THE VICTORIOUS LIFE
By an Unknown Christian
Author of “The Kneeling Christian”
From Our Friends At
1. Is It Possible?
2. Can “Little” Sins Be Conquered?
3. God’s Love Never Faileth
4. How Sin Is Overcome
5. None Can Imitate Christ
6. How to Enter In
7. Buried With Christ
8. Surrender All to Christ
9. Real Victory and False—
Real Victory and Its Counterfeit
10. This Life Is a Gift
11. Not Sinless Perfection
12. The Perils of This Life—
Some of the Perils That Beset a Life of Holiness and How They May Be Met and Conquered
13. Other Perils
14. “Highest” Criticism
15. Days of Heaven on Earth
From an un-copyrighted paperback book, published by Zondervan, noting “First paperback printing 1966 Fourteenth printing August 1976 completing over 100,000 copies Printed in the United States of America”.
This public domain first-release CDLF Etext ("EE-text", i.e., electronic text) edition of _The Kneeling Christian_ was edited and initially
distributed in 1997 by Clyde C. PRICE, Jr. "mail: 3145 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 125-169, Atlanta, GA 30305 USA Founder and President: The Christian Digital Library Foundation, Inc.
This reprint by __________________________ 2003
Most men hesitate to speak of their own spiritual experiences. They are deterred by the fear of making “self” too prominent, or are ashamed to confess how much practical unbelief and half-hearted allegiance to their Lord exist in their lives.
The writer of this book knows his own unworthiness; but he humbly believes that he also knows something of the worthiness of an all sufficient Saviour.
The manner in which this knowledge came—through an apparently trivial incident—is itself remarkable.
The immediate result was a joy, which no bridling could restrain. But whenever this Victorious Life was spoken of, requests were made for “something in print.” After much pressure from many directions, and with much hesitation on the part of the writer, he ventured to put down his reflections.
These appeared in the columns of THE LIFE OF FAITH, through the kindness of the Editor.
They are here republished with practically no alterations. These chapters show the pathway by which one seeking soul found its way from “life” to “life more abundant.”
They endeavour to reveal the helps and the hindrances, which a seeker after the Victorious Life should know.
The writer owes much to the lives of four men, but the great “CRISIS” in his spiritual life took place, not in the uplift of a great convention, but in the quietude of his own study.
He believes that his experience is that of tens of thousands of Christian men and women—who have LIFE, and are earnest and devoted workers, yet who long for some Power which will conquer the so-called “little sins.”
That POWER is the Lord Jesus Christ and HE offers Himself to us (John 1:12).
An Unknown Christian
CHAPTER ONE: IS IT POSSIBLE?
Is there such a Life? St. John plainly says that every child of God “overcometh the world.” Now THAT is Victory! And he tells us how Victory is secured: “This is the VICTORY that overcometh the world— even our faith” (1_John 5:4) -- and then most of us give up in despair! It all seems too vague—too indefinite. Besides, isn’t our faith too small or too weak? Or perhaps we don’t possess the “right kind of faith” to get the Victory.
With many of us there is a sneaking idea that the schoolboy was very near the mark when he said ‘Faith is believing what ain’t.” But of this we are sure: to most Christians the Victorious Life is a beautiful mirage which vanishes into thin air, or recedes into the distance as we try to approach it. And so we look forward to finding it in heaven!
Now St. John isn’t speaking about Victory in heaven—for THERE, “faith is LOST in sight.” So there must be a Victory here on earth, in some way the result of faith. The writer would gladly give all he had in the world if in exchange he could have seen this way of Victory 25 years ago! After many years of Bible study; after many fears of futile “struggling with temptation” which, with monotonous regularity, tested him, he at last saw a way out—or rather a way IN. It was to him a new way—a LIVING way -- and eagerly he entered in. He now sees there is such a thing as Victory, and he marvels how he missed his way before. In the joy of—to him—a wonderful discovery he longs for others to share the blessing—in these “last days.” And is there not a real heartfelt yearning amongst Christians today to lay hold—not on LIFE, for they have that -- but on “LIFE MORE ABUNDANT”?
The Victorious Life! The words ring with hope. Moreover, wherever an announcement is made that such a topic is to be talked about, men and women flock to discover the secret of such a life. For they KNOW intuitively that when VICTORY comes defeat goes! Those shameful betrayals of the Master, which are so discouraging, will vanish away.
With Victory will come PEACE—a peace which really passes all understanding.
With Victory will come JOY—a rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1_Peter 1:8).
With Victory will come POWER—the very “power of God.” The Victorious Life -- a life of Peace, and Joy, and Power. Would not SUCH a life satisfy any man?
Can we ask for anything better? And Christ offers THIS.
TO GIVE A WARNING
It is this: Satan will do his utmost to cloud your mind. He will bring all sorts of doubts and difficulties to light. Why is this? Just because he is eager to prevent you from gaining Victory! Believe me, the devil does not mind your being “religious,” and he does not mind how much POWERLESS work you attempt so long as you fall short of the Victorious Life.
So long as you go to the world for your pleasures, and so long as you fall into the usual sins of respectable people, THE MORE YOU ATTEMPT FOR CHRIST the more the DEVIL IS PLEASED. He simply revels in seeing defeated, worldly Christians desperately busy for Christ. But the devil will do his level best to discredit Victorious Life teaching and to keep you from even SEEKING to understand it. He is quite an adept in using—i.e., misusing—Scripture.
But be confident of this very thing that the teaching is striking home and striking him—the devil—when difficulties are suggested to your mind or some verse of Scripture “comes” to you, which seems to contradict some statement made in these chapters.
