The Empowering LIFE OF CHRIST
(Part III, Chapter I)
Every Member Evangelism
J. E. Conant
THE divine power is the life of Christ, cruciﬁed and risen again, dwelling in us. The beginning of this indwelling was what the disciples were commanded to wait for when Christ went away, and what they received on the day of Pentecost.
This does not mean that they were not born again until Pentecost, for there is plenty of evidence that they were, but that the Holy Spirit began his ofﬁcial mission on earth on that day. That ofﬁcial mission is the baptism of all true disciples into that one body through which Christ continues his work of seeking the lost, being not only the head directing the work, but also the power by which the work is to be done; the directing and empowering being actualized within the Church by the Holy Spirit.
The disciples were therefore commanded to tarry until the Holy Spirit came to begin his mission of actualizing within them the indwelling Christ, and told that then, and not before, they would become effective witnesses unto him. They must be possessed by the divine power before they would be enabled to obey the divine command and follow the divine pattern. Human mechanics are of no avail here; it takes divine dynamics.
And this is true to this hour. The Lord’s people can no more obey the divine command until they have become possessed by the divine power today, than they could in the beginning.
Now the only way to become possessed by the divine power is to come under the complete and constant control of the indwelling divine life, and this is impossible without such a living experience of the cross that self will cease its activity and the life of Christ will be enthroned and put into active command.
In a very simple and practical way, therefore, we shall seek to ﬁnd what it means to be cruciﬁed with Christ, and also the method of receiving the cross into our experience.
I. THE MEANING OF THE CRUCIFIED LIFE
Pride is the very essence of the natural man. It is seen in the sinner in his refusal to surrender, and in the Christian, in his failure to keep surrendered. Self must keep doing something. To be in compelled to cease all activity is the keenest pain to the ﬂesh because pride is cut to the heart. To be considered incapable-so incapable that nothing self can do is acceptable to God-this is intolerable beyond expression.
This gives us a clue to the meaning of the cross in experience. Absolute surrender to the will of God puts self out of activity; it consigns self to the cross where all its doing will cease. To do this is to enter the cruciﬁed life.
Now, to apply this to our obedience to the Great Commission, in order to enter the cruciﬁed life we must ﬁrst see and acknowledge that-
1. We are Utterly Unable to Obey
We are perfectly helpless-utterly strengthless, and therefore totally incapable of obeying the very least of the Lord’s commands, and we certainly have no ability to obey this greatest of all his commands.
(1) We are unable because we are nothing.
Many of us think that we are at least a little something, but as long as we think so we are not in the place of power for service. We are nothing, and we have nothing to exhibit to the world. And even if we had, the world would not be interested in seeing it, for they are saying, not, “Show us what you have,” but, “Show us the Father, and it sufﬁceth us.”
Now if, to satisfy the heart yearning of a dying world, we busy ourselves in showing them our equipment, our wealth, our institutions, our programs, our creeds, our denominations, instead of showing them the Father through the indwelling Christ, it will be because our pride and self-sufﬁciency have not yet been swallowed up in utter abandonment to him who is our all.
We must be so completely hidden away in Christ that the world will no longer see us, but the Christ who liveth in us. How can we approach men with a divine message when the human is all they can see in us? Like the shoe salesman who always wore the same goods that he sold and always exhibited them to all to whom he tried to sell, so we must always exhibit Christ to those to whom we testify of Christ; and this we can never do until we get to the place where we are willing to acknowledge that we are nothing and he is all. He must actually be our all in our daily conscious experience, or we can never show a dying world how sufﬁcient he is for all their need. We must be able to show the goods we advertise.
This we not only can do but will do from the moment we so yield that Christ can really live his life in us and thus become our character in daily living, and our power in daily service. This is the life “hid with Christ in God.” This is the life in which we are literally nothing and he is all. This is the life through which the world can see him who reveals the Father.
(2) We are unable to obey because we can do nothing.
This is a hard lesson to learn. It is so hard that many never learn it. Even those who are very sure they could never do personal soul-winning work with the lost are just as sure there are some things they can do.
Many Christians have the false notion, that if we will only do all we can, then the Lord will come in and add his strength to ours; but that we cannot expect him to do so until we have done all we can. Spiritual empowering to them is his great strength added to our little strength. Indeed, there are many who seem to think that the characteristic difference between the lost and the saved is that the saved have accepted the help of the Lord which the lost have rejected.
But the difference is vital. That is, it is the difference between life and death. Christian living is not our living with Christ’s help, it is Christ living his life in us. Therefore that portion of our lives that is not of his living is not Christian living; and that part of our service that is not of his doing is not Christian service; for all such life and service have but a human and natural source, and Christian life and service have a superhuman and spiritual source.
This was precisely what Christ meant when he said, “Apart from me ye can do nothing.” And Paul said the same thing from the opposite angle in the words, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” And in another place he explains how he can do all things through Christ when he says, “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.” That is, Christ lived his own life in and through Paul, and this was made possible through Paul’s faith.
LIVING BY FAITH, NOT WORKS
Think of what faith is and this will be plain. Faith is surrender to someone else to do for us what we cannot possibly do for ourselves. What we do for ourselves is all of works and not of faith. What we surrender to someone else to do for us is all of faith and not of works.
