are doing much to remove sickness and we should thank God for them, especially for the many Christian doctors who so unselfishly give their time to fight sickness and disease wherever it is found.
Yet we must be consistent here, for if we say that sickness comes from God, why should we try to remove it through medical treatment? If it is from God, it should be endured. The truth is that sickness is not from God but from the devil, and we should not allow the devil's work to continue in the body, but by all means try to get rid of it. In any case, remember that doctors can treat, but only God can heal. Direct healing without the use of any means does give God more glory. If only we will believe, this path is open to each one of us.
9. 17. BEGIN WITH PRAYER
In seeking to be healed, we should begin with prayer and end with praise. In Philippians 4:6-7 we read, "In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus."
In the matter of faith, Abraham, the father of all them who believe, is a good example for us. In Romans 4, note Abraham's four steps of faith, showing us exactly how we can let our faith grow.
In hope he believed against hope, to the end that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, So shall thy seed be. And without being weakened in faith, he (1) considered his own body now as good as dead (he being a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb; yet, (2) looking unto the promise of God, (3) he wavered not through unbelief, but (4) waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what he had promised, he was able also to perform (Rom. 4:18-21).
- When Abraham took inventory of his and Sarah's natural resources, the results were not encouraging; yet they did not weaken his faith. Likewise, we too in case of sickness must not deny or minimize, but admit our condition; and
- as Abraham turned his eyes from this hopeless condition to the promises of God, so we must look to God's Word of promise.
- Abraham's faith grew strong because he wavered not -- that is, he did not look back and forth.
Abraham had done much wavering in his earlier days, but now he had learned his lesson. He now believed and for many years kept on believing God's word before he saw its fulfillment. Even so, we too must not waver by looking away from our sickness to a promise of God and then back again to the sickness. Such wavering weakens faith. Too often when we first look at the Word of God, then at what others say, and our own condition and symptoms, we fail to recognize that God's promises are more sure than our symptoms. All these things that cause us to waver in unbelief must be confessed and cleansed away in the blood of Christ.
- The result of Abraham's "wavering not" was that he "waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God." Keeping his eyes fixed on the promise, he became fully assured "that what he had promised, he was able also to perform," even though it was absolutely impossible from a natural point of view. If like Abraham we keep our eyes on the Word of God -- knowing that the Word is backed up by the very character of God -- we too will have a faith that can expect and receive. We, too, like Abraham, will have cause to give glory to God in praise and thanksgiving. We will thank God for His gift of healing, and will continue day by day to praise Him for His wonderful goodness to us.
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The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Psalm 51:17
10. 1. FORGIVENESS IS NOT THE END OF ALL GOD'S WORKING
hough King David, the psalmist, had sinned grievously, yet he sought and obtained the forgiveness of his sins. "Jehovah is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as are of a contrite spirit" (Psa. 34:18).
Yet forgiveness was not the end of all God's working. David now prayed to God for a deeper work of grace:
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part thou will make me to know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psa. 51:6, 7, 10).
David wanted that which is a blessed possibility for every Christian -- a clean heart (entire sanctification). This is a definite crisis experience and not merely a matter of growth in grace. In the biographies of the saints, this experience has been testified to down through the years. Though different terminologies are used, all are in agreement regarding a definite point of time in which this experience takes place. And today, even those who may have very different ideas of sanctification, as far as the method of realization is concerned, are found together praying for the very same things -- a clean heart and power in service.
10. 2. A CLEAN HEART IS NOT THE END BUT ONLY THE BEGINNING
But important though the crisis of entire sanctification is, it is not enough. A clean heart is not the end but only the beginning. The experience of sanctification can be lost, and one can fall from grace (Gal. 5:4). Thus, after the initial cleansing of the heart, there is a holy life to be lived. As we have been pointing out, man first needs illumination regarding the fact of the Cross, then a faith experience of the Cross, but this in turn must be followed by the spirit of the Cross -- the lamblike spirit of Christ. The initial knowledge of the Cross and the experience of the Cross must be followed by the spirit of the Cross, for the Cross is not only the gateway to our entire sanctification but also the principle of our daily life. We need to know this application of the Cross, which is best explained by one word -- brokenness.
On this subject there is very little teaching. Few seem to know that even repentance is not an act performed but an attitude to be maintained in the Christian's life -- an attitude called brokenness. This lack is the reason that in holiness circles so many come forward again and again. At the time of special meetings some of the same seekers are at the altar every year. The fact is that though we Christians be ever so holy, our experience of sanctification may be lost if we are unbroken. God has told us to humble ourselves, and the only humility acceptable is that of brokenness. The only life consistent with the experience we profess is a life of brokenness where the old retaliation is gone forever, and where we live in utter humility, in absolute dependence on Christ and on His blessed Holy Spirit. This is brokenness. There is an ancient Hindu proverb which says, "We can walk on the dust forever, and it will never answer back." The very words humility and human come from the Latin word humus, meaning the black earth on which we walk.
10. 3. ON HUMILITY
Humility is often identified with penitence and contrition, and as a consequence, there appears no way of humility but by keeping the soul occupied with sin. But humility is something else and something more. In the teachings of Jesus and also in the Epistles, humility is mentioned with no reference to sin; in fact, humility is the very essence, not of sinfulness, but of holiness. Humility is the displacement of self and the enthronement of Christ. Humility means Christ is all and self is nothing. It is not merely a succession of humble acts, but the expression of a broken spirit. Thus a spirit of humility, a spirit of brokenness, means no retaliation, no defense. For instance, notice the nature or spirit that Christ claimed in Psalm 22:6, "I am a worm, and no man." Thus when reviled, he reviled not again. Though beaten, mocked, and spat upon, yet "he opened not his mouth," for a worm never raises its head and hisses at anyone -- a snake always does. A worm, though somewhat like a snake in its appearance, is entirely different in nature. Do what you please to a worm, it never fights back.
The apostle Paul speaks of humanity as fragile earthenware. He says we Christians are but earthen vessels with a treasure within (2 Cor. 4:7-12). But why is Christ, the treasure, put in such a frail vessel? In order to reveal that the power of a Christian's life is of God and not of self. Every breaking of the vessel serves God's purpose to reveal the treasure within. Breaking causes gain, not loss. "Pressed on every side ... perplexed ... pursued ... smitten down" -- all this is designed and planned not for our hurt but for our breaking, that the Son of God, concealed within, may be revealed.
10. 4. BROKENNESS AND GIDEON
A good illustration of the way that brokenness reveals the treasure within is Gideon and his broken pitchers. Each of Gideon's three hundred men was given a trumpet, a pitcher, and a torch within the pitcher. Then they separated into three groups. When they reached the outermost part of the camp, Gideon with his hundred men blew their trumpets and broke their pitchers. The rest of the "army" did likewise. As a result, three hundred men put to rout a hundred and thirty-five thousand of the enemy! Through three hundred, Gideon did what thirty-two thousand swords of his original army could not do.
Today we have been blowing our trumpets (preaching the gospel), but we have not been letting our frail earthen vessels be broken; consequently our preaching and testimony have not been "in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance" (1 Thess. 1:5). We may be wholly following the indwelling Christ just as Gideon's men followed their leader, but by refusing to break and by refusing the Cross of sacrifice, we are limiting our God. Christ is not seen. To have Gideon's success, we must follow in Christ's footsteps wholly -- blowing our trumpets and also breaking our pitchers. Only then will light be released to break forth and shine out unhindered.
10. 5. TO REVEAL JESUS WE MUST BREAK
The treasure dwelling within us is Christ. In Him there is not the slightest lack in purity or in power. In Him we too have all things. He longs not only to fill our own lives with His gracious Spirit but to overflow through us. But our hard shell of unbroken humanity holds back this flow of life. The reason that Christ is not seen very much today is that we are not broken. If therefore we expect to reveal Christ, we must break. He must have broken vessels.
When the widow broke the seal of the little pot of oil and poured it forth, then God multiplied it to pay her debts. Mary broke her beautiful alabaster box (rendering it henceforth useless), but the pent-up perfume filled the house. Jesus took the five loaves and broke them, and the bread multiplied sufficiently to feed five thousand. Jesus allowed His precious body to be broken by thorns, and nails, and spear, so that His inner life might be poured out for thirsty sinners to drink. The seal of Christ's tomb was broken to give the world for all time the witness of Christ's resurrection. A grain of wheat is broken up in the earth by death. God must have broken vessels. Unbrokenness hides our treasure, the Lord Jesus Christ; only brokenness will reveal Him.
10. 6. PETER'S BROKENNESS
At the beginning of his career as a disciple of Christ, impulsive, inconsiderate Peter was certainly hard and unbroken. More than once the Lord had to reprove him. But after his experience of Pentecost, as well as after his experience of trials, sufferings, and persecutions, we see a new Peter. He had not only undergone a crisis experience, which changed the very center of his being, but even that crisis experience had been tested and tried in the furnace of trials and suffering. Peter was now a subdued and tempered soul. Because of this, Peter could be used to write letters of comfort to a severely persecuted church. For such a commission the "old" Peter would have been absolutely unqualified. A study of Peter's Epistles indicates that he had learned well and had experienced the very teachings he himself had received some years before from his Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you" (Matt. 5:11-12).
10. 7. LEARN THE SPIRIT OF HUMILITY
God's way of breaking us is by humiliations that try us and vex us. At each such occasion we choose either to break or to harden. In such cases, if we choose to be broken -- in wealth, in self-will, in ambitions, in worldly reputations, in affections; despised of men and utterly forlorn and worthless -- then the Holy Spirit will take and use us for God's glory.