No one is more anxious than the writer that only the truth as it is in Christ shall be heard. If any statement is not true to Scripture or to experience, none will be more delighted to have this pointed out than the writer, who is possessed with a consuming desire that every Christian shall be “filled with all the fullness of God.”
CHAPTER TWO: CAN “LITTLE” SINS BE CONQUERED?
The Victorious Life is a Life of Victory over Sin. Is such a thing possible? It is not a question of absolute sinlessness like that of Christ, or that of Adam before the Fall. There will always remain the clear declaration of St. John. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.”
IS VICTORY PROMISED US?
The question we are facing is this Can we obtain Victory over known, voluntary sin? Is any such hope of victory taught in the Bible? Is it ever experienced—lived out—by men today? If so, can ANY believer in Jesus Christ have Victory over all known sin -- say, for one whole day—or is such Victory only for our spiritual leaders? Surely these questions are often in men’s minds. We WANT such Victory and even the Church of England teaches us to pray daily, “Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day, WITHOUT SIN.” “Grant that this day we fall into NO SIN.” Our Lord Himself taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil” -- or the evil one—i.e., sin, or the author of sin. In the Church Catechism we teach our children that in this prayer we are asking God to “keep us from all sin and wickedness.” Does Christ or any branch of His Church bid us ask for an impossibility? If these prayers are not mockery, then a Victorious Life is possible.
But come down to everyday life. Can we think of any ONE SIN over which Victory has never been won? We have seen drunkards turning to Christ, and IN A MOMENT getting absolute Victory over strong drink. Such men often declare not only that they have never fallen again, but that THE VERY DESIRE for alcohol has been entirely taken away. This is miraculous. So with other great besetting sins—God has given instantaneous and complete Victory.
If then we can get Victory over some deep-rooted, besetting sin, cannot our Saviour make us Victorious over the sins we sometimes regard as “little”? Christian people, as a rule, i.e., in the great majority of cases, are NOT drunken, or vicious, or immoral.
But this can also be said of very many worldly and irreligious people. Isn’t it true that there is little to choose between the average Christian and the ordinary moral “worldly” man? So the latter says, “What will it profit me to become a Christian?” And what can we say in reply? What would the worldly man gain? And what would others benefit by the change in him?
UNDER THE TYRANNY OF SIN
Do we see any signs of the Victorious Life in the majority of professing Christians? In any flourishing Church, how many of its members exhibit a glowing love of souls and a burning zeal for Christ? We merely ask the question.
In how many do we see Victory over so-called RESPECTABLE sins? -- bad temper, irritability, pride, jealousy, backbiting, unlove, ANXIETY?
Now we ask in all humility, Is there any remedy? Is there any hope of getting the Victorious Life? That is, a life of habitual Victory over sins (“small” as well as great) -- a life of constant and conscious fellowship with God?
If such a hope can be found, it will be in God’s Holy Word. Is it there?
“Victory over known sin! Can I get it?”
What a momentous question! If we can get it for an hour—or a day— then why not HABITUALLY? Dare we ask every reader to put aside all ideas of his own on such a question? Will you approach it with an unprejudiced and unbiased mind? For the time being just shelve any preconceived ideas you may have on this subject. Forget all your own failures—and the faults of other Christians. Yes—and forget all THEORIES of holiness. Simply allow God’s written Word to speak for itself. Surely this is not an unfair demand?
A PROMISE AND A COMMAND
What does the New Testament talk about chiefly? By far the greatest part of it is devoted to telling Christians how to live after they have found Christ as their Saviour, rather than how to GET SALVATION from the penalty of sin.
Before our Lord was born, the Angel of the Lord said of Him, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus for He shall save His people FROM THEIR SINS” (Matthew 1:21).
Quite early in His ministry, Christ Himself said to His disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
This must mean SOMETHING. The Saviour would never command an impossibility. Here He definitely bids us possess some sort of “perfection”— in fact a perfection in SOME WAY like that of God the Father.
Peter, speaking by the Holy Spirit, gives a very similar exhortation: “But LIKE as He which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written ‘Ye shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1_Peter 1:15).
We are then definitely commanded to possess some sort of “holiness”—in fact a holiness like that of Jesus Christ.
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews shows how important this is. “Follow peace,” says he, “with all men, and holiness, WITHOUT WHICH NO MAN CAN SEE THE LORD” (Hebrews 12:14).
John tells us plainly that he is writing his first Epistle so that its readers “may not sin” (1_John 2:1).
May we very humbly ask whether it is presumption on our part to inquire into the meaning of these words?
WHERE PRESUMPTION LIES
It surely WOULD BE PRESUMPTION to doubt the possibility of our carrying out any command of Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit? Ought not every sincere follower of the Lord Jesus to try to discover what these verses of Scripture mean?
Are you looking for the Return of Jesus Christ? Is that your hope? Well, more than 1,900 years ago, John said, “Everyone that hath this hope set on Him, purifies himself, EVEN AS HE IS PURE” (1_John 3:3).
St. John expects to find in Christians a purity somehow like Christ’s!
“Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin... he cannot sin...” (1_John 3:9).
We have not referred to Paul’s declarations on the same subject. “Reckon ye yourselves to be dead unto sin...” “sin shall NOT have dominion over you” (Romans 6:11 and 14).
He tells us how it is done. “The shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench ALL the fiery darts of the Evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).
Do not our hearts burn within us at the very THOUGHT of such a life as is held out here?
Now whatever we may think about these words from Scripture—whatever our prejudices, whatever our past failures—however impossible it all seems—we cannot deny the following facts. In the Bible—God’s Word: --
1. There is a perfection commanded, in some way like that of God the Father.
2. There is a holiness enjoined like that of God Himself.
3. There is a purity offered, like that of Jesus Christ.
4. There is a possibility shown of resisting every attack of the evil one.
The life which such “perfection,” such holiness, such purity, and such power would produce would surely be a Victorious Life. Are we willing to study the question further? We are absolutely certain that God would not mock us by commanding an impossible standard, or by offering us something He is not able to give.