Now how much of his life did Paul live, and how much did Christ live? Did Paul do his part and then let Christ make up what he could not do? Was Christ Paul’s helper, or was he Paul’s life? When Paul said, “To me to live is Christ,” did he mean, “To me to live is to be helped to live by Christ”?
“The just shall live by faith” ; “Without faith it is impossible to please him” ; “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” ; said Paul; and thus recognizing that faith and works cannot be mixed in the continuance of the Christian life any more than they can in the beginning of it, he turned it all over so completely to Christ that he himself no longer lived it, but Christ lived his life in him in response to Paul’s faith.
This is living the Christian life. Nothing else is. For any life that is not of faith is of works. and is therefore sin, and a life of sin is not Christian Iiving. A person may be a Christian and still be attempting to live by works; but he cannot do any real Christian living except by faith.
And yet there are many Christians who are ready to say in prayer-meeting, with becoming modesty, so they think, “I am still striving to serve the Lord in my poor, weak way.” But the fact is, the Lord never asked us to serve him in our poor, weak way, and he is not the least pleased with that kind of service. He has asked us to surrender to him, and let him serve himself through us in his strong and mighty way. So long as we are strong enough to be even weak we are too strong for him. It is only when we become utterly strengthless that his strength becomes available. “For when I am weak [utterly strengthless, in the Greek], then am I strong,” says Paul.
The conclusion of all this is that no matter what our natural endowments and training may be, obedience to the Great Commission is impossible to all except those who realize that they can do nothing.
(3) We are unable to obey because we can give nothing.
This is especially the place where active and trained workers fail. What are all their training and experience for if not to equip them to give something to those whom they seek to serve in the Master’s name? What is all their knowledge for if not to give to others? Why the natural endowments the Lord gave them if not to make their giving to others more effective?
You recall that Christ imagined a man who had a friend come to see him, arriving at midnight, and he had nothing to set before him. So empty was he of everything that he had to go to someone else for bread to set before his friend.
By that parable the Lord intends us to understand that we too have nothing to set before a famishing world, and if we set anything before them at all, we must go outside ourselves and our own resources to get it; and if we go to him who has the bread of life to give, we can get as many loaves as we need.
THE REASON MANY FAIL
Many a teacher will work hard on
a lesson until the preparation is thorough and splendid, and then go before the class with the feeling, “I certainly have something to give the class today. This is a great lesson, and I am going to have a great time giving them what I have dug out of it.” And then how many times they will ﬁnd no response from the class, and wonder why all the thorough preparation seems to go for nothing.
And many a preacher will go before the people with the calm assurance that he has something worthwhile to give them now, whether he ever had before or not, and then ﬁnd himself pumping and perspiring before an audience that he is conscious is getting nothing. And he recalls more than one service when, because of unusual demands on his time, he has gone before them with nothing but a text, and to his own joy and the great refreshing of his people, he has found himself the channel of a message from the very throne.
And many a personal worker will prepare very thoroughly for an interview with someone he is seeking to lead to Christ, and then go to him with the feeling that what he has to give him ought certainly to bring him this time, and then be compelled to leave with the feeling that the one he is after is farther away from Christ than he was before the interview.
What does all this mean? Is it wrong to make thorough preparation? Should we throw all preparation to the winds and simply open our mouths and expect the Lord to ﬁll them?
Most emphatically, no! It is not wrong to make the most thorough preparation possible. The fatal mistake comes in thinking that our preparation has given us something of our own which we can in turn give to others. It is pride of equipment that causes our defeat. And we shall fail every time we put conﬁdence in our preparation, for then our trust is not in God. The most splendid ability and the most elaborate’ equipment are but the tray on which to serve the bread of life, and if we put conﬁdence in the tray instead of in him who alone can put the bread on it, we are defeated before we start our serving. We have nothing, and the sooner we learn it, the sooner we shall come to depend utterly on him who alone has to give what this old hungry and starving world needs. If, after we have made our utmost preparation, we go to God and tell him the tray is ready, and then ask him to put the bread of life on it that we may serve it, we will then be where the Lord can use our preparation to his own glory.
It is precisely at this point that many workers, and all the shirkers, fail. The ever-present and powerful temptation of the workers is to depend on endowment, preparation, and equipment, thereby putting all their splendid capacities directly in God’s way. And it is the constant temptation of the shirkers to imagine that none can become soul-winners except those who have an ability, experience, and preparation that they themselves do not possess, and therefore they are excused. But the fact is that neither the great capacity of the one nor the limited capacity of the other is anything to God except a vehicle on which to convey the bread of life to the famishing. That man of very limited capacity had it right when he said in his prayer, “Oh Lord, thou knowest my capacity is very small and I can’t hold much, but, Lord, I can overﬂow a great deal.”
WHAT THE CROSS IS FOR
We can now begin to see what the cross is for. We are nothing, we can do nothing, and we can give nothing-not from the moment when we consent to surrender and become helpless before God, but all the time, whether we realize and acknowledge it or not. Imagining that we are something, and can do and give something of spiritual value, can never make these things facts. They are not now, they never have been, and they never will be facts. The only part of us that is not utterly helpless is the self-life, and that is very powerful and active. And when there is prospect of its activity being ended, it seeks to avoid it by becoming very kind-hearted, benevolent, generous, and even religious; but it is utterly incapable of doing anything spiritual, and therefore it can do nothing but get in God’s way so long as it is allowed the slightest activity.
