I would like to speak briefly, with the Spirit’s help, on what is within us, as to whether we are aware of what is within us. Sometimes it is a shock to find what is within you!
I would like to begin with what was found in Christ, because when I think of Christ, I think of perfection – divine perfection in a Man. He stands alone, unique – the manhood of Christ is absolutely unique. It has been said that He gained nothing morally by coming into manhood, but He brought perfection to manhood. Think of God studying men – finding delight in certain aspects of men’s lives. When the fullness of the time was come, God presented to man what He looked for, in Christ. What a study that is!
The Lord says here, “The ruler of the world comes, and in Me he has nothing.” Nothing! No point of attack whatever! Satan had no access to Christ! How different from you and me! This was established right at the outset of the Lord’s ministry, when He was driven into the wilderness to meet Satan (Matt 4). Now, temptation comes to us along three avenues: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. That is, the things that you see, the things that you desire to enjoy, and the things you want to achieve. Now, Satan works on these three things, and what he gets you with he may not get me with, but he will get me some other way. But he had no access to Christ on any of these lines. We have three temptations recorded at that point; there were many more, but we only have three recorded there. But what was established was that this was a different order of Man, One to Whom Satan was to have no access whatever.
What a life the life of Jesus was! “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight: hear Him” (Matt 17:5). The Father’s delight was twice declared in the Lord. God was justified in making man, in that there was one Man on Whom His Spirit could come in absolute complacency. And God was justified in giving man the law, in that there was one Man Who fulfilled it completely. Now, Satan could have said to God, ‘The law is unworkable, there is no one that can keep it.’ Christ made the law honourable (Isa 42:21), because He kept it. You know, after three-and-a-half years of public service, in which He faced the most severe opposition on a daily basis, they could not find two men to agree on anything wrong that He had done (Mark 14:55‑56)! The perfection of Christ! When you come to the offerings, it was a lamb or a bullock without blemish, and it was opened up – it was cut open and completely exposed – not that God did not know it was perfect in and out, but it was opened up for the offerer to see that it was perfect. It was washed, and exposed, and found to be perfect. That was for the offerer. Christ is the fulfilment of all these offerings. The ark is a beautiful type of Christ in the Old Testament – probably the greatest type. There you have the wood – the manhood of Christ – overlaid with the gold – the deity of Christ. And there was no way you could look at the ark except that you saw perfection. What a type that is, you know! If you look at Christ, you will find only perfection!
He was to be tried in the most severe way. I know someone who is involved in the metal-forging business, and he made crane hooks, and these were tested to twice or two-and-a-half times their normal strength to make sure that they would not fail. Think of the Lord’s devotion to the will of His God and Father, and how that was to be tested! Think of His devotion and His obedience – how that was to be tested! What did it bring out? It brought out perfection! I bring you to the garden. You know, it is not that we make much of hymns, but I think Mrs. Cowell’s hymn catches it:
The darkest hour, Lord Jesus, that rolled o’er Thy blest head,
Called forth the sweetest fragrance that e’er on earth was shed.
That cup so full, so bitter – the wormwood and the gall –
Directly from Thy Father Thou didst accept it all.
What perfect, meek submission! – Thy will, not Mine, be done –
Obedience full, unquestioned; perfection of a Son!
Thus prostrate there before Him, Thy sweat as drops of blood –
And so to be the Victim, the spotless Lamb of God!
Yet Thou, O holy Suff’rer, couldst “Abba, Father!” cry,
Through all Thy woe abiding in sonship’s perfect tie.
O glorious heav’nly Leader, perfect through suff’ring Thou;
Captain of our salvation! With rev’rent hearts we bow.
How affecting that hymn is, because it catches what the Lord went through in the garden, as He faced the awfulness of what lay ahead of Him in that cup! Think of His dependent manhood, recoiling from that cup as He saw it being mixed before Him! What was in it? The wrath of God was in that cup! Judgement against the sins that you and I have committed was in that cup. No wonder He shrank from it! And yet, “Not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). That devotion, that commitment, was tested in the most severe way, and it never gave way. The love of Jesus never gave way. How precious! Well, what a thing it is to get an impression of the glory and preciousness of Christ, and the manhood of Christ! How different it was!