The question is NOT “Can I live a Victorious Life?” (We all know what the answer to that question is.) No! The thing which concerns me, is just this: “Can Jesus Christ MAKE me holy—KEEP me holy—GIVE me Victory?” If He can -- shall we not get it? And then, shall we not cry out with St. Paul—in all exultation and yet withal, in all humility and adoration—
Thanks be unto God which giveth us the VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ (1_Corinthians 15:57).
CHAPTER THREE: GOD’S LOVE NEVER FAILS
What is the Victorious Life? It is the life of holiness, or the “perfect” life, which is so often referred to by Paul in his Epistles. Surely then the very first thing for us to do is to find out just what is commanded us, and promised us, in the New Testament. Two very definite things have been already spoken of—HOLINESS and PERFECTION. What do these words mean? And is “Holiness” the same thing as “Perfection?”
Now it is a very singular fact that really devoted—yet DEFEATED—Christians gladly aim at “holiness,” but are frightened of “perfection.” “There is no such thing as ‘perfection’” is a common remark on the lips of Christian people. Our reply is, that our Lord COMMANDED it, whatever it is.
“PERFECTION” HERE AND NOW
“Perfection,” said a Professor of Theology, “is an unrealisable ideal towards which we progress through all eternity.” Yet Christ demands some sort of ‘perfection” HERE and NOW. If we are really sincere we shall try to see what the Saviour means. “Be ye therefore ‘perfect,’” said Christ.
“That’s a bewildering command,” was the comment made on this verse, by a modern preacher, “but when our Lord adds, ‘as your heavenly Father is perfect’ we are simply staggered, and in despair give up attempting to obey!” Yet these added words are the key to the solution of the difficulty! For at once we can cut out all false ideas of “perfection.”
HOW is our Heavenly Father “perfect”? Surely in everything. But He is GOD and we are MEN. He does not command us to be ‘perfect’ as God. The FATHER is “perfect” in absolute sinlessness; in Majesty, in Glory, in Power, in Wisdom. Such “perfection” cannot be attained by mortal man. In what then are WE to be “perfect”? “Be ye THEREFORE perfect.” That word “therefore” evidently refers to what has been said just before. What is that? Simply a command to be full of love. Godless men love their friends: the followers of Christ are to LOVE THEIR ENEMIES as well. Our Lord is commanding perfect LOVE. This thought came to me with overwhelming power. The Victorious Life is simply a life of PERFECT LOVE.
OUR LORD’S “NEW COMMANDMENT”
Towards the end of His earthly life, our Lord said, “A new commandment I GIVE unto you, that ye LOVE one another; even AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34). There is the standard and there is the command to reach it.
As Christ loved—that is the standard; and that is perfect love. And this is commanded US. And St. Paul reminds us that “love” is the only thing which can enable us to obey God. “Love is the fulfilling of the Law.” (Romans 13:10).
“The point is, can an imperfect man or woman have ‘perfect’ love?” That was the opening sentence of an address on this subject. But surely that is not the way to approach this question? It is the blessed Master Who commands. It is not for me to cast even the shadow of a doubt on the possibility of what He bids. But, do we not feel constrained to cry out, like a seeker of old, “How CAN these things be?” Is there such a thing as “perfect love?”
Assuredly there is. The Father’s love is “perfect.” The love wherewith Christ loved us is perfect. Human love is imperfect and always will be. But does not the Bible say, “The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts?” (Romans 5:5). Would you believe it, if you were told that this was the reason why Jesus Christ revealed God the Father? Yet it is so. We have His own words for it.
Our Lord said, “I have made known unto them Thy name, and will make it known”—that includes you and me— “that the LOVE wherewith Thou love Me, may be IN THEM, and I in them” (John 17:26).
THE SECRET—“PERFECT LOVE”
Here, then, is the secret of it all. “Perfect love” is surely possible, but only possible when Jesus Christ Himself—God Himself Who is love— comes to dwell in our hearts.
St. John, the Apostle of love, told us this long ago. “If we LOVE one another God abideth IN US, and His love is perfected IN US” (1_John 4:12).
“We KNOW and have believed the love which God hath IN US. God is love: and he that abideth in love, abideth in God, and God abideth in him. Herein is love made PERFECT with us” (1_John 4:16-17). It is, therefore, as clear as day, that if we desire “perfect love,” we CAN GET IT by having Jesus Christ—Who is love—filling our whole being. Then, and then only, can we understand that stupendous comparison of John: “because as He is, even so are WE in this world” (ver.17).
No wonder St. Paul cried out exultantly—defiantly? -- “Who shall separate us from the love of God?” (Romans 8:39). No wonder he bursts out in triumphant faith, when he prays for the Ephesians “that Christ may dwell IN YOUR HEARTS by faith; to the end that ye being rooted and grounded in LOVE, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length and height and depth, and to know the LOVE OF CHRIST, which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17).
Before we go on to ask, not doubtingly, but in a spirit of joyous expectation, “HOW can these things be?” may we just answer the questions which are in the minds of some. “And IS love ALONE really enough?” “Does ‘love’ indeed banish sin from my life?” “Does ‘perfect love’ mean ‘holiness’?”
To answer such questions, we need only just look at that wonderful 13th chapter of 1_Corinthians in order to realise what Divine Love can work in us.
“Love suffers long”—it drives away all impatience.
“Love is kind”—it leaves room for no unkindness.
“Love envies not”—all jealousy is banished.