We must learn this spirit of humility from the Lord Jesus Christ, even as we learned pride from the god of this world. Jesus invites us: "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matt. 11:29). In this same passage we are shown how to learn this humility, for we are offered Christ's yoke. What was this yoke of His? It was His daily consecration to the will of His Father at any cost. This yoke (of the will of the Father) Jesus offers us when He says: "Take my yoke upon you." Before oxen enter the yoke with other oxen, they are first broken. Even so, before we become partners in Christ's yoke, we must first be broken; we must surrender our own will in full deference to the will of God; we must in a crisis die out to our own way, and then learn from Christ the way of the Holy Spirit's lordship. The yoke of Christ is easy, but "the way of the transgressor is hard."
10. 8. BROKENNESS AND THE PRINCIPLE OF SUBMISSION
Brokenness is the only antidote to the recurring sin problem. Confessing sins does not get at the root of the matter. Just as in weeding a garden we dig out the root as well as pull off the top of the weed, so the root of self-will must be slain in the crisis of entire sanctification. After that, it must not be allowed to revive. A definite altar experience must be followed by brokenness of spirit. This will mean no plans of our own, no money of our own, no time of our own. We are as yielded to God as we are to others. A principle that is often overlooked is this: "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen" (1 John 4:20). So also, if in obedience to the Word of God we are not submitted to those over us in the Lord in our different relationships here on earth, then it is a definite indication that we are not submitted to God.
This principle of submission seems hard and unfair only to the unsanctified, to the unbroken. To those who have entered in to this daily aspect of the Cross, which we call brokenness, it is the way of blessing. Some ignore the wonderful principle of submission; some resent this part of God's revelation; some even try to laugh off their responsibility. However, the Bible is unmistakably plain in its teaching on this subject. All are to submit to God. Wives are to submit to their husbands, children to parents, younger to the elder, rulers to those over them in the Lord, etc. The "broken in spirit" neither evade, nor avoid, nor rebel against the principle of submission. On the contrary, they find submission a plain and smooth path, with the light of God's Word as their Presence (as well as their direction and protection).
When we are truly broken, time is not needed to plan right reactions, for when we are touched by circumstances of this life, it is possible to react correctly and in love every time. But so often we must apologize for words spoken on the spur of the moment. This simply reveals a hasty, unbroken spirit. Someone said, "I don't mind people using me for a door mat and wiping their feet on me, but I wish they wouldn't scrape so long." Such are not words from one with a broken spirit.
10. 9. TO BREAK IS GOD'S WORK AND OURS
To break is both God's work and ours. When He brings pressures to bear, we really have three choices: to rebel and resist; to despond; to break. When we break, Christ is revealed. It is easy to say, "I surrender all" during our quiet time or in a public meeting, but to follow through and "walk out" such a decision is another thing. It is surrender and consecration in action. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service" (Rom. 12:1). Brokenness is the way of divine love, the only way of living "unto all pleasing." This is the way of real holiness and power. Such is the daily application of the Cross -- brokenness.
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11. TEACH US TO PRAY!
11.1. JESUS' WONDERFUL WORKS AND PRAYER LIFE
The disciples had been privileged to witness the wonderful works of Jesus Christ. In fact, it was amazement upon amazement, wonder upon wonder, as they saw the deaf hear, the blind see, the leper cleansed, the sick healed, and the demon-possessed delivered. Daily their Master was indeed performing acts far above what they could even ask or think. No doubt they discussed this by themselves time after time, especially when they were alone. When the light came, they saw the connection between His wonderful works and His prayer life, for again and again when they had noticed Him missing early in the morning, they later found Him out in the hills or in a grove where He could be alone with His Father in prayer. "Looking unto Jesus" in His prayer life caused a desire to spring up in their hearts to be like Him and to learn from Him the secret of prayer.
11. 2. LOOKING UNTO JESUS
"Looking unto Jesus" produces the same desire in us: Lord, teach us to pray. In many of the people of God is that longing to know the secret of a better prayer life which will be richer, longer, and more alive. Very few are really satisfied with their praying. Almost all Christians will admit that their life of prayer is not what it ought to be. This is not because they do not know the power of prayer or the philosophy of prayer. It is simply that they have not been taught to pray.
The disciples in this text did not ask how to pray or what to pray. Their request was that they be taught to pray. They wanted Jesus to help them use the knowledge that they already had to get started in a life of prayer like His. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had given some very practical lessons on prayer. They were longing to put these into practice; but found, as we do too, that they needed real help before their desire had become practice.
This essay, therefore, is intended for those who, though they have learned much of the philosophy of prayer and find the desire for a more satisfactory prayer life increasing, yet experience difficulty in the engagement of prayer itself. Too often they find praise or petition to be mere repetition, with little real life. Yet they bravely carry on, hoping that someday the secret may be learned and the prayer life revolutionized.
11. 3. EQUIPMENT FOR PRAYER -- QUIETNESS
Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, "Nothing is so costly to us as that which we purchase by prayer." Seneca may have known little of the real grace of God, but he did know something about prayer. We may as well realize at the beginning that a prayer life will cost us something. Even the equipment for prayer, while simple enough, takes a good measure of discipline. According to McIntyre, three things are necessary: a quiet place, a quiet hour, and a quiet heart. (He presupposes, of course, that he is speaking to one who, having been lost, has found his Savior.)
- A Quiet Place. We need a place where we can be alone, and where we can pray aloud. A prayer warrior will not confine his prayers to his prayer closet; many times during the day he will lift his heart in quiet prayer to God, perhaps also praying in the company of others. But there must also be someplace where he can retire to be alone with God, where he can pray either silently or aloud, where he may weep or rejoice, where he may be completely free. He longs for the time when he can be all alone with God, where the door can be shut and he can pray "in secret."
A quiet place may be difficult to find. Our house may be crowded -- like the carpenter's cottage at Nazareth, where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus' brothers and sisters all lived. The only room Jesus could have to himself would be the closet. This little room, with the latch on the inside, was His "secret place" with His Father. Or, as in so many Jewish homes, was there an upper room where Jesus retired to be alone with God? Well, there is always someplace where we may be alone; and although it may not be ideally equipped, the "Lord knoweth" and will help us find a place where daily, or several times a day, we can meet with Him.
- A Quiet Hour. Just as important as a quiet place is a quiet hour, a certain time set aside for prayer. It is not enough to pray when we find time. We must pray at a certain time. We eat at certain times; we know that even before we sit down at the table, our body anticipates the taking of food and thus is prepared to receive nourishment. So it is with the spirit. If a certain time is set apart, the spirit of man will also anticipate it. If our prayer time is not haphazard, it will be easier to get into the spirit of prayer.
The quiet hour may not be exactly sixty minutes -- first it may be less; later it will become much longer. But at first it would be better not to set the standard too high; prayer time will become precious and may be lengthened, but it is best not to try to walk beyond our depth. Begin, therefore, with half an hour, and when that time seems too short, lengthen it to forty-five minutes, or an hour or more. The Lord himself will lead. Guard this time as you would your life, for really, it is our very life. The enemy of our soul will oppose it in every possible way, but it is here we must stand our ground and refuse to yield; we must resist the devil and trust the power of God to cause him to flee.
It appears from the Psalms that David prayed seven times a day. With Daniel it was three times. Solomon's praying, at the beginning at least, was long. Christ prayed whole nights. Luther prayed several hours a day, Bishop Andrews five hours, while John Welsh thought the day ill spent if he did not spend eight to ten hours in prayer. The publican's prayer was short, but it was heard. We are all different (our work, too, is different); so we must guard against patterning our prayer life after some man, but rather trust God to meet us and lead us. And He surely will lead us into a quiet hour with Him.
- A Quiet Heart. Together with a quiet hour and a quiet place, we also need a quiet heart. Luther said that it took him longer to get ready to pray than to pray. The fast pace of today (into which we somehow get swept whether we will or not) means that most of the time it is difficult to have a quiet heart. Without a quiet hour alone with God, it is almost impossible to maintain a quiet heart throughout the day. Even when we do get to the quiet place, thoughts continue to press in upon the mind, so that it is difficult to get ready to hear the still, small Voice. A few suggestions may prove helpful.
To the quiet heart, meditation on the Word of God and full dependence on the Holy Spirit will help. Further meditation on Christ (His life, His works, His words, His suffering, death and resurrection, His sitting on the right hand of God, His coming again) will also help prepare the heart for prayer. This positive way of quieting the heart is better than trying to root out the distracting thoughts by sheer force of discipline. When we fill the mind and the heart with thoughts of Christ, we soon find the quietness, love, and keen anticipation for the engagement of prayer that we have been trying so hard to acquire.
In prayer time, then, we should always have the Bible with us. The Lord may refer to some Scripture that He would want us to search out, or He may give us a special message through His Word. We enlarge our prayer vocabulary through studying the Bible. Moreover, the prayers of men in the Bible should not only be studied carefully but read over and over again, especially the Psalms.
A good hymn book helps to give words to the thoughts of our hearts and our longings for holiness, praise, adoration, thanksgiving, or pleas for pardon. In addition, books on prayer (such as E. M. Bounds' Preacher and Prayer, McIntyre's The Life of Prayer, Andrewes' The Private Devotions of Lancelot Andrewes, and others) are extremely helpful. Some of these will give the philosophy of prayer, and others rich experiences from personal prayer life.
11. 4. THE PRAYER ITSELFThe Prayer Itself
We must remember that in prayer we have an audience with God himself. This should be no time for haphazard rambling, or irreverent patter. Nor must we revert to endless repetition. We are careful to prepare for preaching to a human audience; how much more careful should we prepare for prayer, for then we come into the presence of God himself. We need the help of the Holy Spirit not only to inspire but to instruct us how to pray aright. He will teach us how and what to study, so that by study and observation, together with much practice, we may increase our capacity for prayer. If we are willing to enter the School of Prayer, God will make the time spent with Him rich and worthwhile.
