Romans viii. 2
The Spirit of Life In Christ Jesus
Notes of an Address given at "The House of Industry"
"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made
me free from the law of sin and death."—Rom. viii. 2
THE central thought in these words is "LIFE IN CHRIST" as distinguished from "LIFE IN ADAM"—-distinguished, therefore, from all that We recognize as our "natural life." Whatever we have of nature, we inherited from Adam in his fallen condition, for he had no sons before the Fall; hence the whole life of nature is a fallen, sinning thing life, or, to use God’s language, death—a dead thing, ever tending to a deeper death, which is eternal.
Therefore, it is that the Gospel to the unconverted must be given with no uncertain sound. It is not the Gospel of our God to tell an unsaved man that he can reform this natural life of his, or in any sense amend his ways; neither is it the Gospel to declare that there is a latent something in nature which can be developed into a higher and truer life. Christ’s word to a Nicodemus even is nothing short of this: "Ye must be born again." Not by law-keeping, but by law-breaking, does fallen man reach salvation. "The law entered, that sin might abound." I once ventured to say that God gave His holy law to fallen man, not that he might keep it, but that he might break it; and though this is perhaps a strong way to put it, it is nevertheless the truth. The law was given that man might know himself a sinner; for God well knew that there was nothing in man capable of keeping it.
Now all this, we who are here (and I suppose I am addressing true Christians—men and women in Christ) concede, so far as to apply it to unsaved people; but the principle under consideration is applicable to all true Christians, quite as much as to the unconverted; and it is often from want of clear recognition of this that we remain confused and strengthless. The mere life of nature in us has not changed since our conversion. It is incapable off change for the better; it is corruption, and cannot give in any sense good fruit. Whatever, therefore, is merely of nature in us is doomed to perish.
Blessed be God, we have another life, hidden and eternal—Christ Jesus Himself.
Many Christians believe about this life, and trying to reach it (yes! IT they call THE LIFE, and they mean a vain attempt to copy Him, urging the old life of nature in a new direction, but on quite as vain an errand as when they tried to keep the law of God), fail to get into the secret of abiding rest and joy and power. We must not believe about Him, but believe in Him as our new life.
My brother, let me point out a mistake often made. When you came first to God by Jesus Christ as the alone atonement for your sin and the only Saviour of the sinner, you were accepted in the merit of another. You rejoiced to know yourself sheltered by the "precious blood." Did you not then and there, in your new-found joy, promise faithfully to serve Him? May I not say that, till now, you have not even begun to keep that promise? Oh, yes! I know you have tried—-perhaps done your very best; but have you in any small measure succeeded? Why? Because you have not properly taken in the fact that your new life is not in yourself, but in Christ. One of Paul’s "I knows" was this: "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." And another utterance of the Holy Ghost through him is this: "We are not sufficient of ourselves even to think anything as of ourselves." Is there sufficiency then? Bless God, abundance; but not in us. In order to get, even in a little measure, into the power of the Divine life, we must be taught this lesson which Paul knew, and taught thoroughly. Do you know what that apostle meant when he said that he carried about with him "the sentence of death in himself," in order that he might never trust in himself? By God’s grace, and through faith in Christ your life, you have done some little thing, gained some victory over self or the world; have you remembered even then to have the sentence of death in yourself? Oftentimes, God cannot use us because we have grown unto something. In blessed experiences, all wrought in us by Jesus only, we have begun to forget that we are nothing, and worse than nothing; have begun to think more highly of ourselves than we ought; and over and over again have needed to be brought down to death that we might learn to trust in Him who raiseth the dead----all through ignorance or forgetfulness that we must ever keep ourselves under sentence of death-—GOD'S SENTENCE OF DEATH. So far as our part in it is concerned, the new life is not a condition of doing, vowing, resolving, promising, but a condition of trusting only. Remember, God has exalted Christ to the place and condition of power, and He is our life. As such, He is the Great Giver and Doer, and we are always only receivers, and this just so far as we trust in Him as our life.
When Daniel saw the vision of the glorified Man Christ Jesus, his comeliness was turned in him into corruption. This was first needed that he might get to know the reality and value of the strength which Jesus alone could give.
When first brought to Jesus, you knew Him as the Way-—the only way open for the sinner to the Father’s bosom. Since then you have had to know Him as THE TRUTH and THE LIFE. The very Bible, when received apart from the living Truth Himself, has become a lie to thousands. The mere natural intellect and reason of fallen man thus turns the very letter of truth itself into a lie. Jesus is the Truth. Every time you sit down to read the Word of God, be sure to turn to Jesus and look to Him to open up the Scripture to your heart; thus only will the Spirit reveal the things of Christ. Just in like manner, He only is our life, and this new life of ours is HIDDEN. The believer's life is out of sight. Not only out of the world’s sight, but out of ours. As our life, Christ is not within the sphere of the natural senses. Faith in God, and faith in Christ as our life, carries us outside the range of the merely natural. Through our simple, childlike faith, He may, and does, come into the region of nature in us and about us, and blessed results, and mighty deeds, and holy victories are seen and felt there, but Jesus as our life, to bring about such results is reachable, not by sight, feeling, or experience, but by TRUST.
