THE POWER OF AN INDWELLING CHRIST
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2.20).
THE truth here expressed has, I fear, ceased to hold a prominent place in the thinking or theology of the Christian church as we know it today. Its profound implications are being passed over to accommodate an age that is more desirous of being amused than of ( being instructed in the deep things of God, or of facing the implications of the Cross. Yet this verse expresses a truth and describes an experience, both of which are absolutely essential to Christian life and witness. That truth is the centrality of the Cross, and the experience, my identification with the Cross as expressed in the words of Paul: "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.. . that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:10-11).
A number of years ago, when a student in Edinburgh, I heard the late Dr. Gordon Watt say that what was central in God's great plan of redemption must never be secondary in Christian experience. We know that the Cross was central in that great scheme. On the one hand you have Christ our life, on the other our 1ife for Christ, and both are summed up in this great affirmation, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live." Here is a verse that affirms that Christ can become divinely real in human personality. This passage of Scripture is very significant, and I would direct attention to three truths suggested:
I. The Certitude of Christian Experience: This is suggested by the words, "I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live." There is today in many quarters a hunger for reality. The average man is positively tired of dead formality in the realm of religion, and there is a wistful seeking after that which is real.
During the past few years it has been my privilege to labour a good deal among young people at conferences convened by themselves, and in that way I have come in some small measure into contact with what they are thinking. Among them I find a hunger to regain the "shining certainties and revel in the freedom of the new-born church" (J. B. Phillips). They are seeking certitude in the realm of truth, and assurance in the field of Christian experience. In the words of a young undergraduate who chaired a meeting for me recently: "They are not interested in sentimental humbug or pious platitudes; they are seeking an answer to the supreme human problem-is there a Saviour who can save from sin? Can we be certain here?" I believe that there are thousands of young people today for whom organized religion has lost its grip, and disillusioned by the failure of all humanitarian alternatives, they are seeking an answer in the realm of the supernatural: in other words they are asking, has religion the solution? And because of this, the choice seems to them to be the satanic-inspired religion of Communism on the one hand, or Christianity on the other.
When we look at this verse we have the answer. Paul could stand before an incredulous world and declare with passionate, personal conviction, - "I live." He lived with a new quality of life because of his union with Christ. Dead to the old life, he lived in the power of the new. He moved amid the great problems of human and eternal existence as one perfectly at home because he held the key to the supreme human pro~ 1cm. He has found the answer in Christ. His witness was to a Person and not to a principle: to a life and not to a philosophy. It is quite obvious that Paul believed that in the whole field of Christian experience, the initiative is ever with God: thought, feeling and endeavour were to find their basis and their inspiration in the sovereign mercy of God.
One of the disturbing features of present-day evangelism is our over-emphasis on what man can do. The fact of ultimate reality is that salvation is of Cod. This, I think, is the truth suggested here. Paul's experience was Christ-centred, and with another he could say, "An my springs are in Thee" (Psalm 87.7).
"Young man," said the late Dr. D. M. McIntyre to a doubting enquirer, "you are saved by a Person and not by a proposition." What sublime confidence breathes through the words of the Apostle: "When it pleased Cod, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son m me...." (Gal. 1.15.16). "For I know whom I have believed . . ." (2 Tim. I. i2). His speech here is not the language of arrogance but the outpouring of a soul in touch with reality. Michael Faraday was once asked by a friend, "What are your speculations now?" - no doubt expecting an answer from the field of scientific research. Faraday replied: "Speculations I have none; I know Whom I have believed; my soul rests upon certainties."
If the prime duty of the Christian Church is to witness, then that witness must be based upon a personal experience of Jesus; not just on a mere decision or human resolution, but on a discovery of Cod. Here, let me say, and especially to the young people; we are not called upon to reconcile the principles of the Christian faith with human reason, but we are called upon to test them as working principles of life, and prove to the world that there is a life that has all its springs in God. Until I can say to the world, "We speak that we do know, and testily that we have seen, the world will stagger back disappointed, disillusioned and despairing. If we have not this note of certitude; if Christ is not real and dynamic in our lives, we shall be like "common people in a common market, babbling about common wares'1 (Dr. J. H. Jowett).
2. The Power of Christian Experience: This is suggested by the words, "Christ liveth in me." I sometimes think that we preachers dwell too exclusively on the objective aspect of Christ's redemptive work, and too little on the subjective aspect. Let me say here I do not wish to be misunderstood. I glory in preaching about the Cross of Jesus; that He "died for our sins, according to the Scriptures"; that He was made a "propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world." While that is the great central truth in God's wonderful scheme of redemption, it is not the whole truth. In our message we proclaim that the Lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world, and that His death on the Cross was substitutionary, that He rose triumphant from the grave, that He ascended on high, leading captivity captive, and that He will come again to judge the quick and the dead; but we also proclaim Him as the Bridegroom of the heart. Surely this is the truth contained in the words that we sometimes sing:
"Precious, gentle, holy Jesus!
Blessed Bridegroom of my heart,
In Thy secret inner chamber
Thou wilt whisper what Thou art".
Surely salvation just means that the Spirit of God has brought me into touch with God's personality, and I am possessed and thrilled with something infinitely greater than myself. That is where the supernatural-ness of the New Birth comes in, and I would suggest that this is the truth we need to proclaim when on every hand we are being offered a Christianity that is easy. I do not think that one can go too far in saying I that we are today living in the midst of very shallow
thinking, producing shallow experience. If this verse of Scripture teaches anything it surely teaches this, that man cannot stand up free until a power greater than his own has endued him. It takes the supernatural to break the bands of the natural This inner revelation and realization is a fact of consciousness, and when I say this I am not suggesting what is commonly referred to as emotionalism. What I am pleading for is a conscious spiritual experience. This blessed consciousness of the Lord Jesus is as much a verity as any other fact of human experience. In saying that, you may accuse me of being mystical, but if religion is not mystical in its root it will never be practical in its fruit: if it is not mystical it is mechanical, and we want to be saved from that.
