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W. W. Prescott
The Word Became Flesh
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Key Thought: He only is a genuine Christian who has Christ dwelling in his heart, and we can live the life of Christ only by having Him dwelling in us. He wants us to lay hold upon the life and power of Christianity. Do not be satisfied with anything else.
Word Became Flesh
October 31, 1895
The work of Christ is to bestow the character of God on us; and in the meantime God looks upon Christ and His perfect character instead of upon our sinful character. The very moment that we empty ourselves, or let Christ empty us, of self, and believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as our personal Saviour, God looks upon Him as indeed our personal representative. Then He does not see us and all our sin; He sees Christ.
OUR REPRESENTATIVE IN THE COURTS OF HEAVEN
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5. There is a man in heaven now,—the man Christ Jesus,—bearing our human nature; but it is no longer a flesh of sin; it is glorified. Having come here and lived in a flesh of sin, He died; and in that He died, He died unto sin; and in that He lives, He lives unto God. When He died, He freed Himself from the flesh of sin, and He was raised glorified. Jesus Christ came here as our representative, travelled the path back to heaven in the family, died unto sin, and was raised glorified. He lived as the Son of man, grew up as the Son of man, ascended as the Son of man, and to-day, Jesus Christ, our own representative, our own brother, the man Christ Jesus, is in heaven, living to make intercession for us.
He has been through every one of our experiences. Does not He know what the cross means? He went to heaven by the way of the cross, and He says, “Come.” That is what Christ has done by becoming flesh. Our human minds stand appalled before the problem. How shall we express in human language what was done for us, when “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us”? How shall we express what God has given to us? When He gave His Son, He gave the most precious gift of heaven, and He gave Him never to take Him back again. To all eternity the Son of man will bear in His body the marks that sin made; forever He will be Jesus Christ, our Saviour, our Elder Brother. That is what God has done for us in giving His Son to us.
CHRIST IDENTIFIED WITH US
This union of the divine and the human has brought Jesus Christ very near to us. There is not one too low down for Christ to be there with him. He identified Himself completely with this human family. In the judgment, when the rewards and punishments are meted out, He says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these. My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” One version reads, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My little brothers, ye have done it unto Me.” Christ looks upon every one of the human family as His. When humanity suffers, He suffers. He is humanity, He has joined Himself to this family. He is our head; and when in any part of the body there is a throb of pain felt, the head feels that throb of pain. He has united Himself with us, thus uniting us with God; for we read in Matthew: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
UNITY IN CHRIST
Jesus Christ thus united Himself with the human family, that He might be with us by being in us, just as God was with Him by being in Him. The very purpose of His work was that He might be in us, and that, as He represented the Father, so the children, the Father, and the Elder Brother might be united in Him.
Let us see what His thought was in His last prayer: “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us.” “And the glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me. Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou lovedest Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee; but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me. And I have declared Thy name unto them, and will declare it.” And the last words of His prayer were: “That the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:21-26. And as He was ascending, His parting words to His disciples were, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20. By being in us, He is with us alway, and that this might be possible, that He might be in us, He came and took our flesh.
This also is the way in which the holiness of Jesus works. He had a holiness that enabled him to come and dwell in sinful flesh, and glorify sinful flesh by His presence in it; and that is what He did, so that when He was raised from the dead, He was glorified. His purpose was that having purified sinful flesh by His indwelling presence, He might now come and purify sinful flesh in us, and glorify sinful flesh in us. He “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.” Philippians 3:21. “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29.
THE ELECTION OF GRACE
Let me say that in this idea is bound up the whole question of predestination. There is a predestination; it is a predestination of character. There is an election; it is an election of character. Every one who believes on Jesus Christ is elected, and all the power of God is behind that election, that he shall bear the image of God. Bearing that image, he is predestinated to all eternity in Christ’s kingdom; but every one who does not bear the image of God is predestinated unto death. It is a predestination of God in Christ Jesus. Christ provides the character, and offers it to any one who will believe in Him.
THE HEART AND LIFE OF CHRISTIANITY
Let us enter into the experience that God has given Jesus Christ to us to dwell in our sinful flesh, to work out in our sinful flesh what He worked out when He was here. He came and lived here that we might through Him reflect the image of God. This is the very heart of Christianity. Anything contrary to it is not Christianity. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” 1 John 4:1-3. Now that cannot mean simply to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was here and lived in the flesh. The devils made that acknowledgment. They knew that Christ had come in the flesh. The faith that comes by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus Christ is come in my flesh; He dwells in my flesh; I have received Him.” That is the heart and life of Christianity.
The difficulty with the Christianity of today is that Christ does not dwell in the hearts of those professing His name. He is an outsider, one looked at from afar, as an example. But He is more than an example to us. He made known to us what God’s ideal of humanity is, and then He came and lived it out before us, that we might see what it is to be in the image of God. Then He died, and ascended to His Father, sending forth His Spirit, His own representative, to live in us, that the life which He lived in the flesh we may live over again. This is Christianity.
CHRIST MUST DWELL IN THE HEART
It is not enough to talk of Christ and of the beauty of His character. Christianity without Christ dwelling in the heart is not genuine Christianity. He only is a genuine Christian who has Christ dwelling in his heart, and we can live the life of Christ only by having Him dwelling in us. He wants us to lay hold upon the life and power of Christianity. Do not be satisfied with anything else. Heed no one who would lead you in any other path. “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” His power, His indwelling presence, that is Christianity. That is what we need to-day; and I am thankful that there are hearts that are longing for that experience, and who will recognise it when it comes. It does not make any difference what your name or denomination has been. Recognise Jesus Christ, and let Him dwell in you. By following where He leads, we shall know what Christian experience is, and what it is to dwell in the light of His presence. I tell you this is a wondrous truth. Human language cannot put more into human thought or language than is said in these words: “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” This is our salvation.
The object in these remarks is not merely to establish a line of thought. It is to bring new life into our soul, and open up our ideas of the word of God and the gift of God, that we may be able to grasp His love for us. We need it. Nothing short of that will meet what we have to meet,—the world, the flesh, and the devil. But He that is for us is mightier than he that is against us. Let us have in our daily lives Jesus Christ, “the Word” that “became flesh.”
This sermon was first presented at a camp meeting in Armadale, Australia on October 31, 1895. It was the fourth of a series of sermons that was greatly blessed of God.