One of the things that we must learn if we are to live the victorious Christian life is its utter simplicity. How complicated we have made it! Great volumes are written, all sorts of technical phrases are used, we are told the secret lies in this, or that and so on. But to most of us, it is all so complicated that, although we know it in theory, we are unable to relate what we know to our practical daily living. In order to make the simple truths we have been considering even clearer, we want in this chapter to cast them all in picture form.
An |over-all| picture of the life of victory, which has come to many of us is that of the Highway in Isaiah 35: |And an highway shall be there and a way and it shall be called the way of holiness.| The picture is that of a Highway built up from the surrounding morass, the world. Though the Highway is narrow and uphill, it is not beyond any of us to walk it, for |the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.| Though there are many dangers if we get off the road, while we keep to the Highway there is safety, for |no lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon.| Only one kind of person is barred from walking there and that is the unclean one. |The unclean shall not pass over it.| This includes not only the sinner who does not know Christ as his Saviour, but the Christian who does and yet is walking in unconfessed and uncleansed sin.
The only way on to the Highway is up a small dark, forbidding hill -- the Hill of Calvary. It is the sort of hill we have to climb on our hands and knees -- especially our knees. If we are content with our present Christian life, if we do not desire with a desperate hunger to get on to the Highway, we shall never get to our knees and thus never climb the hill. But if we are dissatisfied, if we are hungry, then we will find ourselves ascending. Don't hurry. Let God make you really hungry for the Highway; let Him really drive you to your knees in longing prayer. Mere sightseers won't get very far. |Ye shall find Me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.|
A Low Door.
At the top of the hill, guarding the way to the Highway, stands so gaunt and grim ... the Cross. There it stands, the Divider of time and the Divider of men. At the foot of the Cross is a low door, so low that to get through it one has to stoop and crawl through. It is the only entrance to the Highway. We must go through it if we would go any further on our way. This door is called the Door of the Broken Ones. Only the broken can enter the Highway. To be broken means to be |not I, but Christ.| There is in every one of us a proud, stiff-necked |I.| The stiff neck began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve, who had always bowed their heads in surrender to God's will, stiffened their necks, struck out for independence and tried to be |as gods.| All the way through the Bible, God charges His people with the same stiff neck; and it manifests itself in us, too. We are hard and unyielding. We are sensitive and easily hurt. We get irritable, envious and critical. We are resentful and unforgiving. We are self-indulgent -- and how often that can lead to impurity! Every one of these things, and many more, spring from this proud self within. If it were not there and Christ were in its place, we would not have these reactions. Before we can enter the Highway, God must bend and break that stiff-necked self, so that Christ reigns in its stead. To be broken means to have no rights before God and man. It does not mean merely surrendering my rights to Him but rather recognising that I haven't any, except to deserve hell. It means just being nothing and having nothing that I call my own, neither time, money, possessions nor position.
In order to break our wills to His, God brings us to the foot of the Cross and there shows us what real brokenness is. We see those wounded Hands and Feet, that Face of Love crowned with thorns and we see the complete brokenness of the One who said, |Not my will, but Thine be done,| as He drank the bitter cup of our sin to its dregs. So the way to be broken is to look on Him and to realise it was our sin which nailed Him there. Then as we see the love and brokenness of the God who died in our place, our hearts will become strangely melted and we will want to be broken for Him and we shall pray,
|Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
Oh, to be lost in Thee,
Oh, that it might be no more I,
But Christ that lives in me.|
And some of us have found that there is no prayer that God is so swift to answer as the prayer that He might break us.
A Constant Choice.
But do not let us imagine that we have to be broken only once as we go through the door. Ever after it will be a constant choice before us. God brings His pressure to bear on us, but we have to make the choice. If someone hurts and slights us, we immediately have the choice of accepting the slight as a means of grace to humble us lower or we can resist it and stiffen our necks again with all the disturbance of spirit that that is bound to bring. Right the way through the day our brokenness will be tested and it is no use our pretending we are broken before God, if we are not broken in our attitude to those around us. God nearly always tests us through other people. There are no second causes for the Christian. God's will is made known in His providence, and His providences are so often others with their many demands on us. If you find yourself in a patch of unbrokenness, the only way is to go afresh to Calvary and see Christ broken for you and you will come away willing to be broken for Him.
Over the Door of the Broken Ones is sprinkled the precious Blood of the Lord Jesus. As we bend to crawl through, the Blood cleanses from all sin. For not only have we to bend to get through, but only the clean can walk the Highway. Maybe you have never known Jesus as your Saviour, maybe you have known Him for years, but in either case you are defiled by sin, the sins of pride, envy, resentment, impurity, etc. If you will give them all to Him who bore them on the Cross, He will whisper to you again what He once said on the Cross, |It is finished,| and your heart will be cleansed whiter than snow.
The Gift of His Fulness.