There are at least eight different parts of prayer. If we do not observe these different divisions, our prayer time may be altogether unbalanced or one-sided. The following suggestions have proved helpful to many:
- Reading of Scripture and Meditation. We meditate first so that we give God an opportunity to speak to us as we begin to pray. George Mueller, that great man of prayer, said that before he tried to pray, he always first read the Scriptures. These led him to prayer -- often after meditating on only one verse. As we have already said, the Word should be carefully and prayerfully read in quiet meditation, whether it is selected or consecutive reading. Consecutive reading seems to be preferred; perhaps we should read a selection from both Old and New Testaments. At times, of course, when there is some special need, God may lead us to consider a particular passage. We need to take time to allow God to speak and apply His own Word. There is no substitute for the reading of Scripture, followed by meditation.
- Praise and Adoration. The reading of God's Word, and meditation upon it, creates a desire in the heart to worship the Author of the Word and the Quickener of life within us. In teaching His disciples how to pray, Jesus told them to begin by saying, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come." It is good for us first to remember God, His name, and His kingdom. Since the Fall, the natural tendency is to consider self first, but the Lord wants us to be saved from this. It is not that He is a jealous God, seeking His own honor first of all, but rather that He is jealous over us and is longing for our perfection. He is looking for our salvation from our self-seeking. As we praise and adore Him, our hearts will be lifted up. This is the highest form of prayer, the expression of pure love to God. The Psalms (especially Psalm 145) or a hymn book will be helpful here.
- Thanksgiving. Worship should he followed by thanksgiving, where we give grateful acknowledgment to God for His daily mercies. We may start by giving thanks for each individual gift and blessing; it will do us good to remember them one by one. Then we should go on to thank Him for the so-great gift of salvation, and all that is included in the atonement. There is, however, a deeper step still in expression of appreciation and gratitude, for as we go on with the Lord, we begin to see Him apart from His gifts, so that thanksgiving rises to greater heights where we love, praise, adore, and thank Him, our God and Savior, for himself alone -- not for His gifts, nor for His blessings, but for himself in all His divine perfection.
- Penitence or Confession. It would be well for us to take a period for self-examination (not ceaseless introspection) where we bring everything into the light before God. If we have sinned, we must confess that sin, we must call it by its right name so that we may be cleansed and forgiven. Every failure should also be brought to the light. Whenever everything is laid bare before Him, we receive the pardon that He always gives when confession is made.
- Consecration. In a true sense we consecrate ourselves to God once and for all, and so we do not suggest a reconsecration each day. (If it is necessary to reconsecrate ourselves to God, then we must have withdrawn our surrender, and so repentance will also be necessary.) But we can well commit ourselves afresh to the fulfillment of God's purposes for this particular day, telling God that we intend to obey Him again today, and that if He will but reveal His will, by His grace we will fulfill it.
- Intercession. Here we have the opportunity of joining in with our exalted High Priest Jesus Christ, for He intercedes. The Bible tells us that we are "a royal priesthood." This refers to intercession. A prayer list is helpful, for few of us can trust our memory. There is no work for God on this side of heaven that is more important. Here we have the opportunity of praying for those near at hand or thousands of miles away. We can place our hand on the throne of God and fulfill the necessary conditions so that He can pour out His blessings upon the one or ones we are praying for. It is true that God knows better than we do what our needs are, yet He has chosen to work in answer to prayer. Only when there is intercessory prayer can He pour out the desired blessings and still be consistent with His holiness and justice. Pascal answers his own question, "Why has God established prayer?" by saying, "God has established prayer to communicate to His creatures the dignity of causality." God wants to give us a taste and touch of what it is to be a creator. As far back as the time of the prophets, "God wondered that there was no intercessor," and I am sure He is wondering today why we do not take advantage of this greatest of opportunities to intercede at the throne of grace for others, as well as for ourselves.
- Petition. We may ask God for the things that we need. We should find out from the Lord the things that are His will for us and ask in faith and receive. The Lord tells us in the book of James that we have not because we ask not. In chapters 14, 15, 16 of John's Gospel, Jesus gives almost incredible promises. It is up to us to find out what God's will is and then to come boldly before His throne asking for these things. I am sure God not only delights to give us what is necessary for life, but also give us of His abundance if we will but trust Him.
- Guidance. We should ask for guidance for the new day, again pledging our willingness to obey Him. Not only should we ask for guidance, but we should receive from Him what He longs to give, so that we may enter the new day with the full assurance that we are in the center of God's will.
11. 5. PRAYER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON FOR THE CHRISTIAN
These divisions of prayer have been helpful to many. They should not be considered as a mere form or technique but rather as helpful suggestions so that our prayer may become more rounded out. Nor should these suggestions be taken as law, for sometimes the whole prayer time could be given to the consideration of one subject. Perhaps it would be well to study the suggested "parts" of true prayer, one in the Morning Watch and another in the Evening. Remember, the continual sacrifice offering at the tabernacle and the temple were offered both in the morning and in the evening. We are to be spiritual priests, offering not a lamb, as they did, but worship and praise and thanksgiving and gracious intercession (not only for our own loved ones but for the whole world).
Prayer is the most important lesson for the Christian to learn, but it requires careful, definite study. Nothing worthwhile is learned without practice, and we surely need experience in the matter of prayer. If we give ourselves to this great occupation, God will greatly reward us. We will find that our prayer timewill become richer, longer, and more alive -- the most precious time of the day for each one who has learned to fellowship with God.
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12. SINLESS PERFECTION?
Now the God of peace ... make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ. -- Hebrews 13:20-21
12. 1. DOES THE BIBLE TEACH SINLESS PERFECTION?
Does the Bible teach sinless perfection in the passage just quoted from Hebrews (or in similar passages)? Almost everyone fears sinless perfection as he would a plague, though so many are indefinite as to exactly what the term means. In spite of its high-sounding name, to most Christians sinless perfection is the embodiment of all that is evil. Today a church will often tolerate a liar or a fornicator -- both of whom are excluded from heaven -- but one who believes in sinless perfection (rightly or wrongly, we will discuss later) is at once accused of believing in a damnable heresy and dismissed.
Now every true Christian should so long for holiness (that is, Christlikeness) that even if sinless perfection did not seem to be taught in Scriptures, the tendency should be to want to believe more rather than less of what is promised. In fact, it would seem commendable to put more value on the blood of Christ. Instead, we too often depreciate the atonement by saying that Christ's death on the Cross does bring peace into the heart and will get us to heaven somehow, but "we are only human, you know, and in this life must not expect too much."
12. 2. THE TERM SINLESS PERFECTION NOT FOUND IN THE BIBLE
The term sinless perfection is not found in the Bible. Because its definition is ambiguous, it really ought not to be used. Generally speaking, sinless perfection is used to mean a state in which the Christian cannot sin, a state where he is not only cleansed from all sin but freed from the temptation to sin, and therefore a state where the atonement is no longer needed. Such ideas are certainly not scriptural, nor promised in the Word, nor necessary for living a victorious life. Aggressive souls are seeking a more perfect Christian experience, and critics certainly ought not to discourage such; therefore we all ought to be "pressing on" ourselves and be helping others to do the same.
The devil has coined the term sinless perfection, and he uses it as a scare word, to scare away those seeking a holy life. So successful has he been in blinding minds and scaring hearts that few dare to make a personal investigation of the subject -- preferring to put absolute reliance on what someone else has said. Too often, unfortunately, these statements are not based on knowledge of what the Scriptures and others teach, but on what men think is being taught. We have a large library on the subject of sanctification (called by other names too, such as victorious life, holiness, Keswick teaching, etc.) and for many years have collected the best books on this subject. Yet in our wide reading, we have not found so much as one writer who uses the term sinless perfection.
Today we Christians have allowed the devil to have his way long enough. It is high time to expose him and to defeat his purpose. Just here it may be well to ask ourselves a number of questions: Is there not a perfection which is scriptural? Does not the Word of God promise Christian perfection? What has God promised to Christians? Is it possible to attain to the perfection of the triune God? Does God expect the Christian to be as perfect as the angels who have never known sin, and as perfect as Adam was before the Fall? What are the needs and longings of a true Christian? In answering these questions this much is plain: We are not angels; we are not God; we are not Adam before the Fall. We are sinners saved by grace and called Christians. And so, the perfection that God expects of us is this: to be by the grace of God (not by any strength or reason of our own) all that a Christian should be. This is Christian perfection.
12. 3. MAKE MENTION ONLY OF WHAT WE ARE SAVED TO
On this subject, how we need clear thinking, a thinking based on the Word. From it we learn we are born not in the image of God but in the fallen image of Adam. More than that, we also learn from Scripture and from experience that every one born into the world chooses sin and thus becomes a voluntary transgressor. Not only does he commit acts of sin; he also resists the will of God and thus becomes a rebel. With some, this anarchy expresses itself in an open, outward way, while others seem to be more skillful in hiding their antagonism to the absolute authority of God.
But to us who are true Christians, there came a day when, deeply convicted, we repented of our sin, yielded to Christ, and were regenerated by the Holy Spirit. As we look back, we see the depths of sin from which we were saved. Our hearts and voices are lifted to God in praise for this wonderful grace of salvation.
But have you noticed that Hebrews 7:25 seems to pass over what we are saved from and makes mention only of what we are saved to? The Word says, "He is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." It does not say from the uttermost; it says to the uttermost. There is an uttermost salvation that the true Christian longs for, aspires toward as an ideal, and, praise God, may possess in experience.