I do not know if everybody here is truly the Lord’s. You young ones, are you truly the Lord’s? Have you committed your lives to Christ? Have you surrendered your hearts to this glorious Person? There was a young woman, who was a believer in the Lord Jesus, and she was concerned about her mother. Her mother was dying, and she had no link with the Lord. She went to get the minister to come and speak to her mother because she was not saved. He was not too keen, but he came along. And he spoke to the woman about the perfect life that Christ had lived, and how good a Man He was. And she said, ‘That is no use to me – I have lived a bad life.’ He did not know what to say. Then he remembered what his mother had taught him about the death of Christ, and how He suffered for sins, and all His finished work at Calvary’s cross. And he spoke to the woman about that. And she said, ‘That is for me – that is what I need!’ And she accepted Christ as her Saviour. Do you know what the minister said? ‘Not only did I get her in, I got myself in as well.’ There was a man standing up in a pulpit every week, who had no link with Jesus! You can come into this hall, you can come into the gospel preaching week after week after week. But have you surrendered to Christ? You say, ‘I am not here to hear the gospel’ – well, I am sorry, but it is important and it is vital that you commit your life to Christ.
Now, what is in you? Paul says, in Romans 7, that “in my flesh, good does not dwell.” And you and I are no different. As we said in the reading, you may admire the life of Christ and you may want to live that life, but you have no power whatever in yourself to do that. If you set out on a fleshly road to try and do the things that Christ did, you will fail completely. People lock themselves up in monasteries. I am not saying all of them do not know the Lord, I am not saying that, and they may well do. They may well be devoted. But shutting yourself away in an attempt to live a life of devotion appeals to the flesh – that is what it does, actually. That is what Paul speaks about in Colossians 2:21‑23 – “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch, (things which are all for destruction in the using of them:) according to the injunctions and teachings of men, (which have indeed an appearance of wisdom in voluntary worship, and humility, and harsh treatment of the body” – these are all things that men try and do to live good lives, and Paul says, ‘That is all out of court.’
What we have to understand is that the flesh in me was finished at the cross. It was finished. And no good is in it, and no good can come of it. God is not looking for anything from me after the flesh. Now, you get help when you stop being disappointed with yourself, and start being disgusted, because if you are disappointed you are expecting something better. If you read the experiences of Peter – and who of us would want to have our failures recorded in the four Gospels for people to read about down the centuries? – you will see that Peter’s experiences are for our help. Peter genuinely loved the Lord. He had right desires, but he did not realise the weakness of the flesh within him. All of us have to learn that lesson. You may want to do what is right, you may know what is right, but you do not have the power within you. Now, we will come to the power in a minute.
But the lessons of what is in us are not learned quickly in our experience. Remember the brazen serpent, when the children of Israel journeyed through the wilderness – it was long into the wilderness journey when they went through that exercise. What does it mean? It was sin working in the flesh. What does Paul say in Romans? God “condemned sin in the flesh” in His own Son (Rom 8:3). Christ’s perfect flesh was offered up at Calvary’s cross, and that line of things was completely finished. That life was laid down. “The things concerning Me have an end” (Luke 22:37). Have you got that, that that life was laid down, never to be taken again – representing the old order of manhood? Christ comes out of death in a new order, and all who have trusted in that finished work are “in Christ.” It is the new order of things that we were speaking about in the reading.
Well, where is the power to walk? It is found in the Spirit. And I wonder if I have even begun to appreciate what it is to have an indwelling Spirit! The immensity of that gift – and I can say that I do not fully appreciate what it is! It is vital to Christian life, you know. “If indeed God’s Spirit dwell in you.” Now, it is normal for a person to receive the Spirit when he accepts Christ as his Saviour. That is the normality of Christianity. If you are not conscious of having the Spirit, dear believer, the Lord says, ‘Ask the Father’ (Luke 11:13). But, you know, if your appreciation of Christ has grown in any way since you first accepted Him as Saviour, you have the Spirit, because that is the work of the Spirit. So I do not want to be negative; I want to be positive. It is a wonderful gift, the gift of the Spirit!