“Love vaunteth not itself”— boasting and self-assertion disappear.
“Is not puffed-up”—pride finds no place in the heart.
“Does not behave itself unseemly” ----- folly goes.
“Seeks not its own”—“self” is dead—selfishness will be unknown.
“Is not provoked”—anger and wrath will not be seen.
“Takes no account of evil”— brooding over so-called “wrongs” will be no more. Malice and all uncharitableness are not found in the heart.
“Bears all things”— complaining will never be heard.
“Hopes all things”—despair, anxiety, despondency go.
“LOVE NEVER FAILS.”
No wonder Paul adds, “When that which is PERFECT is come...” What IS it that is “Perfect?”—why, just the love of God—shed abroad in our hearts. If “perfect love” casts out this great procession of sins, and fills our entire being, we might well cry out in an ecstasy of thankfulness and delight, “To me to live is Christ”—and Christ is love. If we have not done so before, we must surely set ourselves the task of finding out how this great Possession can be secured.
How can we get this Perfect Love— and keep it?
CHAPTER FOUR: HOW SIN IS OVERCOME
SIN IS OVERCOME ONLY BY THE INDWELLING CHRIST.
We have now been led into a very definite position in Christian experience. It cannot be doubted that the Bible commands and expects some kind of “perfection,” some kind of “holiness,” without which no man can see the Lord.
But we long to see Him. We long to know, not only about Him, but to know HIM. This holiness cannot possibly be reached by man by his own efforts—no, nor by a man merely “helped” by God. “All our righteousness are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). But we have seen that Jesus Christ has promised to come and make His abode in our hearts: bringing His own “perfect love” and pure holiness into our very being.
When “HE is our LIFE,” then we indeed know HIM. “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou have sent” (John 17:3). And Jesus Christ is “perfect love.” And perfect love casts out, not only fear, but all sin.
All this we have seen—perhaps for many years. Now it is easy enough to write such things, and—in some sort of way—believe such things. But we want more than that. The question is, “How can I, a struggling sinner, though saved by grace, get this ‘perfect love’? How can I get victory over all known sin, and live the Victorious Life?”
WHAT GOD CAN DO
God gives great and open sinners instant victory over great and open sins, and rescues such men from the clutches of such sins. We want to know how WE can get instantaneous deliverance from little sins (so-called). The Loving Saviour and Almighty Redeemer CAN do it, we know—BUT how is it done?
This is the most momentous question any Christian man can ask. Most Christians have made many and frequent attempts to get victory over sin: and most of them have failed in the attempt. The great majority of believers reach a certain level in Christian experience, and then gradually slip back to lower levels. Why is this? Is it not probably because their method of attempt was wrong?
This is such an important matter that we hope the reader will patiently examine the following criticisms. We say “patiently,” because so much will be said which cuts right across the usual advice given to seekers after sanctification. The writer knows full well what he is talking about. He has himself sadly trodden all the paths described, and has tasted both their joys and their sorrows. And today as he looks back, he realises why they failed to lead him into the Victorious Life.
THE POPULAR WAY
This idea appeals to us, and seems so good and wise. And God does indeed help us to conquer after a determined fight—if our will-power lasts out. The writer has tried it (who has not?), and has often at length gained a victory. But again, he has often tried it only to fail miserably after a struggle: because Satan is stronger than man!
The popular way is a doubtful way! Where can you find anything in the Bible to support us in the belief that we are to fight or to struggle with TEMPTATION? We are told to “flee” from sin, from youthful lusts, from idolatry, and such like. Are we ever told to fight TEMPTATION?
If so, where? It is true that St. Paul exhorts us to “fight the good fight”—hut he hastens to add “of faith.” Now a “fight of faith” cannot be a struggle. It is true that James said, “Resist the devil” (James 4:7). How? With your hands? Surely not. “Whom resist, steadfast in the faith” (1_Peter 5:9).
We are to “STAND,” not struggle. “Having done all things, stand.” The shield of FAITH is able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one (Ephesians 6). “Faith does nothing; faith lets God do it all.”
JESUS CHRIST HAS WON…
the victory for us. “I live,” says Paul, “yet not I, Christ LIVES IN ME.” “Ye are of God,” says John, “and have overcome them.” How? Why? “Because greater is HE that is IN YOU, than he that is in the world” (1_John 4:4). So we come back to the some theme: The secret of Victory is the Indwelling-Christ. Victory is in trusting, not in trying. “This is the Victory that overcometh the world”—and SIN— “even our faith” (1_John 5:4).
A man who tries by strenuous effort to resist or struggle against sin till it is frequently conquered, is said to be “growing in grace.” Yet all growth takes place without effort. “No man by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature,” said our Lord. And this is true of our spiritual stature.
THEORY AND PRACTICE
How is growth secured? Air, food and exercise insure growth when there is life. If our spiritual life is sustained by the Holy Spirit, within and around us; if it is nourished by Jesus Christ Himself “the bread of God” (John 6:33), it will exercise itself in “good works,” and there will be “growth.” There is a wondrous “growth in grace”—but there is no growth into grace. Sin hinders this growth, and STRUGGLING against sin cannot help the growth.
Now, this is all theoretical. How does it work out in practice? The writer heard a sermon recently on our Lord’s command, “Be ye therefore perfect.” The preacher was a man of holy and humble heart. The gist of the address was that perfection was a thing we were to aim at but never reach. But we could get nearer and nearer to the goal. How? By tackling one sin at a time, subdue it, suppress it. Then another sin was to be resolutely dealt with until at last, some day, all our sins would be mastered. We were told that a piano could not be tuned all at once—a note at a time was taken.