12. 4. WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN PERFECTION?
Again we ask the questions: "What is this uttermost salvation? What is Christian perfection? Our Lord himself has something to say about perfection in Matthew 5:48: "Ye shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Is Jesus commanding something that is possible, or is He trying to drive us to despair? There must be a perfection that is possible, otherwise Christ would not have commanded it. Even an earthly father (much less our heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ) would not command his children to do what he knows they cannot do. To find the perfection enjoined in verse 48, read the whole context of Matthew 5:44-48 carefully:
I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the Gentiles the same? Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
By nature we do not love our enemies; we love those who love us; we love especially those who do good to us. But here we read that the Father loves all and blesses all -- not only the good and not only the just, but the evil and the unjust also. According to the context it is in love that we are to be perfect -- not with a perfection of the head but of the heart. We are to have such love that we can love even our enemies and those who persecute us. Obviously this is not natural but divine love, the love of God himself, the love that God has "shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 5:5). To the natural or carnal man this love is absolutely impossible. It is contrary to nature. But is it impossible for the spiritual man? No! Perfection of love is Christian perfection.
Turn to another passage where holiness is commanded: "Like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy" (1 Pet. 1:15-16). For those who are not seeking the uttermost salvation, the ready answer (excuse) to this passage is that we are holy and perfect "in Christ." But Peter anticipated this excuse when he added a phrase after the word holy, whose meaning we cannot mistake: "holy in all manner of living." In the King James Version it says "holy in all manner of conversation."
This means that the whole expression of life should be one of practical holiness. We are not to be holy by proxy only. We are not to be perfect by proxy. We are to be holy right now and perfect in love right now. To stop at the truth of justification, which is only the beginning of what God wants to do for us, is a mistake. For Jesus' sake God justifies us that He may make us just and holy. The Bible teaches not only imputation of holiness, but also impartation of holiness, for it says, "We are partakers of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 6:4). Through His power He makes us what we ought to be.
12. 5. IS THE NEEDED CHANGE BEYOND REACH?
So entirely contrary to our fallen nature is holiness that many think the needed change is beyond reach and possibility. It may be beyond a Christian's reach but not beyond God's. Of course this change from natural to divine love, from sinfulness to holiness, is beyond our human power. But thanks be to God, we are not left to our own feeble efforts in desiring the life that pleases God. If we meet the conditions, God will do what we cannot do. Most of us have the idea that we must sanctify ourselves and must make ourselves holy, not realizing that sanctification, as well as justification, is ours by faith. (I trust we are all orthodox enough to know that we cannot save ourselves.)
In Scripture this change that must take place if a believer is to be sanctified is called by different terms, such as these: "transformed"; "crucified with Christ"; "one died for all, therefore all died"; "ye died"; "freed from sin"; "ceased from sin"; "our old man was crucified"; "dead unto sin but alive unto God"; "delivered"; "newness of life." All of these terms speak of a conclusive act and not just a process. One of the plainest of these passages is Colossians 1:13 where Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes, "[He] delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love." Here is not only deliverance from the power of darkness and placement into a new kingdom (the kingdom of Christ), but here also is implied a change wrought by God between these two kingdoms. It is here that we embrace the Cross in its delivering power. We cannot do it; we cannot attain to it by our own reason and strength. But God can transform and does transform those who trust Him.
12. 6. SIN AFFECTS THE SOUL
Many of us think of sin (as well as sinfulness) as being identified with the human body, so that we believe sin must be retained until we close our eyes in physical death. But our human body is but the house in which we live. The real person is the spirit -- something beyond the body which is but a member of the real person. Thus sin is not something material that must be extracted or eradicated, for it is deeper than the physical. Sin affects the soul and the body but does not have its seat in the body. Sin consists in a wrong relationship, in perversity, in depravity of free will, in the taint of selfishness, and is best described by Isaiah as wanting one's own way (Isa. 53:6).
But someone asks, "Can the nature of man really be changed? If so, where and how?" Yes, friends, the Bible teaches us that we can be changed, changed absolutely, changed entirely. It declares that when Jesus Christ went to the Cross, He not only suffered for our sins, taking them upon himself, but He did something more. He also took the sinner himself to the Cross, for the Word says, "One died for all, therefore all died" (2 Cor. 5:14). Here is the change. It occurred almost two thousand years ago on Calvary. Positionally it is true for all of us. God believes it and declares it. It will also be true in a practical way if we will believe in the change. Over and over again, Romans 6 repeats that blessed truth that we died with Christ; we are crucified with Him; we are buried with Him. Therefore we must believe and obey His command to reckon ourselves dead to sin but alive unto God (Rom. 6:11). Then that blessed change will take place, and we will be transformed, translated, purged, and cleansed. Sin's reign will have ended; holiness will have begun.
So then, something need not be extracted from us (except sin), but rather our wrong relationship to the devil, to the world, and to self must end; a right relationship to God and His kingdom must begin. If we will submit to the Cross, we can experience this transforming work of the Holy Spirit. We must be willing to die to ourselves and to all our rights. Jesus said, "Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27). Our death to self must be as real an experience as His death was on Calvary. God alone can make us holy in life and perfect in love, but unless we make an entire, irrevocable surrender to Him in full consecration, even He cannot do this. Our will can stand in His way unless it is fully and forever yielded to Him who gave it. Only then can He carry out His own blessed work in us.
12. 7. IS THE BATTLE OVER?
Let us not be satisfied with anything less than God's perfect work. Remember that "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10) . Our part is to yield our members to Him and to receive in faith that which He offers. Do you see, friends, that all is of God's grace? We were grateful to God for justification, were we not? Our hearts and voices should again be raised to God in deeper gratitude for His uttermost salvation. Having faith in our identification with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, let us rejoice much more in the double cure from sin's power and guilt.
But is the battle over? If we do yield fully to Christ and believe Him for His uttermost salvation, if we embrace the Cross in its fullest and deepest meaning, and if we allow the Holy Spirit to take us to the Cross so that we can reckon ourselves dead with Christ and raised with Him too -- does this mean that we will not be tempted again? Does it mean that we cannot sin anymore? Do we just wait for heaven? Not at all! On the contrary, it will mean that temptation will become more acute, and the battle will really begin. There will be work to be done, a fight to be fought, and the devil will contest our every step.
Moreover, it will never be enough just to know the facts of our redemption through the Cross of Calvary, nor even to have faith in the Cross and the deeper meaning of the Cross. There is more to follow. We must now begin to live a life consistent with our experience, a life of brokenness. We must actually manifest the lamblike spirit of the Christ of the Cross. In place of the old spirit of retaliation, we must manifest the spirit of the Cross in true brokenness -- always aware of what our sins cost Christ, as well as the possibility of still making mistakes and being re-ensnared by the devil (falling even deeper than ever before). Thus, ours must be a life lived in utter humility and in absolute dependence on Christ and His blessed Holy Spirit -- our only desire being to please Christ in every thought, word, and act.
12. 8. BROKENNESS GOES WITH OPENNESS
Not only must our life be lived in brokenness, but also in perfect openness. We must now be willing to call sin, sin; we must be willing to admit our mistakes. No longer should we conceal our true thoughts. We must be willing to walk in the light, be judged by the light, be exposed and tried and tested on every point. If anything that is inconsistent with the holiness of Christ is revealed, we must confess it at once, put it away, and go to Jesus for cleansing again in the precious blood that makes us as spotless as the new fallen snow or the white wool of the mountain lamb. Having been made clean, we must then be kept clean.
Some erroneously think that professing the experience of Christ's uttermost salvation causes men to be careless about sin and to excuse sin. Nothing can be further from the truth. This experience makes a man's conscience more tender and more sensitive than ever. The tiniest smirch or spot that would have been overlooked before now feels as a weight, heavy as lead, and intolerable, causing one to flee afresh to Christ for cleansing, adjustment, instruction, or whatever may be needed. Praise God for the precious blood of Jesus Christ, which not only cleanses once but continues its work of cleansing, and thus continually keeps all who trust in Him clean.
God's full desire for us is to touch others and overflow to them in His stead. We can be filled and running over continually as we are emptied of sin, selfness, and worldliness, and clean through the blood of Christ (having received the Holy Spirit, first as a Person and then as an abiding Presence). This is what God expects. This is what God promises. This is what God has provided. This is the uttermost salvation, which is all of grace and all of God -- simply living out the life of Jesus by the power of the indwelling Spirit! What a wonderful salvation is ours!
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13. DOES A CHRISTIAN HAVE TWO NATURES?
Our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin. -- Romans 6:6
13. 1. TWO NATURES AND HUMANITY?
Many a Christian thinks that to be thoroughly orthodox he must believe that not only every sinner but also every Christian has a sinful nature. Therefore, regardless of his spiritual progress, he must carry this sinful nature with him as long as he lives. It logically follows that he believes release from this inward enemy comes at death; and so in this way he identifies his sinful nature with his physical body. Perhaps this is not exactly what he believes, but since he is holding the wrong premise from the beginning, it is the only logical conclusion he can reach. (The meaning of the word "nature," especially as used in theology, is foreign to the Scriptures. There, the word does not often occur, and when it does, nature refers to what we do naturally.)