And so the cross is for that life that is something. It must be reckoned as on the cross, so that Christ can make its activity to end. We are nothing, and when, we come to a complete end of all our doing, then the cross has begun to operate in our lives.
We surely cannot have missed the illustration of this that Christ gave us in his life. As a man ﬁlled with the Holy Spirit he was constantly emphasizing his utter dependence on the Father. Whatever he was he received from God, and the words that he spoke and the works that he wrought all came from the Father. He was literally living the cruciﬁed life, because of which the Father was his constant enabling.
The conclusion is that we are utterly unable to obey the Great Commission. This must be willingly realized and acknowledged before we can see the other side of this great truth, which is,
2. Christ is Perfectly Able to Obey
No one would think of denying or even doubting this, so long as we think of Christ in his own person. But when we seek to make a practical application of it, and confess that he is perfectly able to do in us all that he requires of us, it immediately becomes another matter. We are perfectly aware that all his almightiness is available for us, but when we put it in the light that he is to do our obeying through us by his own power, it becomes a puzzle to many. Where do we come in?
CHRISTIAN LIVING ALL OF GRACE
Stop and think a minute. Christ’s ability on our behalf is available only on the basis of grace, and most of us know all too little about the meaning of grace. Grace means that God does it all while we consent.
Paul speaks of Christ as the one “Who is our life.” Not “Who gives us life,” but “Who is our life.” And again we are told that God has “given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” This is why it is that only he who “hath the Son hath life.”
Now if Christ is our life, you cannot fail to see what bearing this has on our obedience. Whatever is done for, in, or through the Christian, his life must do it. If the life does not do it, it cannot possibly be done. Whatever is done for, in and through my physical body, is done by my physical life. In the same manner, whatever is done for, in, or through the Church, the body of Christ, he who is our life must do. Apart from him neither the body nor any member of the body can do anything; he himself says so. His body is as helpless as any body without life, or with life present and completely inactive. This must mean that whatever is done in a Christian in obedience to any of God’s commands, Christ himself must do. And he does do it, when we consent, for he is perfectly able; Therefore,
(1) Christ himself is our victory.
When some harmful thing seeks entrance into my physical being, it is my physical life that warns me against it. When that which is harmful slips past the guards into the system, it is the physical life that rises up at once and concentrates all its forces to ﬁght it and drive it out. And when victory over harmful forces is won, it is the life that wins the victory.
Even so is it with the Christian. And yet how few have ever learned it! When the enemy to spiritual health seeks entrance, instead of instantly turning the temptation over to him who is our life, we set our jaws, stiffen our muscles, and then ﬁght with desperate stubbornness, meanwhile calling on our Life to help us, and ﬁnally go down to defeat. Of course! There never is and never can be victory until we are at an end of all our effort and turn it over completely to him. When temptation comes, let him handle it. We are no match for Satan, but he is. Let him be the victory.
And this old self-life that is within us-let him take care of that. We do not have to nail it to the cross, nor take the stenchful thing into the dissecting room and carve it up piece by piece. He himself, through the Holy Spirit, is an end to all the activity of self, just as heat puts an end to the condition of cold. If you want the darkness driven out, simply give the light a chance. And if you want to have the self-life put out of business, turn it over to Christ and reckon on him. “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin (“sin” in this passage means self), but alive unto God in Christ Jesus”; not living by any effort of your own, but living in Christ, his life doing the living in you. This will put self completely out of business, for all chance for even the slightest activity will be gone.
Remember how Paul puts it when he is speaking of the works of the ﬂesh. He does not say, Put away bitterness, wrath, anger, and so on, but “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and railing be put away from you with all malice.” Let Christ do it. If he cannot handle every form of the enemy’s activity without our help, it cannot be done! But he can, for he is able.
(2) Christ himself is our character.
He does not simply give us character, he is our character. Character is received, not achieved. Christian character is an indwelling Person.
Those nine beautiful graces that go to make up normal Christian character-love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control,-they are all “the fruit of the Spirit.” Not one of them is the fruit of the Christian. No Christian can produce any one of those graces, much less all of them, for they constitute the character of Christ, and therefore only he is capable of producing them. But he does produce them in us by the Holy Spirit, when we consent.
Note how his method of doing it leaves the whole responsibility for our character on himself. “We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory-the character-of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory-from one level of character-to glory-to another level of character, even as from the Lord the Spirit.”
There is nothing here of the “character building” we hear so much of these days. While we behold him, he transforms us. There is no effort here. It is all done by him.
This is what spiritual growth is. We do not do the growing, he does it in us. Christ said, “Consider the lilies of the ﬁeld, how they grow. It is the life of the lily that does the growing. just so it is Christ in us who does our growing, becoming within us one level of character after another as our capacity for him increases. While we do the beholding, he does the transforming.
(3) Christ himself performs our service.