Very well. Have you ever known such a method to succeed? Sin is sin, and all “sins” have their root in SIN in the heart. Sin has been conquered by Christ. Are we to spend our time cutting off branches, or are we to destroy the root of the tree? If Jesus Christ is not able to conquer any known sin in me today, will He be stronger in five months’—or five years’—time? After all is said and done, I can do nothing of myself in the matter. It is Jesus Christ Himself Who gives the victory. All I can do is to look to Christ in faith and let HIM overcome for me.
AN ILLUSTRATION WITH A POINT
A pick-pocket once strolled into a rescue mission—so the story goes— and was converted. He saw in Christ pardon for his sins and power against them. Rejoicing in a new life, he went on his way planning for the future. “In my unregenerate days,” said he to himself, “I used to pick quite twenty pockets a day. But now I am a Christian man, and I know that to pick pockets is to sin. So I must give it up— gradually, of course. Tomorrow I’ll make a start and for the rest of this month by striving and struggling against this sin, I’ll cut it down to five a day— for I’m a Christian man now. By the end of the year by constant endeavour (and the help of God) I hope to give up picking pockets altogether.”
Do you believe that story? The writer does not. But have we not all been guilty of this very thing in our dealings with bad temper, pride, irritability, jealousy, unlove? We expect a pick-pocket, or a drunkard, or a gambler to give up his sin once for all—the very moment of his conversion. We tell him—and tell him truly—that Christ is able to give him complete and instant victory. Is God unable to give us a similar victory over what we deem to be lesser sins? He is able to make us “more than conquerors.”
Victory over sin is a gift of God and not a growth. Paul recognised this. He did not say, “Thanks be unto God, which gives us a gradual victory,” but “giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord” (1_Corinthians 15:57). There is no such thing as a gradual victory over sin—although we may think there is. God’s gifts are perfect. The fact is, He gives us Jesus Christ Himself to dwell in our hearts by faith. And Jesus Christ keeps us. “He is able to keep us from stumbling” (Jude 24). “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not,” says the Holy Spirit— and He gives the reason—“for He that is begotten of God (Jesus Christ) KEEPETH him, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1_John 5:18). Can we trust Christ to do it?
An old coloured man in America saw this truth—that is, the wonderful power of the indwelling Christ, and his life became incarnate joy. “So, Sam, you’ve got the mastery of the devil, they tell me?” said a scoffing white man. “No, sah!” replied Sam, “But I’ve got de MASTER of de devil.” And is not this what we all want?
CHAPTER FIVE: NONE CAN IMITATE CHRIST
NOT THE IMITATION OF CHRIST BUT HIS
INDWELLING PRESENCE IS THE REAL
SECRET OF CONSTANT TRIUMPH.
Have we grasped the fact that the Victorious Life is not secured GRADUALLY, nor by effort and striving on our part? We know that a partial self-control can be obtained and IS obtained for a time by men who give no thought to pleasing God. An athlete will “flee youthful lusts” and to a great degree “keep himself unspotted from the world” simply to gain Victory in the world of sport. A business man or a shop-assistant will “control” his temper merely to secure orders, or keep a situation. A society lady will remain “sweet” even if you ruin her smartest dress by upsetting your tea over it. A Christian man may “school” himself in the same manner—but this is not necessarily the Victorious Life.
Do not misunderstand me. There IS a fight—and a strenuous fight— against a world of sin. But to fight against sin IN THE HEART is to mistrust Christ and is sure of failure in the long run. What then CAN we do to get this Victorious Life? Many of us have tried the IMITATION OF CHRIST.
We may call this
THE PROMISING WAY…
because it looks so attractive and right; and so likely to succeed. Surely it is a splendid thing to imitate Christ. But can you do it? “Oh, well,” you reply, “I can try.” As a matter of fact, no one ever lived who imitated Christ. It cannot be done. Nor are we told to attempt it.
CHRIST OUR LIFE
One of the world’s masterpieces of religious literature is called THE IMITATION OF CHRIST. Most of us know it well. It is, indeed, a delightful book, and has helped countless thousands— but not to imitate Christ! John Newton, the blaspheming slave raider, was led to Christ by reading this book. Read it again, for your soul’s good, and you will notice that from beginning to end there is nothing about imitating Christ. It is full of helpful counsels and advice, of meditations, and prayers and exhortations. The title well might be THE APPROPRIATION OF CHRIST, or THE ABSORPTION OF CHRIST.
Christ is to be more than an example—He is OUR LIFE. Someone has gone so far as to have declared that the “idea of imitating Christ is a hoax of the devil”! And he is really right in his strong assertion, For although no harm, but only good, can come from attempting to imitate the Lord Jesus, failure is certain to be the result. Good is always the enemy of “best.” We know how hopeless it is to try to imitate the holy men and women whose friendship we value. How much more difficult it would be to imitate Christ!
THE BIBLE ON IMITATORS
But we must not rely upon human opinions. What does the Bible say about this question? Has it ever struck you that nowhere in the New Testament are we told to be like Jesus Christ—or to strive to be like Him—or to pray that we may be like Him? Is it not so? This is very startling. The nearest approach you get to such an idea is found in Romans 8:29, “Whom He foreknew He also fore-ordained to be conformed to the image of His Son.” In his wonderful commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Dr. Moule, the late Bishop of Durham, says, “The Greek here is literally ‘conformed ones of the image’—as if their similitude made them PART of what they resembled.”
Paul also says, “Ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord” (1_Thessalonians 1:6). But in what way? In the matter of being afflicted for the Gospel’s sake. The servant is not above his Lord. If the world persecuted Christ, it will persecute us.