The general idea in the minds of many believers, then, is something like this: a sinner already has a sinful nature; when that sinner is saved, he receives a new nature (this makes two natures plus his humanity); he is also a partaker of the divine nature which is Christ (this makes four); and in addition, such a one is sometimes influenced by the devil. Therefore, in or about the believer are five natures! Can this be possible? No! It is altogether too complicated and utterly ridiculous. He has arrived at the wrong conclusion by thinking of man as having a sinful nature. Herein is one of the main errors in Christendom. If in his thinking he begins wrong, then all his conclusions will also be wrong. The wrong idea about man's sinfulness and man's nature limits a Christian's experience and fruitfulness.
13. 2. A SINNER DOES NOT HAVE A SINFUL NATURE, BUT HE IS ONLY SINFUL
A sinner, then, does not have a sinful nature -- he is sinful. We all see the difference, I trust, between having something bad and being something bad. If it were just a matter of having an evil nature, then it would be almost the same as saying, "I'm all right: but this thing I inherited from my father Adam, and that I carry about with me, is sinful." To such reasoning, the only hope seems to be either to have this sinful nature extracted, or finally at the end of the earthly life to lay this evil intruder aside in death. The whole trouble with this attempt at a solution to the question is that on the one hand it is impossible to have one's nature (the real you) extracted; and, on the other hand, not many of us are willing to die just yet. On the contrary, we want to live, and we want to live in Christian victory and fruitfulness.
Many have the idea that belief in two natures is synonymous with orthodoxy. But a careful search of the Scriptures will give no support to the idea of man's nature as a separate entity. Man is a unitary being. If not, he is a schizophrenic! Neither of the two main passages that deal with inner conflicts (Rom. 7 and Gal. 5:16- 26) mentions the word nature. The reason for this is that Paul is not describing a person with two natures (one good and one bad) which must coexist until the grave. He is speaking of a person who must make a definite choice to walk either "in the Spirit" or else "after the flesh."
The prince of Bible commentators, G. Campbell Morgan, says, "I most certainly do not believe that man ever has two natures at once. I believe he has one nature always, and that conversion is its cleansing and renewal." The prince of revivalists, Charles G. Finney, would have nothing to do with the prevalent idea of an inherited sinful nature as a separate entity, a punishment for Adam's sin, infused into the whole race of fallen man. Such an idea, Finney believed and proved, really provided an excuse for sin. Mr. Finney says, "The fact that Christ died in man's stead and on behalf of sinners proves that God regarded man not as unfortunate but as criminal, and altogether without excuse. Surely Christ need not have died to atone for the misfortunes of men. His death was to atone for their guilt." Sin or sinfulness is a crime; God holds us responsible for it. Therefore, we cannot hide under the smoke screen either of the old man, or a sinful nature, or a duality of natures. Man in his unregenerate state does not have a sinful nature -- he is sinful; he is responsible; he is a criminal.
If Ambrose (340-397) introduced the idea of a sinful nature, it was Augustine (354-430) who developed the idea of the believer's two natures and introduced it as a respectable doctrine of Christianity. Careful study of this subject, however, will prove that Augustine found the two-natures idea not in the Bible but in his own past experience in Manichaeism. Ever since Augustine carried over the dualistic philosophy from Manichaeism and brought it into the Christian Church, it has been the Church's plague. It is probably true that the Scriptures were never studied as carefully in the original languages as at the time of the Reformation. However, it is most unfortunate that for the development of the doctrine of sin and sinfulness neither Luther nor Calvin went back to the apostolic writings alone but accepted the teaching of Augustine without question.
The reformers presented the idea that original sin was guilt, and that sinfulness and inability to do right (a fettered will) is the penalty of sin, and therefore passed on to all of Adam's progeny. Such a view makes sinfulness a calamity and not a crime -- a misfortune or disease for which man (except Adam) is not responsible. But this is not scriptural, for everywhere God does hold man responsible, commanding him to repent. In unmistakable terms God states that unless a man will repent and receive the provision for his forgiveness and regeneration through the atonement of Jesus Christ, he will suffer eternal consequences for sins committed.
13. 3. SINFUL NATURE, INHERITANCE THROUGH ADAM?
The teaching of the two natures, and especially of a sinful nature as a separate entity that a man inherits from his father Adam, only confuses the issue and produces an excuse for sinning. The real issue, the choice between self and Christ, has shifted to a conflict between two natures both indwelling the same person. Augustine, before his controversy with Pelagius, taught that a man could live a holy life with the help of God. The heresy of his opponent caused him to take the extreme position that even with the help of God man could not live a holy life. After meeting Augustine, Pelagius (a.d. 360-420) also took the extreme position that a man could live a holy life without the help of God. He did this because Christians, even the clergy, were excusing their sinfulness by blaming this separate entity of a sinful nature.
Augustine, as we said before, believed in the continuing sinful nature. As a result, he had no hope of purity of heart. He believed in no deliverance -- at least after meeting Pelagius, that was his final conclusion. He considered pleasure in the taking of food a sin, saying, "This much hast Thou [God] taught me that I should bring myself to take food as a medicine." He considered love for music a sin. It was also a sin to him for the eyes "to delight in fair and varied forms and pleasing bright colors." He considered it a sin to watch a hound chase a rabbit, or to gaze at a lizard and a spider catching flies, because these actions would be prompted by curiosity, which is always evil, according to his theology.
As Christians today we must guard against thinking of a special sinful nature imposed upon man after sinning; we must also guard against the idea of a constitutional sinfulness -- that is, locating sin in the physical body. The first would make us a split personality, and the second would give no hope for deliverance until physical death.
13. 4. THEN, WHAT IS SIN?
But what is sin? Sin is a transgression of the law; sin is disobedience; sin is selfishness (a preference of self to God); sin is a crime. Adam's sin caused immediate spiritual death, but it caused more than that. Adam's body was weakened (he became subject to physical death); his mind was impaired; his emotions, being disturbed, were no longer in harmony. That we are all involved in Adam's sin (original sin) the Bible makes unmistakably clear in Romans 5:12. So then no one is born into this world as Adam was (before the Fall), for all inherit depravity, the result of Adam's sin. I do not think anyone would argue against the fact that a weakened body, an impaired mind, and disturbed emotions are common to everyone. This, however, is not guilt. Nor would it be right to call it moral depravity since on our part it involves no choice of will.
However, the Bible makes unmistakably clear the fact that everyone becomes morally depraved -- that is, everyone chooses sin. In fact, a child is committed to selfishness long before reason is developed. Then when reason is developed, he continues in the same direction and makes the same choice as Adam. He makes the wrong choice right at the beginning and very early in life, for he lives in an anti-Christ and pro-self world. Not having a perfect body, a perfect mind, or perfect emotions -- surrounded by an almost universal example of selfishness, and tempted by the devil -- man falls prey to sin on his own. Thus, as a voluntary transgressor and as a morally depraved creature, he is subject to punishment -- eternal banishment from the presence of God. His only hope is to repent, to be forgiven, and then believe in the provision that God has made for his salvation and deliverance -- namely, the atonement of Jesus Christ on Calvary.
We see, therefore, that both the Scriptures and Christian experience teach that the natural man is sinful. He is not only partly wrong but all wrong. This is because of two things: his relationship to fallen Adam and his choice. Not only is his human nature (his whole being) polluted, but he is a voluntary transgressor. Some are more skillful in concealing this sinfulness, but under favorable circumstances (or shall we say unfavorable) definite acts of sin reveal the truth.
13. 5. A MATTER OF RELATIONSHIPS, NOT A MATTER OF NATURE
Originally, man was created in the image of God with a blessed prospect of continuing in that image and of being indwelt by his Creator. As long as he continued in this state, his nature was pure and his acts were above reproach. But there came a time (described in Genesis 3) when man's relationship to his God came to an end and when he became related to another, even the devil. While in proper relationship to God, his nature was pure; but now, related to the devil, his nature is defiled.
One of the best descriptions of the change of relationship that took place at the Fall is in connection with the Gerasene demoniac who had an unclean spirit and was possessed with demons (Mark 5). At that time no man could bind him. He was crying out continually and cutting himself with stones. But after being delivered from his wrong relationship to the devil and having entered into a right relationship to Christ, he that had been possessed with demons was now "clothed and in his right mind" and filled with one desire -- to be with his Lord.
So this is not a matter of a nature to be removed or extracted but rather a matter of relationships. To whom are we related? Related to the devil we are polluted; but related properly to Christ we are made pure. Though we need forgiveness for what we have done (as sinners), yet for what we are, we need cleansing. Our nature is not to be discarded but cleansed -- cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Christ can change the foulest sinner and make him pure and spotless. To Christians the promise is not only that we are delivered from the devil's kingdom and placed into Christ's kingdom (according to Colossians 1:13), but that through the deliverance, by accepting death to self through the Cross, we can be thoroughly and completely changed. Christ delivers us out of the power of darkness and translates us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.
13. 6. THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES
This truth is also made plain in Christ's parable of the vine and the branches (John 15). The very fact that Jesus calls himself the true Vine implies that there is a false vine, which of course is Satan. All men are drawing their life either from the true or the false vine -- either from Jesus Christ or from Satan.
The fall of our first parents is also illustrated clearly in the parable of Isaiah 5:1-7. This passage, referring primarily to Israel, also gives a true picture of fallen man.
A song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: and he digged it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also hewed out a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now ... judge ... betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
This very fruitful hill could represent the Garden of Eden. Conditions there were so absolutely ideal that God could truly say, "What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it?" Yet our first parents did not bring forth sweet grapes as expected but only wild grapes. The quality of their fruit is described in Deuteronomy 32:32-33: "Their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of serpents, and the cruel venom of asps."
13. 7. WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FALL?