He does it through us as we yield. He performs through us every bit of spiritual service that is ever done. If he does not do it, it is not spiritual service. It is imperative that we take in this great truth, for it is failure to apprehend it that keeps thousands of earnest Christians from active work for the lost. They think they themselves must perform whatever service is done, with Christ re-enforcing them by furnishing whatever they happen to lack. They do not at all grasp the fact that they have nothing and can do nothing, and that whatever is done Christ must do.
Think of the vine and the branches. While the fruit grows on the branches, yet every bit of life that produces it comes from the vine. “From me is thy fruit found,” said the Lord in the Old Testament, and Christ illustrates how it is done by this wonderful parable of the vine and the branches, emphasizing the fact that apart from him we can do nothing.
All our soul-winning, then, he does as we let him use us in personal work. The burden of intense and agonized prayer that we feel for some lost soul is his yearning through us. The impulse to speak the words we say, no matter how simple they are, is his life expressing itself through us. All true spiritual service is according to his working, which worketh in us mightily.
Do you recall that river of blessing of which Ezekiel writes in the forty-seventh chapter of his prophecy? As soon as it left the temple it started straight for the Dead Sea, healing and making fruitful on its way there all with which it came into contact, except the marshes. Observe! What was it that did that healing? Was it the temple, or the waters that ﬂowed from the temple? And when you enthrone Christ in your life, which is his temple, and the rivers of living water begin to ﬂow from your inmost being, as he has promised they should, is it you yourself-the temple, or the waters of life ﬂowing out through your ministry from Christ himself from which the healing comes?
No, child of God, soul-winning is not your work, it is Christ’s work through you. And so if you will put into his hand just what you have, whether it is the walking stick of Moses or the ﬁve buns and two ﬁshes of the lad, he will ﬁll you and your capacities with his power and perform his pleasure through your life. It isn’t your equipment he is after, it is you, and when he gets you he can do anything he pleases through your equipment, whether much or little. You may be an impulsive ﬁsherman like Peter, or you may be a splendidly cultured and capable scholar like Paul, but the important thing to him is not your equipment, it is you. Not that the equipment is a matter of indifference in our service. Far from it. Every one ought to have the very best possible equipment. But whatever of real spiritual service is done Christ does it, using our equipment whatever it is.
A splendid illustration of this occurred in an evangelistic campaign the writer conducted in Cleveland, Ohio. The invitation was being given after the sermon, and there were perhaps a score of inquirers standing in front of the pulpit. Down in the center of the main ﬂoor, in view of all, was an electric lineman above forty, under such conviction that he was literally mopping the perspiration from his brow, though the temperature was normal. Many were praying for him. Presently a lad of twenty came from a distant part of the room, sat down by the convicted man, a man who was regarded as a difﬁcult case, and said a few simple words, and the man got right up and came to the front.
Now see how the Holy Spirit brought that about. For months that man had frequently remarked to his wife that he didn’t like the thought of so many linemen about his age being killed in their work. That thought was constantly with him. Now with this in view, the Holy Spirit moved that young man-who knew nothing of what the older man had on his mind-to say to him, “You know you have no lease on life. You don’t know you’ll be alive tomorrow morning. Now come on!” And the man came.
How did that young man know what to say?
The Holy Spirit, who knew what he had been impressing for months on the mind of that lineman, told him what to say. And he will impress any one who is yielded to him with what to say to any one to whom he leads him. All he wants is our willingness and he will pour his omnipotence out through our impotence.
By this time the meaning of the cruciﬁed life must be fairly clear. In a word, it is utterly turning our back on everything within us that makes us feel we are something when we are actually nothing, and turning our whole life over to Christ that he may live his own life in us through the Holy Spirit. It is an absolute abandonment of all our ideas, plans, ambitions, methods, possessions-everything that we are and have, that Christ may from henceforth be within us all he requires us to be, and do through us all he requires us to do. It is literally to die to ourselves that he may live within us. This is the life through which Christ can reach the lost.
Now some reader is asking, How can one enter upon such a wonderful life as this? We will therefore seek the answer.
II. The Method of Entering the Cruciﬁed Life
Christ said to his disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you ﬁshers of men.” He says the same thing to us with added spiritual emphasis. We are to follow him all the way to the cross in order to become ﬁshers of men. “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master.” He blazed the path, he set the pattern, and he himself is the power to follow.
We shall think ﬁrst of following Christ to the cross, and then of fellowshipping with him in the cross.
1. Following Christ to the Cross
How may a Christian follow Christ to his cross? By dying to self in the same spirit in which he died for the lost. He went to the cross in order that he might be able to save. We must die to self for the same purpose.
There is a uniqueness in his cross that we cannot share. As the sinner’s substitute and saviour he is absolutely and eternally alone, being forsaken in the hour of his cruciﬁxion even of his Father.
But as the controlling principle of life, the cross is for every Christian, and we not only can but must follow him here if we are to be made ﬁshers of men.
We must therefore die to everything but the will of God, that thus God’s will may come to be done in others through the service of our yielded lives. We must not surrender to God in order that we may be happy. It is true that the cruciﬁed life is the only really happy life on earth, but if we seek to enter the life that we may be happy, we shall never enter. Our whole purpose must be, not our own joy, but the salvation of the lost.