I do not think we appreciate the extent of it when we receive it! But then I wonder if it is because I am allowing the old man to operate within me. The flesh in you objects to the presence of the Spirit within you. It objects to it. Why? Because the Spirit would act against the flesh in order that you might be led on in your Christian path. I wonder what access we give to the Holy Spirit in our lives. Does He have access to all areas? I challenge you, I challenge myself! Are there areas of your life that you do not allow the Spirit access to? Someone once said, ‘He wants access to the library of your mind, to the dining-room of your appetite, to the living-room of your acquaintances’ – are you prepared to allow the Spirit that kind of access? That is what He wants, you know! James says, “Does the Spirit which has taken His abode in us desire enviously?” (James 4:5). Are there areas of your life that you are not prepared to allow the Spirit to work in? He will take up as much room within you as you are prepared to give Him. But you have to give Him that room, and I would encourage everyone here to open up to the Spirit in your life, allow Him access to every area of your life, allow Him to do what He wants to do within you. Now, there are negative sides and positive sides to the work of the Spirit within you. You have to see the difference as to how He came in in the Acts. He came in there as cloven tongues of fire (Acts 2:3). There was something to be done to those He came upon. There was nothing to be done as He came upon Christ as a dove. But as He comes upon the believer in Jesus, there are things that He has to do, and there are things He has to be allowed to do. And one of the things is to put to death the deeds of the body. We have to ask the Spirit to help us to do this. There may be things that you do that you are ashamed of – and all of us have done things that we are ashamed of. Maybe we still do things that we are ashamed of, but we do not have the power within us. Why? Because we do not allow the Spirit to help us. He is ready to help us along these lines, to put to death the deeds of the body in order that we might live. That is one side of the Spirit’s work within us. But what He wants to do in you, dear believer, is to form Christ again – that is what He wants to do. He wants to occupy your mind with the glory of the One Who has gone up into heaven. And how ready He is to do that! Are you prepared to let Him do that? How often do you ask the Spirit to help you to contemplate the glory of Christ?
There is no easy way, there is no quick way, into this. I know there are some 11‑day men – if you know what an 11‑day man is: it is 11 days’ journey from Egypt to the land, 11 days. That is how long it takes, if you went directly. It took the Israelites 39 or 40 years, but that is how long it is – eleven days. And there are some who learn quickly – Paul, I believe, was an 11‑day man. Most of us learn slowly, because we do not submit ourselves to the Spirit to help us. But He wants to form Christ in the believer. And, as you allow the Spirit to do that, then you have the power within you to walk as Christ walked. That is the power that we spoke of in the reading, which changes me, “even as by the Lord the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).
You see it in Stephen in a remarkable way. There was a man “full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:55). Now, that is the way we are to be – “full of the Holy Spirit.” No room for anything else! And there it was – think of that man giving that testimony. We are very favoured in this country: generally, when we preach the gospel, at least in the halls, we have a favourable audience. I know if you go out in the street it is not always so. But you think of Stephen addressing these Jews, and the more he spoke the more annoyed they got. And he continued on, and he drove home the word of God. He was speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit, and, you know, when Stephen’s testimony was rejected, that was taken as rejecting the Holy Spirit. They had rejected Christ, and they rejected the Holy Spirit in Stephen’s testimony. There he was – how like Christ he was! Think of him looking up, the heavens parted, and he looked right into the glory! He saw Jesus standing. He is not standing tonight, He is sitting. He was standing. Christ was ready to come back – that is what Peter says (Acts 3:19‑20) – if they accepted Him, if they would have accepted that testimony! Stephen looked right into heaven and saw Christ glorified, and then as the stones rained down upon him, he said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60). How like Christ he was! That was the features of Christ coming out in a man who was full of the Holy Spirit. That is my challenge to everyone here – are we prepared to allow the Holy Spirit access to us? Are we prepared to allow the Holy Spirit to do what He wants to do within us? Or are we keeping the old man going?
Are we keeping the man who was finished at the cross going in our lives? You know, he needs to be starved. It is the only way he is kept in check – he needs to be starved. What do we see? What do we take account of? You know, you cannot un-see things. Do you know that? Just watch what you see, watch what you allow yourself to look at. You cannot un-see things. Watch what you do. Be careful. Could you take the Lord with you? Could you take the Holy Spirit with you everywhere you go?
I come on to “Christ … in me.” Every believer is “in Christ.” That is your standing. If you have accepted Christ as your Saviour, you are viewed as “in Christ.” Nothing can affect that – nothing! But how much is Christ in me? How much is that true of me? Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ, and no longer live, I, but Christ lives in me.” Now, who of us could say this? It is true if it is true! Of course, there are features of Christ coming out in the Lord’s people. I just challenge my own heart as to how true this is of me. Does Christ live in me?