Let us then see exactly what happened to man at the Fall. First, he turned away from God; second, he turned to another, even Satan. But, likewise, on Calvary Jesus Christ did two things: first, He destroyed the power of the false vine (Satan) and made it possible for anyone "in Satan" to renounce his allegiance and relationship to Satan; second, in His suffering and death He opened up His own heart and made it possible for anyone who would renounce the devil and his claims to be grafted into Him, the True Vine.
Man is so constituted that he cannot exist alone but must be related to either Satan or Christ. Though originally his human nature was indwelt by God, by his Fall he forfeited this divine indwelling. In its place he received the life of the enemy of our souls, Satan; for by nature, says God, we were the children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). "Ye are of your father the devil," said Jesus, "and the lusts of your father it is your will to do" (John 8:44).
Because we all partake of the nature of one of these two vines, we all bring forth fruit according to that nature, for "do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.... By their fruits shall ye know them" (Matt. 7:16-20).
But it is not possible for a branch to remove itself from the devil's vine and be placed into the True Vine, Christ. Every natural branch taken from one tree and grafted into another must have the help of the gardener's hand. Even so, all spiritual grafting must be done by another's hand. Salvation, then, is a work of God, a free gift through the redemption of Jesus Christ our Savior. To be saved really means that a man is willing to forsake the false vine (with Satan as his father) and be grafted into the True Vine (with God as his Father).
To be a Christian is not only to know or believe something. To be a Christian is a definite experience wherein one renounces his own life and then trusts in Christ and His finished work. For anyone who is willing thus to renounce the devil and all sin and who chooses to be grafted into Christ, the Holy Spirit will perform the necessary grafting, delivering him out of the false vine, Satan, and grafting him into the True Vine, Christ.
In Nature, when grafting takes place, the branch always bears fruit according to the tree from which it has been taken. But in spiritual experience, by going through the Cross a miracle takes place, and the branch begins to bear fruit according to the stock into which it is placed. We therefore see the absolute necessity of a real experience of crucifixion, else one will continue to bear the old fruit of the self-life. This explains the carnality in the church. So many have gone around the Cross instead of through the Cross in a real death to the self-life.
At the Fall, divine life went out and satanic life came in; in redemption, satanic life goes out and divine life comes in, for through God's precious and exceeding great promises we become "partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust" (2 Pet. 1:4).
13. 8. THE BORN-AGAIN SOUL STILL HIS OWN HUMAN NATURE
Yet, even with Christ indwelling him, the born-again soul still has his own personal human nature with its appetites and desires. But we never have two natures -- that is, two personal natures. All the way through, we have our human nature related either to the devil or to God. Thus, all who are grafted into Christ, whether babes or mature souls, partake of Christ's nature, for "he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17).
However, full consciousness of what is ours (by virtue of our having been delivered from the false vine and having been grafted into the True Vine) does not dawn upon us all at once. Then too, just after the transfer from the false to the True Vine, there may be sour sap (termed the self-life) still in the branch. But as surely as the branch grafted into the vine draws its sap from the new source, so surely will the upsurge of the life of Christ drive out all the sour sap that may have been in the branch. A full consciousness of what we have in Christ, a complete reliance on Him, and a receiving of the upsurge of the new life -- all these will bring about the crisis of sanctification. And sanctification is not only a proper relationship to Christ but identification with Him in a full and complete union. The result will be that "made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification" (Rom. (6:22).
We must not identify sinful nature with the body, nor think of it as something separate from ourselves. Rather, we must realize that our sinful nature is our human nature in wrong relationship to the devil, and thus polluted. With this wrong relationship broken and a right relationship with Christ fully restored, the sinful nature is changed (metamorphosed) and becomes pure (like the caterpillar turned into a beautiful butterfly). Rightly do we sing,
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wondrous compassion and purity;
O Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
13. 9. WE CANNOT SIN ANYMORE?
Some will ask, "Does this mean that we cannot sin anymore? If a Christian does not have a sinful nature, what would there be in him to tempt?" The answer is that our Lord had no sinful nature and He too was tempted (though He did not sin). As we have said previously, of course we can be tempted and of course we can sin. Adam, fresh from the hands of God, had no sinful nature, yet was tempted (and sinned).
We are tempted through our natural appetites, not through a sinful nature. Our appetites are not sinful in themselves, for they have been given to us by God; but unless they are controlled by the Holy Spirit, they will become sinful. Just as a branch, even while grafted into a true vine needs the constant care of a gardener, so must we be cared for, guarded, guided by the Holy Spirit. We must deny any desire or craving for something not consistent with the Vine in which we abide. That the old man is not only crucified but dead and buried is positionally true for every Christian (Rom. 6:6). But if we are to realize this blessing in experience, we must individually appropriate it through faith and through surrender of self to the death of the Cross.
13. 10. THE DUALITY OF FLESH AND SPIRIT
There is, however, an evident duality in man. This is not a duality of two natures within one person, but rather it is a duality of flesh and spirit. When God made the angels, He made them spirits without bodies (physical bodies). When He made animals, He made them bodies without spirits. But when He made man, He made him both body and spirit -- flesh and spirit.
This is what the apostle speaks of in both Romans 7 and Galatians 5. The issue, not settled in Romans 7, brings forth Paul's statement of frustration. The best that I myself can do is given for us in Romans 7:25: "So then I of myself with the mind, indeed, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." The best that God can do is given in Romans 8. Galatians 5 gives the proper solution and there the apostle says, "They that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof" (Gal. 5:24). Therefore the issue is whether or not to walk according to the flesh or the Spirit. The apostle Paul says that they that are of Christ Jesus have settled this matter, and have deposed the flesh as a ruling agent, choosing to walk according to the Spirit. Thus there need not be a constant battle. It can be a settled matter.
The word flesh, strictly speaking, is not always identified as something bad. Christ, "in the days of his flesh ... offered up prayers" (Heb. 5:7). Certainly in His case, the flesh had no bad connotation. The flesh is the physical life -- human nature with the appetites and passions. The word flesh is used in a bad sense only when it has usurped the place of the Spirit and is in control of the life. This wrong position of control must come to an end, must yield to the Spirit, and must come under the sweet influence of the Vine and Husbandman. Christ, who "pleased not himself" (Rom. 15:3), now tells us to follow in His steps. He says to us that we ought to deny self, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. Therefore, to live with a mine of corruption within (as many wrongly think is necessary), with a continual consciousness of sin, is wrong. With the flesh properly related to the Spirit (as servant and not master), we can abide in Christ moment by moment -- cleansed by Christ's blood -- and thus made pure and holy.
And so, once again let us remind ourselves that the central truth of Scripture is full union with Christ. Everything leads up to this truth. Christ desires that we become fully conscious of what it means to be completely united to Him, and yielded to His sweet nature and influences. If, after we have become united to Christ, we yield to sin (though we need not), it should be only a momentary thing, instantly confessed, and forgiven and cleansed. A Christian does not live in sin; the will to sin is gone. But "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
(All scripture quotations are taken from the American Standard Version of the Bible, unless otherwise noted.)
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14. CLOTHED WITH POWER FROM ON HIGH
Elijah said ... Ask what I shall do for thee, before I am taken from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. 2 Kings 2:9
14. 1. ELISHA'S EXPERIENCE WITH ELIJAH
If there is an audible cry in the Church today, especially among pastors and workers, it is the cry for power. Some have given up this quest; others are continuing their search, though quite often they are either too prejudiced or too lacking in knowledge of the ways of God to receive it. No matter whether darkness be from teaching or lack of teaching, for any true seeker, Elisha's experience with Elijah will give light, instruction, inspiration, and challenge on this most important subject of being "clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that ... Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.... He [Elisha] took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of the Jordan. And he ... smote the waters, and said, Where is Jehovah, the God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they were divided hither and thither; and Elisha went over (2 Kings 2:8, 11, 13, 14).
In 1 Kings 19:15-21 we read that Elijah, the mighty miracle-working prophet, was told by God to anoint his successor to be prophet in his stead. And so, he came upon Elisha plowing in the fields of his father's farm. Thereupon, Elijah "cast his mantle upon him" (the symbol of the prophet's office and power.) Touched by that mantle, Elisha burned his bridges behind him, said goodbye to his parents, and followed the prophet. This mantle-touch, or rather that which the mantle-touch symbolized, made Elisha a changed man. From that moment on, he was a committed soul.
How long Elisha was a disciple of Elijah, we do not know, for we are only told that he "ministered unto Elijah." His ministry for this period was doubtless a succession of menial tasks of a servant. What a pattern for Christian ministers today!
14. 2. A GOING-ON CHRISTIAN
But Elisha is also our example of a "going-on Christian." Though touched by the prophet's mantle, and though committed wholly to the service of God, Elisha was not satisfied. There had awakened in him a desire for all that the prophet's mantle symbolized. And so when the time came for Elijah's translation, Elisha "went with him" -- first to Gilgal, then to Bethel, and finally to Jericho. These three places were rich in memory -- doubtless suggesting to Elisha (as the meanings and associations connected with these names may also suggest to us) thoughts of communion, of vision, of relationship, and of victory. In each of these places Elisha was told he could stay; in fact, Elijah tested him by urging him to stay. But until Elisha was clothed by the mantle, he refused to be stopped by anything or anyone (even Elijah), or to remain at any place.
Finally "they two stood by the Jordan." There Elijah did not tell Elisha to tarry, as he had counseled at the other places -- for Jordan stands for Calvary. When one gets there, he must cross at once. There is no need to send spies to spy out the land on the other side. Far more often than not, spies bring evil reports. Is it not true today, too, that whenever anyone considers this crisis of full consecration to God and of all that identification with Christ crucified may mean, including the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, the devil has a whole company of professional spies ready to volunteer their services? While standing too long by the Jordan, the river of death, many are frightened away. Therefore, on this occasion Elijah did not tarry at the Jordan but took his mantle (the symbol of power) and smote the waters with it. "When they were divided hither and thither," Elijah and Elisha went over on dry land. Even so, we today are not to be satisfied just to be near the Cross. We are to "cross over" by dying to self and the world (with all of its implications and associations). We must be "clean over Jordan."