THE SACRIFICIAL AND SELFISH PRINCIPLES
There are only two fundamental principles of life to choose between. One is the sacriﬁcial principle, and the other the selﬁsh. And these principles are mutually exclusive. When one dominates the life, the other is driven out. We can never become ﬁshers of men if our lives are dominated by the selﬁsh principle, and the sacriﬁcial principle means the cross. One of those great passages where this truth is unfolded is the story of events surrounding Peter’s great confession of Christ’s deity. You recall that after asking the disciples what men were saying about him, doubtless to get their thought centered on himself, he asked them, “But whom say ye that I am?”
Then came Peter’s confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” after which Christ lifts the veil a bit concerning the things that are before him, and indicates the disciples’ relation to them.
Then a most signiﬁcant thing occurs. “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
Why did Christ speak of his coming death at the time when his deity was ﬁrst recognized and confessed by his disciples? Why not at some time earlier or later? Why just then?
It seems as though he must have done it in order that the disciples might be able to associate his death with his deity in their thought of him, and might always be able to recall that the sacriﬁcial principle lies at the very center of God’s being, and is the spring of all his relations with created moral intelligences. The cross was always potential in the heart of God before it became actual in the death of his Son. Christ was the Lamb of God slain in his purposes from the unbegun beginning. What more natural, therefore, than to connect his death immediately with the disciples’ recognition of his deity?
Then Peter, you recall, rebuked him and said, “Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee.” But Christ turned to Peter and said, “Thou savorest not the things that be of God [the sacriﬁcial spirit], but those that be of men [the selﬁsh spirit].”
THE PROGRAM OF THE CROSS
Then he unfolds both the program and the product of the cross.
“If any man will come after me,” he said let him do three things. Let him ﬁrst deny himself,” second let him “take up his cross,” and third, let him “follow me. This is the program of the cross. Look at it a moment.
Let him who would come after me “deny himself.” What does this mean? Does it have reference to those periods of self-denial that we frequently practice? Far from it! It does not mean denying things to self at all, but denying self itself. It means, “let him deny his self.”
But how can a man deny his self?
Precisely as Peter denied his Lord. He said, “I don’t belong to him; I am not one of his company; I have nothing to do with him.” And in exactly this same way we are to say to self, “I don’t belong to you; I want your fellowship no longer; I will have nothing more to do with you!” We are to turn our back on self for good. We are from that moment to “make no provision for the ﬂesh, to fulﬁll the lusts thereof.”
The second thing is “take up his cross.” This is where many miss the meaning. Some are so hopelessly mixed on the meaning of the cross that they get it mixed with their burdens and their thorns in the ﬂesh. We sometimes hear some earnest but confused Christian woman say that her cross is an unsaved husband! It may be a grievous burden to her, or a thorn in the ﬂesh that her husband is living a godless life, but it is never her cross. It is those who have this conception that talk about their “crosses.” There is no such thing. The word “crosses” cannot be found in the New Testament. There is but one cross.
What does it mean for a Christian to “take up his cross”? What is his cross?
There is only one way to reach the meaning, and that is to ﬁnd out what the cross was to Christ, For what it was to Christ it will be to us.
It was the instrument of death to him. It must also be the instrument of death to us.
But death in what way? Death to what?
Death to the self we have just denied.
Then the third thing he tells us to do is, “Follow me.” Here again many earnest Christians are confused. They have the idea that the cross is a burden of some sort that we are to shoulder and carry about with us all the rest of our lives, for Christ tells the disciple to take up his cross and follow him, and are we not to follow him through life? This is where the idea comes from that the cross is a burden. But nothing could be farther from the Master’s meaning. Study his thought a moment.
Where did he go with his cross? For we are to follow him with our cross to the place where he went with his.
He went with his cross to the place of death.
So if we take up our cross and follow him, where shall we go?
To the same place. To the place of death. We cannot fail to see that Christ meant this and nothing else, when we put everything that he said together. Notice just what he said. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself [his self], take up his cross [the instrument of death to make the denial of self effectual], and follow me [to the place of death to self].”
But some one reminds us just here that Christ told us to take up our cross daily.
There is no difﬁculty here. When we have once accepted that power of the cross into our lives which brings into our experience our cruciﬁxion in Christ in a transaction that is to be once for all, we are then to allow the cross to manifest its power in us daily that we may be daily kept in the place of death, that the life of the risen Christ may work in us and through us unhindered. Sophie the scrubwoman put it about right in one of her “sermons.” She said, “I ﬁnd dat de only vay to lead de right life is to commit suicide ef’ry day. You haf to die daily und go to your own funeral. You die to mean self, und den you haf to up und die to good self, und de sooner you die, de better you lif.”
Now if this exposition of these verses is not correct, then you will have to explain the meaning of the very next verse; for Christ says immediately, “Whosoever will save his life [from the cross] shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life [on the cross] for my sake shall ﬁnd it.”
THE PRODUCT OF THE CROSS
Notice those words, “shall ﬁnd it.” This is the product of the cross; and it comes only by following the program of the cross. It is a life yielded to the cross and therefore found again.
Found again? How? How can a life that is given up to death on the cross ever be found again?