It says, “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). That is one of the effects of Christ living in me: that I have a hope that is not connected to this world. Paul saw the cross of Christ standing between him and the world, and it is a great lesson to learn that, that the cross of Christ stands between you and the world. The last view the world had of Christ was on the cross – Christ rejected. Has anything changed in the world tonight? Not a bit of it! Nothing has changed – Christ is still rejected. But nevertheless there was a powerful witness left here to Christ where He is. And He is living in believers by faith: “That the Christ may dwell, through faith, in your hearts” (Eph 3:17). What does that mean? That Christ is the chief Object in my heart, that Christ comes first. Now, this is a real exercise. How true is it of me? Does Christ come first in my heart? The heart is where we hold things dear: things that are precious to us are held in the heart. You say, ‘Yes, my family;’ yes, that is to be held precious. But even in relation to your family, Christ is to have the first place. This is to be worked out. Christ is to have the first place in every area. He will have it eternally; He will have it in the day to come. He must have the first place now – that is God’s purpose for Him. Does He have the first place in my life? Does He have the first place in my heart?
Well, it was obvious in Paul’s life: “No longer live, I, but Christ lives in me; but in that I now live in flesh, I live by faith, the faith of the Son of God, Who has loved me and given Himself for me.” Paul would leave us with an impression of what Christ has done for us. And I think that is why the supper is such a vital occasion for a believer. “The first day of the week, we being assembled” (Acts 20:7) – right at the start of the week we are assembled “to break bread.” We are faced with the emblems of the death of Christ – that is what is on the table. We are brought before the reality of the death of Christ seen before us on the table, and we begin the week with an impression of what Christ has done for us, of the love that He expressed in coming into manhood, what it meant for my Saviour to leave the glory to be found here in figure as a Man. What it meant for Him to go into death, meeting my liability and setting me free! So I begin the week with an impression of what Christ has done for me, and it would spur me on to be the more faithful to Him. ‘This much have I done for you, what have you done for Me?’ How little He has asked me to do – “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). It is a wonderful blessing. It is a responsibility, of course – do not forget that. When you take up the privilege of remembering the Lord, it is not only a blessing, it is a responsibility. I am not going into that now, exactly. But let us see the wonderful blessing of being able to be faithful here in the absence of Christ. Do we feel His absence? He is no longer here, He is in the glory!
What a thing it is to be aware of the presence of Christ within me! You can turn to Him at all times of the day. Do you ever do that? Difficulties come up in your daily work, in your daily life – do you turn to the Lord? He is ready to hear you, He is ready to help you. You, as an individual believer, can be as close to the Lord as you want to be. That is the truth. You are as close to the Lord as you want to be, because He is prepared for the closest walk with you that you are prepared to give Him.
Now, I just challenge my own heart, I challenge the hearts of all here. Can you take the Lord with you everywhere you go? Can you involve the Lord in everything that you do? Do you turn to Him in everything for help? Is He everything to you? Does He have the chief place in your affections? Is He your hope? Are you prepared to surrender completely to Christ?
In Laodicea He is knocking. He is knocking at the door. Can you imagine a company of believers that had no place for Christ? How solemn that was, and in grace He is knocking at the door – knocking (Rev 3:20)! He wants access, and He says, “If any one” – if there was one in Laodicea that was prepared to open the door to Christ – “I will come in.” If you have never opened the door of your heart to Christ, do it right now – now, before you go out of that door! If you are trying to keep some area of your life to yourself, surrender completely to Christ. It is the way of blessing: “I will come in … and sup with him, and he with Me.” What does that mean? He takes over. He wants to take over in your life. “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Do we have an impression, as John says, “Every one that has this hope in Him purifies himself” (1 John 3:3)? The more you appreciate the glory of Christ – and I hope I can leave you with an impression of how glorious He is – and the more you appreciate that perfection, the more there will be a desire in the heart to be like Him. “Every one that has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.” You know, if you are acquainted with Christ, you become sensitive as to what suits Him. Things that you desire to do according to flesh, you realise are not suitable for Christ, and that is how the features of Christ will come out in us as believers. The features that came out in Stephen, the fruit of the Spirit spoken of in this very Epistle to the Galatians (ch 5:22), are the features of Christ! Let us allow the Spirit to operate! Let us realise the wonderful blessing there is in the gift of the Spirit! And let us see that Christ is to be reflected in us – “Christ in you the hope of glory” – for His name’s sake.
29 September 2012