The same idea is brought out in 1_Peter 2:21. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that ye should follow His steps”—i.e., in suffering patiently (even though He was sinless) the contradiction of sinners against Himself. “But,” you ask, “does not St. Paul tell us to be ‘imitators’ of God?” Yes, but always and only in this matter of showing a forgiving spirit. (See Ephesians 4:32 and 5:1.) We may and can and should imitate some acts of Jesus Christ—but to imitate HIM is impossible. And, moreover, when we think we are “imitating” Him, it is in reality Christ Himself working IN US. One day we SHALL BE like Him—but not by any attempt at imitation on our part. “When He shall appear we shall be LIKE Him for we shall see Him as He is” (1_John 3:2).
CHRIST IN OUR HEARTS
There would be little harm in trying to imitate Christ, if such an endeavour did not hide from us what our Lord really desires; and so keep us back from “life more abundant.” He wants to come Himself into our lives, to dwell in our hearts and live His life in us. What a wonderful thing this is! We should despair if Christ simply left us an example to “follow” or “imitate.”
But He says He will come and dwell in our hearts by faith. Surely this is much better than having Christ as my helper, or than getting “power” from Christ. Paul sums up this great privilege in a sentence. “For,” says he, “it is God which worketh IN YOU both to will and to work, for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). The word means <work mightily, effectively.” Remember it is not an “influence” or a “spiritual force”—it is God Himself dwelling in the heart of the believer.
We are sometimes urged to “possess our possessions,” but we would rather invite all true believers to possess their POSSESSOR—Jesus Christ Himself, “Who is all and in you all.” In fact, the word “imitate” really means “a going into.” In this sense there is imitation indeed: for we enter into Christ, and Christ enters into us. So that we can say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21); “Christ Who is our life” (Colossians 3:4).
We must remember that Christ IS already in the heart of every believer. But unless He has FULL possession, and FULL control, we cannot have Victory.
Forgive a homely illustration, which the writer used in speaking to lads. He asked the question, “Would you like to play football as well as B---?” (a celebrated professional centre-forward). “Yes, sir,” “Well, it’s quite simple— imitate him.” “We can’t do it, sir.” “But if I could endow you with all the strength of B---, would you not play as well?” “No, sir, for we should still lack his skill.” “But suppose that with his strength I could also impart his mind—the mind which controls and guides his play and which gives him his skill?” “Then we’d play as well as he,” they broke in. Now, that is just what our Lord wishes to do for every one of His children. He does not say, “Imitate Me.” But He does say, “Let Me come into your very being and think IN you good thoughts; and work IN you, and enable you to put those thoughts into deeds.”
“Ye shall be endued with power form on high.” Yes, but that very Power is the Holy Spirit of God Himself. “Who shall be IN you,” says Christ. So that St. Paul boldly says, “We have the mind of Christ” (1_Corinthians 2:16). But if we have the mind of Christ in us, and “Power from on high” to fulfil the purposes of that mind, “Holiness” becomes, not second nature, but our very life.
KNOWING AND DOING
You may be saying to yourself, “There is nothing new in this.” No, indeed; but have you acted upon it? For years the writer read all these things in the Bible and believed them—yes, and spoke about them in addresses. Then came a day when he resolutely faced his failure to conquer so many “little” sins -- these sad betrayals of his Lord and Saviour. Was there no “better thing” than this in store? Again he knelt and surrendered himself fully to Christ and in simple faith claimed Jesus Christ as his indwelling Saviour. Then he rose from his knees and took it for granted that the Lord Jesus Christ was filling his entire life. That is, he simply BELIEVED God’s Word.
What a wonderful consciousness of His Presence was secured. Christ is no longer simply One Who inhabits eternity—Someone to Whom to turn in times of difficulty; no longer Someone Who comes to one’s aid and helps from without. He has come to make His abode in the whole heart—taking full possession of my very being; body, soul and spirit. So that the first thought in the morning and the frequent recollection during the day is just this: “To me to live is Christ.”
A little girl once heard such teaching from God’s Holy Word, and hurried home with joyful heart. Her mother, on entering the house, heard the child’s voice in the dining-room. “Lord Jesus,” said she, “they tell me You are willing to come and dwell in my heart. Forgive me all my sins. Make my heart clean. And now, Lord Jesus, come into the WHOLE of my heart.” Then the child stood up and looking up to heaven said simply, “He’s IN.”
Cleansing, Surrender; Faith.
It is as simple as that. Yet the very “Power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead” is involved in it (Ephesians 1:19-20). “Power from on high.”
CHAPTER SIX: HOW TO ENTER IN
HOW TO BE WHOLLY POSSESSED BY CHRIST
AND THUS ENTER INTO AND ENJOY
THE LIFE OF HOLINESS
If, then, we are unable to become holy by struggling against our sins; and if we cannot imitate Christ so as to become like Him, what hope is left us?
Hope? The writer soon discovered that there was not only no hope, but miserable failure in struggling and trying to “imitate.”
THE QUEST FOR GOD’S PRESENCE
But there came a bright star on his spiritual horizon. It was hailed with all the joy of the wise men of old when they “saw the star.” Surely this wondrous light would lead him into the very presence of the Lord—and there he would find victory? A little book was given him by a fellow-worker. It was called, THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD, by Brother Lawrence. It made a profound impression on his life.
Brother Lawrence found that books of devotion and religious “exercises” did not help him—but were rather hindrances to his spiritual life, so he set himself to work to secure at all times a sense of God’s presence. He endeavoured always to walk as in the presence of God. The result was a communion with God so close and uninterrupted that set times of prayer were not different from other times. “The time of business,” said he, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I POSSESS GOD in as great tranquillity as if I were on my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
Now, is not that the spirit we want? “In Thy presence is fullness of joy,” says the Psalmist (Psalm 16:11). But is this the Victorious Life? It certainly seemed so to Brother Lawrence.