Elisha's preparations were now completed, so Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for thee, before I am taken from thee."
Quickly and clearly the answer came, "Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me."
"Thou hast asked a hard thing," said Elijah.
14. 3. A HARD THING -- ANOINTING WITH POWER FROM ON HIGH
Let us stop to consider this phrase further. This thing which Elisha wanted -- anointing with power from on high -- was to be received from God by faith as a gift. But it is called a hard thing -- hard for the natural man. In order for the reign and dynamic of the Holy Spirit to be established, the old natural powers must be deposed -- whether originating in man's spirit or in his soul or in his body.
Even for the prepared soul, this will not be easy but will require definite concentration, for Elisha was told, "If thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee, but if not, it shall not be so." From the first, Elisha had been a committed soul. Now, however, he had to be a concentrating soul. This is where many break down. It is comparatively easy to get people interested for a while in the fullness of the power of Pentecost, but it is difficult to maintain desire and interest until the time comes when one is actually clothed with power from on high. Therefore "it is a hard thing."
Elisha, however, kept his eyes on Elijah and saw the prophet taken up to heaven! Then, taking hold of his own garment (the symbol of his own natural covering and power) and tearing it in two pieces, he took up Elijah's mantle, which had fallen to the earth. This was the same mantle that years before had changed Elisha's life and given him a desire to be "clothed upon" with power from on high. Now that desire was satisfied, for Elisha had the mantle -- he had the power that the mantle symbolized.
14. 4. THE SYMBOLIC POWER
Immediately, Elisha reckoned on the new power now his. Going back to the Jordan, he struck the waters with the mantle. Straightway they parted, and he went over on dry land. In full assurance of faith in his new experience with the power from on high, Elisha now continued to trust God to manifest that miraculous power through him. He was not disappointed. And so, though seven miracles of Elijah are recorded for us in the Word, twice as many are recorded of Elisha. (For example, Elijah raised one from the dead, but Elisha two.) May these facts, revealed for us in the Scriptures, help us believe that Elisha actually received what he requested -- a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. (This "double portion" may also refer to the inheritance of the firstborn.)
Today, all Christians should be clothed with power from on high. All are touched by the Spirit (as Elisha was touched by the mantle of Elijah when Elijah cast it over him), but all are not clothed with the power of the Spirit. Even though born of the Spirit, changed by His touch and His indwelling, and possessing the "earnest" of this wonderful blessing, no Christian should be satisfied without the fullness of the Spirit. Yielding more and more to the indwelling Spirit means we are more and more filled with the Spirit. But yet this is not being clothed with power from on high. The Holy Spirit within enriches the inner life; the Holy Spirit upon anoints with power for service.
14. 5. TO CONCULDE
In conclusion, it is well to be warned by one more detail from the story of Elisha. On the day of Elisha's anointing, the sons of the prophets, fifty of them, were near to Elijah and Elisha. Twice they saw the miraculous parting of the Jordan. They also knew that Jehovah had "taken away" Elijah. Yet though so near and having witnessed so much, not one of these fifty sons of the prophets were clothed with power as was Elisha. So today, it is possible to know about power from on high, to talk about it, and to be near it, but not to experience it. Lest we be like the fifty sons of the prophets -- just onlookers -- may we each commit ourselves wholly to God and His purposes, and without distraction concentrate on receiving God's wonderful gift of power from on high.
If we are fully prepared, as was Elisha, we may in faith ask for and receive this wonderful blessing -- the baptism and infilling with the Holy Spirit.
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15. HOW TO RECEIVE THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified. -- John 7:37-39
15. 1. WHAT IS BAPTISM WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT?
In Christian experience there is nothing more important than the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, yet there is less knowledge and more confusion and ignorance concerning this great subject than almost any experience in the Christian life. The enemy of our souls tries his utmost to keep the sinner from experiencing regeneration. Failing in that, he blinds the newborn soul regarding the truth of sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
In the broad sense, we must admit that sanctification would include the whole Christian experience from regeneration to glorification. In a narrower sense, however, the term sanctification is also used as referring to the crisis experience subsequent to regeneration by which one is cleansed from all sin, filled with perfect love, and baptized with the Holy Spirit, who gives power to live a victorious and fruitful Christian life.
15. 2. THE PREPARATION, INDWELLING, AND FILLING IN
In our subject, how to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, we of course are thinking of that second aspect of sanctification and take it for granted that one has already surrendered fully to God and put his faith in the Blood and the Cross to cleanse from both sins and inner sinfulness, thus making himself a candidate for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. The proper preparation is of the utmost importance and cannot be overemphasized. The "message of the Cross," when accepted and embraced, is the way of preparation.
We are well aware that there is much objection to the term, "the Baptism with the Holy Spirit." We use that term to distinguish it from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwells every Christian who has been genuinely regenerated, and enables him to live a victorious life, but He comes upon or baptizes to give power and boldness for effective service. Life begins at the Cross, but service begins at Pentecost. There is no question but that this experience, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, is also called the filling of the Holy Spirit. The initial experience is no doubt rightly called the baptism with the Spirit and is followed by repeated fillings. The apostles were repeatedly filled for special needs. Peter, for instance, was "filled" in Acts 2:4, and also in Acts 4:31.
15. 3. THE QUESTION OF RECEIVING MORE OF THE SPIRIT
We have often heard the expression, "It isn't that we receive more of the Spirit; it's that He receives more of us." To prove this point some say, "The Holy Spirit is a definite Person and since He is a Person, you receive Him -- that is, all of Him. You cannot receive just part of Him since He is a Person. It is just a matter of His receiving more of us." Now this sounds good at first, but upon further consideration, we see it is most illogical. If we cannot receive more or less of the Spirit because He is a Person, how can the Holy Spirit receive more or less of us. We are also persons! Therefore, this argument breaks down and is unworthy of any consideration whatsoever.
15. 4. IS THE BAPTISM WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT SIMULTANEOUS WITH REGENERATION?
If we really want to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit, we must also get over another hurdle, and that is the teaching that is so prevalent today, that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is experienced simultaneously with regeneration. Five minutes of experience would correct much error in theology, but of course experience is not the final criterion. As we read the biographies of men who have been mightily used of God, we find that almost without exception, they testify to being filled with the Spirit subsequent to regeneration.
Scriptures refer to the baptism of the Spirit seven times in so many words. Four times it is spoken by John the Baptist who contrasts the baptism of the Spirit with his baptism of repentance (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). The term is also used by Jesus Christ himself in Acts 1:5, "For John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized in (or with) the Holy Spirit not many days hence." Peter uses the expression in Acts 11:15-17, where he also describes it as "falling upon" and "the gift."
The apostle Paul uses the expression in 1 Corinthians 12:13, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink of one Spirit." Many writers and teachers bypass all the other references to the baptism of the Holy Spirit and build their doctrine upon this one reference of the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul, however, has in mind an entirely different subject. He is speaking of every believer having been quickened from the dead by the agency of the Holy Spirit and thus made a member of Christ's mystical body. This is the Pauline way of stating the being "born-again" of John 3:7.
15. 5. THE EXPERIENCE OF CHRIST
It will also help us to consider the experience of Christ and the disciples.
- Jesus was born of the Spirit.
- He was indwelt by the Spirit all of His life, but He did not enter into His public ministry of service until -
- He was baptized with the Holy Spirit.
15. 6. EXPERIENCE OF THE DISCIPLES
- The disciples were believers before Calvary. Jesus said that they were not of this world and also that their names were written in heaven (John 10:20).
- On the evening of Resurrection Day, Jesus appeared to the disciples, entering the room they had barred for fear of the Jews, and after speaking peace to them and showing them His pierced hands, He breathed on them and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit." Unless we are willing to concede that Jesus' words were empty, we must conclude that they there received the Holy Spirit. But this was not the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
- The experience of the baptism with the Holy Spirit did not come to them until the Feast of Pentecost, fifty days later. It was then and there that they were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
15. 7. NORMAL CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE
So it is with us, every Christian is born of the Spirit. Furthermore, every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit. Romans 8:9 says, "He that hath not the Spirit of Christ is none of his." The more one yields to the Spirit, the more one is indwelt or the more areas the Spirit will indwell, but it will never be complete until one is filled with the Spirit. The indwelling of the Spirit must not be confused with the Spirit coming upon one to give boldness and power for service. That experience is rightly called the Baptism with the Holy Spirit or being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Another objection that we must consider briefly is this: that the Holy Spirit was given to the church at Pentecost and therefore every Christian now has this Pentecostal experience. This objection breaks down when we compare it with John 3:16, where it says, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." Christ is God's gift to the world, but everyone has not received Him. In exactly the same way the Holy Spirit is the gift to the church, but as many in the world have not received their gift, the Son of God, so there are many in the church who have not received the gift offered to them, which is the Holy Spirit. Again we want to state that we know that every Christian has the Spirit, but at the same time we also know that every Christian is not filled with the Spirit. It is a different thing to have the Holy Spirit "resident" and to have Him "president." We are thinking about the Spirit-filled, Spirit-controlled experience available for every Christian.
Just three years ago, when visiting twenty-one different countries, we found that the universal cry from the Christians, and especially those in full-time Christian service was, "How can I receive power to effectively serve the Lord?" In almost every place and mission visited, I heard, "I do not have the power I want. I do not have the power that seems to be offered in the Bible. How can I receive this power?"