Christ explains how it is found again in most striking fashion on a later occasion when he says, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”’ That is, to follow the selﬁsh principle and save the life from the cross is to lose it; but to follow the sacriﬁcial principle and die on the cross is to ﬁnd it in a vastly multiplied form. This is precisely why we must follow Christ all the way through death to self before we can reach the ground where multiplication and fruitage take place. This is what it means to follow him that we may become ﬁshers of men.
Now to sum up the cross principle, it is to lay down a life which may not in itself be wrong, but which, if we live, we shall live alone, in order that, laying it down, we may take it up again in ever-increasing fruitage. This is following Christ to the cross.
2. Fellowshipping With Christ in His Cross
How may we fellowship with Christ in his cross? How may the cruciﬁed life become our daily experience?
By Faith Alone.
Faith means, you recall, that we trust someone else to do for us what we cannot possibly do for ourselves.
Then recall that “the just shall live by faith,” which means that every minutest activity of the Christian life is performed by another within and through us while we trust.
This means a permanent cessation of all our own doing, for the moment effort comes in at the door,
faith ﬂies out the window. Faith and works can never dwell together in the same heart. When one is in, the other is out.
This means also that we are even to cease our doing by faith, and not by effort. That is, we are not to try to make self quit its, activity, for as long as we make any effort whatever it will be impossible for self to quit. As long as we do anything to make effective our death to self in Christ, it will be impossible for self to die out of our experience, because it is by our doing that self stays alive.
Christ, therefore, makes the cross a living experience in our lives by himself being within us the power to cease from self as we trust him, and daily maintaining the death of self by his own life within us.
But the moment we cease to trust him to do even the smallest thing, and start out to do it by our own effort, that moment self comes down from the cross and renews its activity in our lives. The just must live all the time by faith, and not a moment by effort. The normal Christian life is the effortless life. So if you ﬁnd it hard to live the Christian life, you are trying to live it instead of trusting him to live it. The fact is, Christian living is not simply hard to a Christian it is impossible. It is a supernatural life, and it therefore takes a supernatural Person to live it.
THE EFFORTLESS LIFE AND SOUL-WINNING
Now all this means that we can trust Christ-yes, that we must trust Christ to do every bit of the soul-winning through us that he requires of us, for he is able and we are not. Paul says that he is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” and then he tells us what he does while we trust when he adds, “according to the power that worketh in us.” Not according to our own power or working, but according to his.
Then in another place Paul tells us how this power puts us above every power that hinders. He speaks of it as “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe [not to those who make any effort whatever], according to that working of the strength of his might [not ours] which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion [then certainly over all our enemies, the world, the ﬂesh, and the devil], and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and he put all things in subjection under his feet [and therefore under ours] and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that ﬁlleth all in all” ; all of which means that through faith we fellowship with Christ in the literal working in our daily experience of his power over all things.
Then in still another place Paul tells us how the power that puts us above the enemy also works in us the attitude of Christ toward the lost. He tells us how he has suffered the loss of all things, and counts them but refuse, that he might know Christ, “and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” You notice that the resurrection, in this passage, precedes the sufferings and the death. But you will notice also that it is the power of his resurrection that Paul speaks of. This is why it comes ﬁrst; for it is the power of the risen life of the indwelling Christ that works in us perpetual fellowship with his sufferings and death for others.
In one other passage Paul tells us how to receive the cruciﬁed life into our experience when he says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”’ Could anything be easier than to let the mind of Christ possess us? It is like letting air into a vacuum. Simply open a way of entrance, and the air takes possession. And Paul tells us also what the mind of Christ is in the words, “Who, being in the form of God, did not reckon his equality with God a thing to be clung to; but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” To open the heart to the mind of Christ, therefore, is to accept his attitude toward death to self that others might live.
The application of all this to soul-winning is most practical. It means two very deﬁnite things. It means that by the power of the indwelling life we die to all consciousness of our ability, and also to all consciousness of our lack of ability.
CONSCIOUSNESS OF ABILITY HINDERS
This brings before us a class of workers that it is very hard to get along with. It is those who are conscious of ability, real or imaginary. They may be very modest in manner, though sometimes they are not, but they know little or nothing of what it means to cease from themselves and let Christ do it all. They are among the hardest to work with in any soul-saving effort. All evangelists and evangelistic pastors know them, and they are among the thorns in their ﬂesh in an evangelistic campaign. When a call is made for personal workers these people are not only ready to present themselves, but they frequently seek to push themselves forward. The presence of such people in a congregation sometimes makes it necessary to avoid a public call and pick out workers in private. They are frequently very agreeable, though sometimes this is not true, and are often kind-hearted, and even gifted with a natural ability that is unusual.
But, strange as it may seem, they are utterly unﬁt for service, for self dominates them. One evidence of this is their ill-concealed desire to be at the front. And even if this is not much in evidence, they are always very sensitive and touchy. It is almost impossible to make any corrective suggestions to them, and altogether impossible to ask them to step aside from a piece of work they are bungling, for if that is done they are instantly incensed and offended, sometimes to the point of denunciation and even withdrawal from the work altogether.153
WHAT TOUCHINESS SHOWS
This is where they reveal the fact that self dominates. For self is full of pride, and is therefore always easily offended and very touchy. Touchiness is self-conceit set with a hair-trigger, ready to go off at the least offense. And every- thing that even seems to raise the slightest question as to their ability is ample occasion for offense.