Power to live is in this indwelling. Here let me point out what we do not take seriously to heart today-that there is a difference between Christ being revealed to me and Christ being revealed in me. It is possible to have Christ revealed to me in the pages of the Word, in the lives of His people, and yet not to have Christ revealed in me. Christ revealed to me does not constitute salvation: Christ revealed in me is the hope and anchor of the soul. This indwelling Christ invests character with more than the most faultless natural quality. This indwelling so supernaturally alters a man that godliness will characterize every part of his being-body, soul and spirit. The testimony of a young Chinese student, speaking at a meeting I addressed in Oxford some time ago, is arresting and convincing: "I choose Christianity," he said, "because I have discovered that the religion of Jesus is a religion of realization and power." To him Christ was real and Christ was the power of God.
Again and again I find myself turning to Psalm 62. I I, where David sets this truth in clear light in the words:
"God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God." It is generally true that knowledge is power: it is supremely true in the case of the knowledge of God. One is again reminded of the words of Daniel: "The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits" (Daniel 11. 32). They do not attempt to do exploits; they do them! We shall search the Scriptures in vain for any command to attempt to do anything for God: God's commands are always DO this. If the command be from God our only course is to obey. Here let me point out, God does not relegate His power; He goes with it; He is THE POWER.
We have given too much time to method, machinery and resource, and too little to the source of power. The early church conquered because there was confirmation of God's presence and blessing among them by supernatural utterance, revelation and demonstration of His power. If it is not the will of God to do the same today, then we are living in a period for which Scripture offers no pattern or precedent. I personally believe that today's need calls for dynamic action. Only Divine intervention can drive back the forces of darkness that are today advancing on every hand. Already "God's judgments are casting ominous shadows aslant a world that is ripening for repentance or judgment." The answer is a fresh manifestation of God as witnessed today in the Hebrides. Do not tell me that the people of Lewis and Uist are more susceptible to the Gospel than the miners of Fife! The person who says so is wing his imagination without reference to fact! Here I would have you recall the words of God to Solomon: "If thou wilt walk in My statutes, and execute My judgments, and keep all My commandments to walk in them; then will I perform My word with thee, which I spake unto David thy father" (I Kings 6.12). Note the words, "then will I." Here is a promise that is conditional - "If thou wilt walk," i.e., walk in the Spirit; "If thou wilt keep My commandments and execute My judgments, then will I do it!" Here let me say what I frequently say - that if the God I believe in is a covenant-keeping God who is true to His engagements.
It might be appropriate at this point to quote from a letter received recently from one of the Faith Mission Pilgrims labouring in the midst of this movement: "We are in the midst of a great move - greater than ever! Conviction of sin and the fear of God are gripping the community; many are finding the Saviour... God is in the field; meetings are late; we are 'caught up in God!"' I would say that the truth about God's power is discoverable and verifiable by submission to the Holy Spirit. I believe we have only to regard and observe the laws and limits within which the Holy Spirit acts, to find His power at our disposal.
3. The Evidence of Christian Experience: This we find in the words: "the life which I now live." What is the outstanding evidence? Is it not in the cleavage this inner revelation and realization brings about? Here I would say a word about sanctification and consecration. We sometimes put the word consecration before sanctification, but Scripture does not teach us so. The fundamental meaning of consecration is the separating of a holy thing to God, and not the separating of an unholy thing to be made holy. Consecration means the continual separating of myself to one particular thing - that of proving that the will of God is "good, acceptable, and perfect." Notice how Paul writes of this cleavage: "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12.2). This should be a perfectly natural sequence in a supernatural experience. The renewing of the mind is the work of God, and separation is based on the new life created in us, which has no affinity with our old life.
One of the facts we have to face in the life of the Spirit is this; that public sentiment is against God, and if we are to follow the Saviour and walk in His footsteps, we must set our face against public sentiment. It is an established fact that the moment a soul is born again this cleavage is in evidence. This, of course, will mean that we will be called upon to take our stand against the opinions of men and the conventions of our day. Think of the words spoken by Socrates: "Men of Athens, I hold you in the highest reverence and love; but I am going to obey God rather than you." It takes courage to say that in this modern world, but there is a power that makes it possible.
When this indwelling takes place, all that Christ did for me on Calvary is done in me by the power of His Spirit, so that I know experimentally the truth of John George Govan's hymn:
"...while Jesus reigns within,
You are proof against all sin,
And His perfect peace you win,
"History," said the late Professor MacIntosh, "reveals no prophet or founder of religion who came forward with the claim to forgive sin and liberate from its power." This is the claim that Jesus makes, and men down through the ages have testified to the fact and reality of it. He forgives and saves from Sm. Oh, to know this vitalizing power-this supernatural power possessing and flooding our being, and sending us forth as men and women, strong in the power of God, to smash the most besetting sins and demonstrate to a godless world that Jesus saves them "to the uttermost that come unto God by Him" (Heb. 7.25).
"And would'st thou know the secret
Of constant victory?
Let in the Overcomer,
And He will conquer thee!
Thy broken spirit, taken
In sweet captivity,
Shall glory in His triumph
And share His victory".