Many Christians say, "I do not see these things, and yet you surely will not say that I don't believe in Christ? By no means; but the question is, "For what do you trust Him?" You reply, "For the forgiveness of my sins, and I am sheltered by His precious blood." Thank God, it is much----very much; but beyond this, there is a magnificent life for us----a life with all the possibilities of Divine power and glory----a life for each of us, the very life that dwells hidden from mere nature’s senses, in God Himself; and this life is JESUS CHRIST. When we have this revealed to us, it is that we may trust Him as such; and that He may thus be able to "dwell in our hearts by faith," and by means of us, to dwell in the sphere where we are, and show to us and to the world, things which the risen Christ alone can, or was ever meant to do—things which nature may counterfeit, but never achieve. In the sphere circled by the wondrous words "IN CHRIST," God will not give the glory to another. We are meant only to trust in Him. Alas! as in the days of His flesh, it is still often true that He can do no mighty works because of want of faith. We have such a mixed-up life. When we have trusted Jesus but a little, we fall again to trust ourselves. How many of our good works are, after all, only the achievements of fallen nature, not yet turned in us into corruption!—works that must in the end, if not before, be burned up, because they are only the bloom and fruit of nature, beautiful to us in our unbelief of God.
One said recently that "every act of worship, every approach to prayer, every bit of service, ought to be preceded by an act of self- renunciation;" by which I think, the speaker meant that we ought, as Christians, to feel and confess that except for Jesus Christ, we cannot even at this moment lift up so much as one heartfelt thought of praise or prayer to God.
It must always be Jesus Himself energizing as to feeling and desire, word or action, or we have nothing. For this, now and always, we can and ought to trust Him. Young believer, please don’t think that all this is something to be made known only to riper Christians. From the moment you receive Jesus as your Saviour, you are privileged and expected to trust Him as your only life.
"What can you do without Jesus? Well, many things in a sort of way, but nothing really worth doing----nothing that is not passing and fading and perishing. Trusting in Christ, depending on Him for everything, what is there that may not be done? His strength will grasp and sustain and use your very weakness, if only you can trust Him so. He will fill with Himself your very emptiness, if only you can trust Him so to do—Jesus only!
The spirit of this life in Christ is the Holy Ghost with us now, dwelling in every child of God for this very purpose. He carries out this principle (or law); He superintends and directs it; that is, "He takes of the things of Jesus Christ and reveals them to us." His constant effort is to turn aside our faith from all and everything and fix it on the risen Christ. He "jealously desires us" for Jesus. Our Lord, ere He went out of sight said to His disciples, that in that day (when the Holy Ghost should have come) they, and we, should see Him in a sense in which the world could not----that is, by a God-given faith. Many, in speaking and writing of the work of the Spirit, seek to direct us to and occupy us with the Spirit Himself. They would occupy us with spiritual experiences and feelings, and motions of the mind. All this the Holy Ghost repudiates. "HE takes of the things of Christ and shows them." By His power we are transfigured only as we gaze upon Jesus. My young friends, let me ask you to look with suspicion upon all teaching that does not tend to occupy your hearts and minds with Jesus. The Holy Spirit "speaks not of Himself." Never trust your past experience, however blessed—nay, not even your present; but trust in Him—Jesus only. He longs to dwell in our hearts, and He will be glorified so, but it is only by "our faith in Him."
This life is ETERNAL.
Now what is your idea of eternal life? It is not any kind of life perpetuated. It is not your natural life going on forever and ever. It is life which is in its very nature eternal life, which was before the worlds were, which never knew beginning, and never can end. To our consciousness, of course, there is beginning; but I speak of the distinctive kind of life which is now ours in Christ. Adam had life given by God, but it was not eternal; but the moment we receive Christ, we enter upon the kind of life, which from the beginning He had in the Father’s bosom long ere by virtue of it, He brought the worlds into being.
Now don’t forget that this eternal life may have to do, and ought to do, with the present moment. In its very nature as eternal, this must be so. Eternity embraces now. We think ignorantly of eternity and eternal life as of some distant future. Nay, Christ the Living One is for you and me now at this moment. Again I say, we live such a mixed life. There is much in our so-called and apparently good works that is but natural and fleshly. Sometimes, by our simple trust in Him only, we do let Jesus Christ live in us, move us, and work by us, for, perhaps, say five minutes; it is eternal, and the results will be eternal. Then, perhaps, for the next month, we fail to trust Him so; and however good it may all appear to the eye of sense before God, the month is but lost time, and all its works and results are destined to be burned up. I doubt not we shall find at the judgment-seat of Christ that the life eternal has been lived in comparatively short spaces of time, and many a man lives thus now under the power of Christ to greater purpose in one hour than others do in years.
Whenever we leave Christ out of account in our daily lives, it is something of self only, and not eternal. In the simplest duty we have, in business or in Christian work,----in teaching the little one, mother, and Sunday school teacher; in speaking to an unbeliever; in comforting a tried one; in overcoming a temptation,—-let us depend always and only on Jesus to quicken us for the work and at the moment. Let Jesus do it, and let us expect Him to do it. Thus, "laying hold on eternal life," we may bring God’s eternity and eternal things into the present moment, to the glory of God the Father by Jesus Christ.