The booklet was inspiring. Never before had the writer experienced such a wonderful uplift of soul: such an inspiration for service.
Not only the knowledge that “Thou, God, see me,” but the habitual consciousness, “I am now in the very presence of God.” The mind went back to Zacharias in the Temple and the words of the Archangel, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19). Ah! That’s the thought. His feet may tread the temple courts, but he never forgets that he stands in the very presence of God. “Take heed,” said the Lord Jesus Christ, “that ye despise not one of these little ones ... for their angels do always BEHOLD THE FACE OF MY FATHER which is in heaven.”
IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
That, then, is the secret of the angels’ service—they are always conscious of being in the presence of God. Was it not so with Elijah? When he suddenly emerges from obscurity and springs into our view he cries, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth before Whom I STAND!” (1_Kings 17:1; 18:5). When he refused “to stand” in the presence of God, he begged that he might die; and God could not use him again till he “stood” once more in His presence. “Go forth,” said God to the despondent prophet, “and STAND upon the mount before the Lord” (1_Kings 19:11). But he hid in the cave. Then came wind, and earthquake and fire—but all in vain. They did not drive him forth from his hiding-place from God. After the fire there was a sound of gentle stillness (ver.12, RV, marg.). Did the prophet fear that God had deserted him? Had God departed? Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and STOOD in the entering in of the cave. Once more he “stands” before God, and God could speak to him and use him.
Yes. All this is Scriptural. Oh, what resources of help and strength and comfort lie in this thought, “I... stand in the presence of God.” When some unwelcome duty, some unpleasant task, or some “big thing” had to be faced the writer has again and again steadied himself, nerved himself by quietly repeating the words, “I... stand in the presence of God.”
WHAT OUR LORD DESIRES
We thank God with unfeigned gratitude for this help by the way. But it is not the Victorious Life. A HEATHEN may use such help.
Is, then, the Way of the Presence right or wrong? Surely it is right as far as it goes. No one will ever know what help the writer found it. After all, we are “IN Christ” and to remind ourselves of His presence around us— near us—must be helpful.
THE CHRIST DWELLING WITHIN
But our Lord’s great desire is that we shall realise His presence within us. He tried to get His disciples to believe (and to know) that the Father was in Him and He in the Father (John 10:38). That He could do nothing of Himself—but that the Father was working in and through Him (John 5:19,30). And that in the same way we are sent by Him. That without Christ we can do nothing—but He would come and dwell IN us and work in and through us. Christ Jesus says this with the utmost plainness.
“As Thou have sent Me into the world,” says our Lord in His prayer, “even so have I also sent them”—the apostles (John 17:18). “At that day,” (Pentecost) said Christ, “Ye shall KNOW that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I IN YOU” (John 14:20).
How can we get this Indwelling of Christ? And how know we have Him and thus “know Him and the power of His Resurrection”? How did Brother Lawrence get his blessing? How did he keep it? He just surrendered himself entirely to God. Without such surrender one cannot really practice the presence of God. “I know,” said he, “that for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of all other things; because God will possess the heart ALONE. And as He cannot possess it alone without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there and do in it what he pleases unless it be left vacant to Him.”
This was his Prayer: “My God, here I am, all devoted to Thee. Lord, make me according to Thy heart.”
And what was the result? He had such a joy in God that for 30 years his soul was so elated and exultant that he had to repress his raptures so as to hinder them appearing outwardly.
“Were I a preacher,” he used to say, “I should above all other things preach the practice of the presence of God: so necessary do I think it and so easy too.”
But one does not fully appropriate that life merely by accepting Christ as the Saviour from the guilt of sin. Many sincere Christians are living defeated lives. Their sinful passions—yes, and sinful desires—are not entirely gone. So there is failure, and such lives are little different from those of the worldlings around them.
There must be an entire surrender of self—a real yearning desire to be free from all known sin: a looking to Jesus Christ by faith to destroy sin in us; and a taking of Christ to be our whole life—literally our life.
“You will never have the Victorious Life,” said Wilbur Chapman, “until Jesus Christ has all there is of you— never!” When He comes and takes entire possession of our being, He brings the Victorious Life, and we can say, “I live, and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me.”
When He possesses us wholly, then we shall be holy. Are we willing to take the step? Are we willing to put ourselves unreservedly into His hands?
To do so is to secure Heaven on earth!
CHAPTER SEVEN: BURIED WITH CHRIST
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST JESUS
“One of the bitterest moments of my life,” said a missionary recently, “was when an earnest young Buddhist boy said to me, ‘I want to believe in Christ, but I have never seen Him in those who profess Him. How can I believe in someone Whom I have not seen?’”
Would that lad have spoken in the same way had he known us? At all costs we must have the fullness of the indwelling Christ.
THE HOLY SPIRIT’S CHIEF WORK
The chief work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Christ. How often we have prayed, “O God fill us with Thy Holy Spirit.” We hear the prayer again and again at prayer meetings with little apparent result. Why is it? Is God to blame? Are WE to blame?
“He shall glorify ME,” said Christ, “for He shall receive of Mine and show it unto you.” So then it is the work of the Holy Spirit to see that Christ is “formed within” us (Galatians 4:19). If then God answers our prayer and fills us with His Holy Spirit, we shall indeed be wonderfully conscious of the indwelling Christ. So will others be!
Now let the writer confess that he has often spoken about this doctrine and has read the Gospel and Epistles of St. John again and again without really appropriating this indwelling of Christ. The Lord Jesus has been within the heart for many years, “for if any have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9). But the Lord Jesus was not filling the WHOLE heart. There must be many believers in a like condition. Many have told me by letter and lip how they have agonised for this Victorious Life for 20, 30, even 40 years, without getting it. “For years I have agonised for this,” wrote a clergyman to me. “What a difference it would make to my ministry! What a blessing it would prove to my people! Tell me how I can get it.” How then can this fullness of blessing be secured? Only by letting Jesus Christ do what all our struggling and strivings have failed to do.