With the cruciﬁed life it is just the opposite. There isn’t any self to be offended, for self is on the cross and Christ lives within. Among the graces named in the fruit of the Spirit is peace, and the Word says, “Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” And so if we are offended over being set aside, the fruit of the Spirit is not being borne in our lives, and that means that self dominates.
When the power of the cross is working in our lives, we haven’t any ability that we are conscious of to be discredited, for Christ is all, and so our feelings are not hurt in the least if we are not called on for any given service, or if we are asked to step aside from the service we are engaged in. For even though the leader we are working under may ‘be making a mistake, we will not add another one to it by an exhibition of self. We can safely leave the leader with God while we, like our Master, are content to be of “no reputation,” and to leave our service altogether with him who said, “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
It is very hard for a self that is conscious of ability to quit and go to the cross, especially if that ability is being conscientiously used in what is believed to be the service of God. Look at Saul of Tarsus. In birth, natural ability, training, position and correct living, he was at least on a level with the best of his day. But in the use of his great ability, in spite of the fact that he lived in all good conscience before God, he was utterly dominated by self. Conscious of his own ability, he rushed on so madly in doing what Saul dictated that he had no ear to hear what God dictated, until God was ﬁnally compelled to smite him down by the roadside to make him hear.
But look at the change after he was born from above and so ﬁlled with Christ that he no longer lived but Christ lived in him. He calls himself the “chief of sinners,” because although he was given perhaps the greatest advantages of any man of his day, yet he allowed those very advantages to make him so unresponsive to God that he had to have a vision from heaven before he would get his eyes off from his own ambitions and on to Christ.
Notice what he does with his great ability after he is surrendered to Christ. After saying, “If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the ﬂesh, I more,” and then after naming the things in which he might have conﬁdence, he says, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. . . . and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, . . . that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” This means that he died to all his natural ability and equipment that he might lose all dependence on them and depend on Christ alone, and that thus Christ might use them in the power of his risen life. Paul was nothing; Christ was all.
When those who have any natural ability and training get to this place, they will henceforth be the great joy of all leaders in soul-winning work.
But it is so hard to die to our ability that we cannot do it. But Christ is able, and he will work it in us if we simply consent and reckon on him.
CONSCIOUSNESS OF INABILITY HINDERS
There is also another class that it is equally hard to deal with. It is that great company of Christians who are so painfully conscious of their lack of ability that they will never make the ﬁrst attempt to take Christ to a lost soul. They are everywhere. Their name is legion. And they are the heartache of many an evangelist and pastor.
They are the quiet but earnest and active Christians who are usually ready for almost any service except personal work. They are self-conscious because they think their natural inability and lack of equipment and training make them altogether incapable of doing such an important work as that.
But, strange as it may seem, these people also are dominated by self. Self has so twisted their vision of God that they have come to have a very strange and impossible God. He is most unreliable, at least in one thing. He will unmistakably move them to speak to certain unsaved souls and seek to lead them to him. By so much, therefore, he is with them. Then he will give them his encouragement and presence all the way to those unsaved souls. And so by that much more he is with them. Then just as they start to say something for their Master to lead these souls to accept him, strangely enough this God of theirs will suddenly back out from under them and leave them altogether to their own resources. Their limited resources are reason enough, therefore, for their never venturing on that work. It must be left to those whose resources are adequate.
Nothing but the activity in our lives of a guilty and sinful self could ever move us so to dishonor our Lord! It is because our eyes are on ourselves and not on him that we are ever capable of thinking such a thing.
When did the Lord ever desert his obedient servant? When did he ever leave us to our own resources in the doing of his work? What has either our ability or lack of ability to do with complete obedience to his commands?
His commands are always his enablings. He is the God who takes one to chase a thousand and two to put ten thousand to ﬂight. He is the one who can take a worm and thresh a mountain, and use even the things that are not to bring to naught the things that are. He is the God who can use a shout to throw down the battlements of a city, and three hundred pitchers and torches to defeat an army of 135,000. And then we back up when he proposes to use us because we lack ability!
We shall have to turn utterly away from this sinful self-consciousness before we shall ever be where God can use us. It makes no difference whether we have ability or inability, the Lord is able, and that is enough! He will do through us what he requires of us, no matter what our equipment or lack of it.
It is something like this. In your watch are two springs. One is called the main-spring and the other the hair-spring. The hair-spring actuates a little oscillating wheel called the escapement. The escapement for what? For power. For what power? For the power of the main-spring. When does the power of the main-spring begin to escape? Not when the escapement acquires some new or different ability, but simply when it goes to work!
Precisely so, Christ’s life within us is the main-spring of our life and activity, and we are the escapement for his saving message into the world-that message that is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe it. And so just as long as we refuse to surrender to his power and go to work for the lost, just that long the saving power that is in the message cannot escape through us. But just the moment we go to work for the lost utterly dependent on him because he is able, just that moment his power will begin to operate through us.