15. 8. THE SMITTEN ROCK
Jesus said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink ... but this spake he of the Spirit which they that believed on him were to receive, for the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37). The background and setting of this wonderful statement and invitation is most illuminating. Among the beautiful types of spiritual truths in the Old Testament, there is none more striking or significant than the rock in Horeb of which we read in Exodus 17, and again in Numbers 20. The rock in Horeb was a type of Jesus Christ the "Rock of Ages." The smiting of that Rock set forth the death of Jesus on the Cross under the stroke of divine judgment. The flowing of the waters from the rock when smitten foreshadowed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in consequence of Christ's atoning death.
The invitation of Christ to come and drink was given on the great day of the Feast of Tabernacles. The last day of the feast was a Sabbath, and distinguished by very remarkable ceremonies. The joyousness of this feast would break out in loud jubilation, particularly at the solemn moment when the priest brought forth in golden vessels, water from the stream of Siloam which flowed under the temple mountain, and solemnly poured it upon the altar.
The words of Isaiah 12:3 were sung, "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." Then too, they would sing the great Hallel, which are Psalms 113-118.
This was a commemoration of the smitten rock and typical of the living water of the Spirit which would proceed from Christ when He, the Rock, was smitten on Calvary. On this high occasion, Jesus, who had already drawn all eyes toward Him by His supernatural power and teaching, no doubt mounted an elevation and cried, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." In Galilee, Jesus invited all the weary and heavy-laden to come and find rest, but here He offers water for the thirsty. Everyone in that assembly was at that moment thinking of the rock and the stream of water flowing from it, The apostle Paul later says, "That rock was Christ. " Jesus is saying, "I am that Rock." The rock is a type of Christ, but the water is a type of the Holy Spirit. The Bible never refers to water as a type of Christ, but always to Jesus as the giver of water, which is a type of the Holy Spirit.
15. 9. RECEIVE BY FAITH ONLY
The Spirit was not yet given because Calvary must come first, and after Calvary, Pentecost. In a real sense, of course, Pentecost is never repeated any more than Calvary is repeated, but as the benefits of Calvary must be received by faith, so must the benefits of Pentecost be received by a definite act of faith. The only way to receive the gift of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is by faith.
Galatians 3:2: "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?"
Galatians 3:5: "He therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit and worketh miracles among you, doeth He it by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?"
Galatians 3:14: "That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
We therefore learn that the only way to receive this blessing is by faith -- not by works, not by law, not by excitement or noisy demonstration, but by FAITH.
The Blessing for the Thirsty
This gift is for the thirsty. This perhaps in a word explains why so few have received. There are so few that are thirsty. There is no thirst if one is living in sin. Drinking of the world's cisterns will never satisfy, but it will take away the keen edge of thirst that causes one to come to Christ for this great gift.
15. 10. JESUS, THE BAPTIZER
We see therefore from His own invitation that Jesus Christ is the Baptizer. We also learn this from the words of John the Baptist: "I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire" (Matt. 3:11). Jesus himself stated that He is the One that gives the Holy Spirit. "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you" (John 16:7). Peter, after the experience of Pentecost, definitely designates Jesus Christ as the One who poured out the Spirit in that wonderful experience. Acts 2:33, "Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He hath poured forth this which ye see and hear." Jesus Christ himself received this gift after His exaltation and it is now Jesus who pours forth or who gives this wonderful gift.
It is important and necessary that we understand that it is Jesus Christ who gives this gift. Thus Jesus Christ remains the center of our Christian experience from the first to the last. This is important, else one may be led off from the truth of the centrality of Jesus Christ, which is absolutely essential.
15. 11. HOW TO DRINK
Jesus said that this experience was like a drink of water for the thirsty man. One who is thirsty does not have to be taught how to drink. It is the easiest, most natural, most desirable thing to do. To drink, one but opens his mouth and takes in. It is as easy as that. The Holy Spirit is all around us. He is a definite Person, but as to His personality, He is like the air: He is here; He is in China, Africa, and India -- all at the same time. We cannot see Him, but He is all around us. Sometimes it may help if we tell the Lord, "I know that the Spirit is here. I am thirsty. I want Him. May He come upon me now. May He fill me now. Just as I breathe in this air, I receive Thy wonderful Holy Spirit." If one truly receives by faith, He will receive the witness of the Spirit that it is so.
F. B. Meyer's experience may prove both interesting and helpful to those who are seeking. He writes in his book The Christ-Life for the Self-Life:
I had been a long time a minister at Leicester with a large church and of considerable influence in the city, but very unhappy. Conscious that I had not received the power of the Holy Ghost, I went up to that little village, the name of which you hear so often, Keswick. A great number of God's people gathered there to seek and to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and they elected to have a prayer meeting from nine o'clock to eleven and onward, to pray for the Holy Ghost. A great many people were there agonizing. I was too tired to agonize, and somehow I felt that God did not want me to agonize hour after hour. I had to learn to take. God wanted to give!
That is what little children do at mealtime. Tomorrow your little girl will come down to breakfast. She is very hungry, and the bread and milk or the oatmeal is on the table. You do not say: "Little girl, run upstairs and agonize, roll on the floor for an hour, and then come down for your breakfast." You say, "Little one, I am so glad you have got a good appetite. Now there is your chair, in you get, say your prayer, and start away."
That is what God says to the soul. Those all nights of prayer for the Holy Ghost are principally necessary to get people who pray into a fit condition to receive the Holy Ghost; for when the people are ready the Holy Ghost will come without agonizing.
So I left that prayer meeting at Keswick. It was eleven o'clock or half past ten and I crept out into the lane, and away from the little village. The lights died away in the distance and I stood on the knoll, or walked to and fro, the stars shining upon me, and now and again a little cloud dropping a baptism of rain upon my face, as though symbolic of the refreshing my soul was to receive. As I walked I said, "O my God, if there is a man in this village who needs the power of the Holy Ghost to rest upon him, it is I; but I do not know how to receive Him. I am too tired, too worn, too nervously down to agonize."
A voice said to me, "As you took forgiveness from the hand of the dying Christ, take the Holy Ghost from the hand of the living Christ."
I turned to Christ and said, "Lord, as I breathe in this whiff of warm night air, so I breathe into every part of me Thy blessed Spirit."
I felt no hand laid upon my head, there was no lambent flame, there was no rushing sound from heaven; but by faith -- without emotion, without excitement -- I took for the first time, and I have kept on taking ever since.
I turned to leave the mountainside, and as I went down, the tempter said, "You have got nothing. It is moonshine." I said, "I have." He said, "Do you feel it?" I said, "I do not." "Then if you do not feel it you have not got it." I said, "I do not feel it, but I reckon that God is faithful, and He could not have brought a hungry soul to claim by faith, and then give a stone for bread, and a scorpion for a fish. I know I have got it because God led me to put in my claim."
15. 12. CONNECT THE CALVARY WITH THE PENTECOST
The apostle John connects Calvary and Pentecost in the piercing of Jesus' side by the Roman soldier when he says, "This is he who came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ, not by water only, but by water and blood, and it is the Spirit that beareth witness because the Spirit is truth" (1 John 5:6-8). The Holy Spirit therefore was poured out at Pentecost in pursuance of Christ's finished work. The Comforter is closely associated with the precious blood in the Old Testament. The oil was always poured upon the blood and we cannot have the Holy Spirit apart from the Cross of Jesus Christ. The water that flowed from the smitten rock suggests the cleansing, refreshing, satisfying influences of the blessed Comforter. He is for us the "water of life" so constantly referred to in the New Testament, and He gives both boldness and power for effective service.
May every thirsty soul come to Jesus and ask Him for the Baptism (or filling) of the Holy Spirit. Need we repeat that this blessing is only for those who have fully surrendered to God and who have been cleansed from all sin? Do what F. B. Meyer and many others have done. Apply to Jesus, telling Him that you know that He is the One to whom the gift is given. Speak to the Rock and the waters will flow. The Rock has been smitten at Calvary and is open still. Ask and receive by faith from Him the gift of the Holy Spirit. God will give assurance that this gift is now yours.
15. 13. THE EVIDENCE OF THE BAPTISM WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
Does one know? Of course he does. If I am blind, I ask my friend concerning the landscape, "Are there mountains?" He answers, "Yes." "Rivers?" "Yes." "Cornfields?" "Yes." I ask question after question and get what help I can, but when my eyes are opened or when the light of the morning breaks, I ask no more questions about the contour and the configuration of the landscape because I see it for myself.
There is however an infallible evidence. We find it in John, chapter 16: "When he is come ... he shall glorify me." The flesh cannot glorify Christ; the devil cannot; only the indwelling Holy Ghost can truly glorify Him, and when He has come upon us and filled us, He will glorify the Son.
The fruit of the Spirit is also an evidence of this experience. In Galatians 5:22-23, we see that the fruit of the Spirit is love. It is one, not nine fruits. "Joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control" is but the description of love. These additional eight words give us quality, quantity, and flavors of the fruit. If we have love, we have the others; if we lack love, we lack all.
There will also be that inner knowing that precludes the necessity for any further evidence that I am not only born of God, washed in His blood, delivered from the power of Satan and the self-life, but also baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost.
One with such an experience is also equipped and endowed with the gifts of the Spirit as enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14. One soon finds a desire to praise the Lord with his whole heart, not only with all the words one knows, but words that only the Holy Spirit can give. The Holy Spirit will give gifts for power, for revelation, for utterance -- all for the glory of Jesus and the fulfillment of His commission for soul-winning and the evangelization of the world.
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