We cannot overcome any sin by TRYING to do so. Christ only has conquered sin. He conquered it not for Himself—the devil had nothing in Him. He conquered it for you—for me! He doesn’t ask me to do what He has already done. He DOES ask me to enter into His victory. We cannot grow by trying to grow. We cannot grow in grace by trying to grow in grace. It is all of Christ. How?
A DIVINE SECRET REVEALED
St. Paul says that there was a great secret hidden from age to age, but which it pleased God to reveal to him. What is it? “Christ IN YOU the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). “God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery”—that He “may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28). Heathen religions have tried to bring their gods down to man—with the passions and vices of humanity! Our Lord came Himself and lived as a man: Emmanuel, “God with us”! Isn’t it a stupendous thought that the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, Whose Name is HOLY, should dwell not only in the high and holy place, but also “with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit—to revive [give new life to] the humble”? (Isaiah 57:15). Christ came to take us into Himself, and He Himself comes into us. He the Head; we His body. He the Vine: we the branches. Thus His life is IN US.
This is the “overcoming life,” the life more abundant, the Victorious Life. How do Christians come to understand how to enter in? Many, like the writer himself, found the “secret” entrance through careful and prayerful study of Romans 6:3-11. “Are ye ignorant that all we who are baptised into Christ Jesus...?” What is it to be baptised into Christ Jesus? Again and again Paul reminds believers that they are “in Christ”—that they have “put on Christ.” When does this happen? It takes place the moment a man, woman or child accepts Jesus Christ as Saviour. Water baptism is a rite ordained by Christ, which expresses baptism into Jesus Christ.
WHEN CHRIST IS RECEIVED
This new life—the life from above, the regenerate life—is a miraculous life, and it is the result of our being taken into Christ. The instant we received Christ as Saviour, we were made part of Him. In Paul’s day, a man was apparently baptised immediately he believed in Christ. So Paul takes baptism to illustrate or even prove the fact that a believer is taken into Christ. We are made “members” of Christ -- a part of His body. So that Christ’s life becomes our life, and we can say, “Christ Who is our life” (Colossians 3:4). Get hold of this truth.
An old lady who, late in life, accepted Christ as her Saviour, was always praising God and talking about her Saviour. One day a friend said, “You seem pretty confident about this Saviour of yours! I wouldn’t be too sure about it, if I were you. Suppose the Lord should let you slip through His fingers?” “But,” said the old lady, “I am one of his fingers.” Now she was perfectly right—she was indeed a member of Christ. We dare not say such a thing if it were not openly told us in Scripture.
It is all too wonderful for words. I, a poor sinner saved by grace, have been made a member of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
“I hope,” said a critic of an address on this subject by the writer, “I hope the speaker is not making out that we are all little gods!” Far from it. But we do “make out” that we have a great God living in us and making us members of Himself.
BAPTISED INTO CHRIST
“Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death?” Are we “ignorant” as to what this means? Here, again, the writer must plead guilty of failing for years to grasp the import of these words.
“In Adam all die”—yes, we are conscious enough of that—“who is a figure of Him that was to come” (Romans 5:14). This surely means that we must in some way share the death of Christ? Every believer went to death with Christ on the Cross. “I have been crucified with Christ,” says Paul.
“We were buried, therefore, with Him through baptism into death” (Romans 6:4). St. Paul is thinking of baptism by immersion. This is a symbol of burial (which means A PREVIOUS DEATH). As the believer went right under the water, he realised that he was dead and buried. Dead as regards the old life—dead to sin. Sin has no power over a dead man. No “dominion” over him. “For he that is dead is freed from sin. ... Reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin... Sin shall not have dominion over you” (Romans 6:7).
But death could not “hold” Christ, nor can it hold us, if we are in Christ. After death and burial—what? “That like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Jesus Christ did not raise Himself: God raised Him. Over and over again we are told this: God raised Him from the dead. And all the mighty power which God exercised in raising Christ from the dead is at our disposal. And to think that we should for a moment imagine that our feeble struggles are also needed!
St. Paul longed that believers in his day should realise this. He prays for them that “having the eyes of your heart enlightened, ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His POWER TO US-WARD who believe.” What power? “According to the working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:18). THAT POWER GOD OFFERS YOU.
A GIFT TO BE TAKEN
Isn’t it wonderful? Can we grasp it? Paul, seeing the stupendous nature of this gift, cries, “I count all things but refuse, that I may gain Christ: ...that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:8,10). This mighty power in Christ is a gift to be “gained” by the removal of all hindrances. How can we “know Him and the power of His resurrection”? Simply by being buried with Christ—being dead unto sin. That is, not only claiming forgiveness of our sins, but by God’s help renouncing the world, the flesh and the devil—by forsaking all sin—and then looking to God in faith to raise us up to walk in newness of life.
Try to understand what death and resurrection meant to our Lord. There He is perfect God and perfect man nailed to the Cross. The sins of the world came upon Him. God cannot die, nor can He remain in contact with sin. So the Spirit of God in the perfect man “Jesus” forsook that body of clay. He “yielded up His spirit”. And a dead MAN hangs upon the Cross. That perfect body is buried; and on the third day God raised Him from the dead. What happened? The Spirit of Christ came back into that dead human body and Christ Jesus rose again—once more perfect God and perfect man.
What a glorious privilege! What a tremendous responsibility! “It pleased God to reveal His Son IN me”! (Galatians 1:16).