This does not mean in any sense of the word that surrender to him will set aside our personality. He empowers our personality and uses just what we are and have. The power of the main-spring does not change the hair-spring, it uses it. The electricity does not change the nature or characteristics of the dynamo or the heater in the street-car when it takes possession of them, it acts through them according to their nature. So also does the indwelling Christ with us.
This is the attitude toward Christ that puts self out of business so completely that we become entirely unconscious of both ability and inability in our consciousness that Christ is within us all he requires us to be, and to do, and to give.
This is what it means to fellowship with Christ in his cross. It is to surrender to the power of the cruciﬁed life within us in a deﬁnite and deliberate transaction which we intend shall be both complete and ﬁnal.
This is not a special blessing once for all received, however, whether “second blessing” or any other, nor a special experience once for all enjoyed, whether “sanctiﬁcation” or anything else, so much as it is a normal relationship once for all recognized, accepted and entered upon. This is the normal Christian life. Anything below this is sub-normal.
HOW TO ENTER IN
Now you are asking just how to go about it in order to enter upon the enjoyment of this relationship so that you may no longer live, but that Christ may daily live his life in you.
By faith alone, and never by feeling. For the experience of the life that is Christ does not rest on a thrill of the nervous system but on a fact that faith reckons with. Therefore rest once and for all on the fact and do not look for an experience. You will have experiences, many and blessed, but they will always be the result of the reckoning of faith, and never the outgrowth of feeling. Feeling comes from following, and following is by faith alone entirely apart from feeling.
What is the fact, then, with which faith is to reckon?
The fact that our cruciﬁxion to self does not have to be done at some point of time in our lives when we consent, but that it has been done already in Christ when we died in him on the cross, and that therefore we were cruciﬁed to self, to the world and to Satan the instant we were baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ at the moment of our regeneration. By the Spirit we were then baptized into his death, and by the Spirit we were also then baptized into the power of his risen life. It is therefore already a fact with which we are to reckon, that we are now dead to sin [self], and are now living unto God in Christ.
But just how shall we go about it to reckon with this fact? How shall this fact become a living reality in our experience?
Paul tells us when he says, “Let not sin [self] therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.”
But how can we prevent sin from ruling over us without making an effort against it? And the moment we begin making an effort does not faith end? Where, then, can the reckoning of effortless faith come in?
Paul solves this mystery of overcoming self without effort before he ﬁnishes the sentence. “Yield yourselves unto God,” he says, “as those that are alive from the dead.” Being alive in him we are simply to yield to him who is our life and he himself will not let sin reign over us. It is the ﬁght of faith, not the ﬁght of effort, because we are simply trusting him to do for us what we are helpless to do for ourselves. That is, while we reckon, he makes the cruciﬁxion of self which was ours in him the moment we believed an actual reality in our experience, thereby setting us free “that we should no longer be enslaved to sin.”
In other words, just as the salvation of our souls from the guilt of sin was ours the moment Christ died for us, and became ours in fact the moment we reckoned it to be true and accepted it, so the salvation of our lives day by day from the power of sin was ours in Christ’s death, and becomes ours in daily experience the moment we reckon that God has told us the truth and accept the fact. The fact of our complete salvation from sin and its power has been true since Calvary. The experience and enjoyment of that fact becomes a glorious reality within us the moment we believe and accept it.
To enter upon this relationship with your Lord is therefore very simple. Get alone with him at a time when there will be nothing to disturb nor break in. Then in a most personal, intimate, and natural way, yield yourself, all you are and all you have, all you will ever become and all you will ever have, in a transaction that will from thenceforth put the government of your life upon his shoulder and the doing of your service upon his power. And then from that moment reckon on him. Follow him wherever he leads you, trusting him to be in you and to do through you all he requires of you. Never wait for feeling. Always act on faith. The responsibility is all his. Leave it there!
And if self ever slips off the cross and becomes active again, as it surely will when you stop reckoning, confess it instantly, turn self over to him again, and take your former stand on the ground of a faith which lets him do it all because you can do nothing. This is the method both of entering and of continuing in the cruciﬁed life.
1. John 14:8
2. John 15:5 (Gr.)
3. Phil. 4:13
4. Gal. 2:20
5. Phil. 1:21
6. Gal. 3:11
7. Heb. 11:6
8. Rom. 14:23
9. 2 Cor. 12:10
10. Luke 11:5-8
11. Col. 3:4
12. 1 John 5:11
13. 1 John 5:12
14. Rom. 6:11 (R.V.)
15. Eph. 4:31
16. Gal. 5:22-23
17. 2 Cor. 3:18 (R.V.)
18. Matt. 6:28
19. Hosea 14:8
20. Matt. 4:19
21. Matt. 10:25
22. Matt. 16:13-25
23. Rom. 13:14
24. Rom. 1:17
25. Eph. 3:20
26. Eph. 1:19-23
27. Phil. 3:10
28. Phil. 2:15
29. Ps. 119:165
30. Phil. 2:7
31. Luke 14:11
32. 1 Tim. 1:15
33. Phil. 3:4-10
34. Rom. 6:12
35. Rom. 6:13
36. Rom. 6:6
This is one chapter of the third section of a wonderful book called Every-Member Evangelism by J. E. Conant. For more information on this book, contact Dan Augsburger at email@example.com
Next Chapter (The Overflowing Love of Christ)