So we get on to the Highway. There it stretches before us, a narrow uphill road, bathed in light, leading towards the Heavenly Jerusalem. The embankment on either side slopes away into thick darkness. In fact, the darkness creeps right to the very edges of the Highway, but on the Highway itself all is light. Behind us is the Cross, no longer dark and forbidding, but radiant and glowing, and we no longer see Jesus stretched across its arms, but walking the Highway overflowing with resurrection life. In His Hands He carries a pitcher with the Water of Life. He comes right up to us and asks us to hold out our hearts, and just as if we were handing Him a cup, we present to Him our empty hearts. He looks inside -- a painful scrutiny -- and where He sees we have allowed His Blood to cleanse them, He fills them with the Water of Life. So we go on our way rejoicing and praising God and overflowing with His new life. This is revival. You and I full of the Holy Spirit all the time, loving others and concerned for their salvation. No struggling, no tarrying. Just simply giving Him each sin to cleanse in His precious Blood and accepting from His hands the free gift of His Fulness, and then allowing Him to do the work through us. As we walk along with Him, He is always there continually filling so that our cups continually overflow.
So the rest of our Christian life simply consists now of walking along the Highway, with hearts overflowing, bowing the neck to His will all the time, constantly trusting the Blood to cleanse us and living in complete oneness with Jesus. There is nothing spectacular about this life, no emotional experiences to sigh after and wait for. It is just plain day to day living the life the Lord intended us to live. This is real holiness.
Off the Highway.
But we may, and sometimes do, slip off the Highway, for it is narrow. One little step aside and we are off the path and in darkness. It is always because of a failure in obedience somewhere or a failure to be weak enough to let God do all. Satan is always beside the road, shouting at us, but he cannot touch us. But we can yield to his voice by an act of will. This is the beginning of sin and slipping away from Jesus. Sometimes we find ourselves stiffening our necks to someone, sometimes to God Himself. Sometimes jealousy or resentment assails us. Immediately we are over the side, for nothing unclean can walk the Highway. Our cup is dirtied and ceases to overflow and we lose our peace with God. If we do not come back to the Highway at once, we shall go further down the side. We must get back. How? The first thing to do is to ask God to show what caused us to slip off; and He will, though it often takes Him time to make us see. Perhaps someone annoyed me, and I was irritated. God wants me to see that it was not the thing that the person did that matters, but my reaction to it. If I had been broken, I would not have been irritated. So, as I look longingly back to the Highway, I see the Lord Jesus again and I see what an ugly thing it is to get irritable and that Jesus died to save me from being irritable. As I crawl up again to the Highway on hands and knees, I come again to Him and His Blood for cleansing. Jesus is waiting there to fill my cup to overflowing once again. Hallelujah! No matter where you leave the Highway, you will always find Him calling you to come back and be broken again, and always the Blood will be there to cleanse and make you clean. This is the great secret of the Highway -- knowing what to do with sin, when sin has come in. The secret is always to take sin to the Cross, see there its sinfulness, and then put it under the Blood and reckon it gone.
So the real test all along the Highway will be -- are our cups running over? Have we the peace of God in our hearts? Have we love and concern for others? These things are the barometer of the Highway. If they are disturbed, then sin has crept in somewhere -- self-pity, self-seeking, self-indulgence in thought or deed, sensitiveness, touchiness, self-defence, self-consciousness, shyness, reserve, worry, fear and so on.
Our walk with Others.
An important thing about the Highway which has not been mentioned yet is that we do not walk this Highway alone. Others walk it with us. There is, of course, the Lord Jesus. But there are other wayfarers, too, and the rule of the road is that fellowship with them is as important as fellowship with Jesus. Indeed, the two are intimately connected. Our relationship with our fellows and our relationship with God are so linked that we cannot disturb one without disturbing the other. Everything that comes between us and another, such as impatience, resentment or envy, comes between us and God. These barriers are sometimes no more than veils -- veils through which we can still, to some extent, see. But if not removed immediately, they thicken into blankets and then into brick walls, and we are shut off from both God and our fellows, shut in to ourselves. It is clear why these two relationships should be so linked. |God is love,| that is love for others, and the moment we fail in love towards another, we put ourselves out of fellowship with God -- for God loves him, even if we don't.
But more than that, the effect of such sins is always to make us |walk in darkness| -- that is, to cover it up and hide what we really are or what we are really feeling. That is always the meaning of |darkness| in Scripture, for while the light reveals, the darkness hides. The first effect of sin in us is always to make us hide; with the result that we are pretending, we are wearing a mask, we are not real with either God or man. And, of course, neither God nor man can fellowship with an unreal person.
The way back into fellowship with the Lord Jesus will bring us again into fellowship with our brother, too. All unlove must be recognised as sin and given to the Lord Jesus for His Blood to cover -- and then it can be put right with our brother also. As we come back to the Lord Jesus like this, we shall find His love for our brother filling our hearts and wanting to express itself in our actions toward him and we shall walk in fellowship together again.
So this is the Highway life. It is no new astounding doctrine. It is not something new for us to preach. It is quite unspectacular. It is just a life to live day by day in whatever circumstances the Lord has put us. It does not contradict what we may have read or heard about the Christian life. It just puts into simple pictorial language the great truths of sanctification. To start to live this life now will mean revival in our lives. To continue to live it will be revival continued. Revival is just you and I walking along the Highway in complete oneness with the Lord Jesus and with one another, with cups continually cleansed and overflowing with the life and love of God.