March 16: Christ In The Soul

How can you believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only? John 5:44

THE life of the renewed soul, springing from the indwelling of Christ by the Spirit, includes the crucifixion of self in us. “I live, yet not I.” What a depth of meaning is contained in these words! We may not in this life be able fully to measure its depth, but we may in some degree fathom it. There is not—indeed there cannot be—a more sure evidence of the life of Christ in the soul, than the mortifying of that carnal, corrupt self-boasting that is within us. For its utter annihilation, in this present time-state, we do not plead. This would be to look for that which the word of God nowhere warrants.

But we insist upon its mortification; we plead for its subjection to Christ. Who has not detected in his heart its insidious working? If the Lord has given us a little success in our work, or put upon us a little more honor than another, or has imparted to us a degree more of gift or grace, oh what fools do we often make of ourselves in consequence! We profess to speak of what He has done—of the progress of His work—of the operation of His grace, when, alas! what burning of incense often is there to that hideous idol self! Thus we offer “strange fire” upon the altar.

But the most gracious soul is the most self-denying, self-crucifying, self-annihilating soul. “I live, yet not I. I believe, and am comforted—yet not I. I pray, and am answered—yet not I. I preach, and sinners are converted—yet not I. I labor, and good is done—yet not I. I fight, and overcome—yet not I, but Christ in me.” Beloved, the renewed life in us will be ever striving for the mastery of self in us. Self is ever seeking to take the glory from Jesus. This is one cause of the weakness of our faith. “How can you believe,” says the Savior, “which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which comes from God only?” “We know but little of God,” remarks an eminently holy man, “if we do not sicken when we hear our own praise.” And if we have kept the glory of God in view, rather than our own, remember, it is the gift of God, the work of His Spirit, which has gained a victory over self, through faith in Christ. Oh that the life of Christ within us may more and more manifest itself as a self-denying, self-mortifying, self-reannihilating life—willing to be a fool for Christ, yes, to be nothing, that Christ may wear the crown.

May 25: Growth In Grace

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18

There is an idea fatal to all true sanctification, which some believers, especially those who are young in experience, are prone to entertain- that nothing is to be done in the soul after a man has believed, that the work of conversion having taken place, all is accomplished. So far from this being the case, he has but just entered upon the work of sanctification- just started in the race, just buckled on the armor.

The conflict can hardly be said to have begun in conversion; and, therefore, to rest composed with the idea that the soul has nothing more to do than to accept of Christ as his salvation- that there are no corruptions to subdue- no sinful habits to cut off no long-existing and deeply imbedded sins to mortify, root and branch- and no high and yet higher degrees in holiness to attain, is to form a most contracted view of the Christian life- such a view as, if persisted in, must necessarily prove detrimental to the spiritual advance of the believer.

The work of sanctification, beloved, is a great and a daily work. It commences at the very moment of our translation into the kingdom of Christ on earth, and ceases not until the moment of our translation into the kingdom of God in heaven. The notion, so fondly cherished by some, of perfect sinlessness here, is as fatal to true sanctification as it is contrary to God’s word. They know but little of their own heart, who do not know that sin, in the language of Owen, “not only still abides in us, but is still acting, still laboring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh;”- who do not know that in their “flesh there dwells no good thing,” that “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and will retain its fleshly nature and propensities to the very last.

Let us not exult “as though we had already attained, or were already perfect,”- let us not be “ignorant of Satan’s devices,” one of which is to build us up in the belief that, in the present life, a man may cease from the work of mortification. The Lord keep the reader from cherishing so erroneous an idea. The work of sanctification is the work of a man’s life. “When sin lets us alone (as has been remarked), we may let sin alone.” But when is the day, yes, when is the hour, that sin does not strive for the mastery, and in which the believer can say he has completely slain his enemy?

He may “through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body,” and if he does, “he shall live;” but, as the heart is the natural and luxuriant soil of every noxious weed of sin, and as another springs up as soon as one is cut down, yes, as the same root appears again above the surface, with new life and vigor, it requires a ceaseless care and vigilance, a perpetual mortification of sin in the body, until we throw off this cumbrous clay, and go where sin is known no more.

April 13: Put Away Your Sin

“If you through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.” Romans 8:13

“If you.” The believer is not a cipher in this work. It is a matter in which he must necessarily possess a deep and personal interest. How many and precious are the considerations that bind him to the duty! His usefulness, his happiness, his sunny hope of heaven, are all included in it. The work of the Spirit is not, and never was designed to be, a substitute for the personal work of the believer. His influence, indispensable and sovereign though it is, does not release from human and individual responsibility. “Work out your own salvation,” “Keep yourselves in the love of God,” “Building up yourselves,” are exhortations which emphatically and distinctly recognize the obligation of personal effort and human responsibility.

The reasoning which bids me defer the work of battling with my heart’s corruptions, of mortifying the deeds of the body, until the Spirit performs his part, argues an unhealthy Christianity, and betrays a kind of truce with sin, which must on no account for a moment be entertained. As, under the law, the father was compelled to hurl the first missile at the profane child, so under the Gospel- a milder and more benignant economy though it be- the believer is to cast the first stone at his corruptions; he is to take the initiative in the great work of mortifying and slaying the cherished sin. “If you do mortify.”

Let us, then, be cautious of merging human responsibility in divine influence; of exalting the one by lowering the other; of cloaking the spirit of slothfulness and indolence beneath an apparently jealous regard for the honor of the Holy Spirit. How narrow is the way of truth! How many diverging paths there are, at each turning of which Satan stands, clothed as an angel of light, quoting Scripture with all the aptness and eloquence of an apostle! But God will never release us from the obligation of “striving against sin.” “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection,” was Paul’s noble declaration.

Is no self-effort to be made to escape the gulf of habitual intoxication, by dashing the ensnaring beverage from the lips? Is no self-effort to be made to break away from the thraldom of a companionship, the influence of which is fast hurrying us to ruin and despair? Is no self-effort to be made to dethrone an unlawful habit, to resist a powerful temptation, to dissolve the spell that binds us to a dangerous enchantment, to unwind the chain that makes us the vassal and the slave of a wrong and imperious inclination? Oh, surely, God deals not with us as we deal with a piece of mechanism- but as reasonable, moral, and accountable beings. “I drew you with the bands of a man.”

Mortification, therefore, is a work to which the believer must address himself, and that with prayerful and resolute earnestness.

April 12: Mortification Of Sin

“Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.” Galatians 5:24

True mortification has its foundation in the life of God in the soul. A spiritual, yes, a most spiritual work, it can only spring from a most spiritual principle. It is not a plant indigenous to our fallen nature. It cannot be in the principle of sin to mortify itself.

Human nature possesses neither the inclination nor the power by which so holy an achievement can be accomplished. A dead faith, a blind zeal, a superstitious devotion, may prompt severe austerities; but to lay the axe close to the root of indwelling evil, to marshal the forces against the principle of sin in the heart- thus besieging and carrying the very citadel itself- to keep the body under, and bring it into subjection, by a daily and a deadly conflict with its innate and desperately depraved propensities, is a work transcending the utmost reach of the most severe external austerities.

It consists, too, in an annulling of the covenant with sin: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness”- enter into no truce, make no agreement, form no union; “but rather reprove them.” “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?” The resources of sin must be cut off: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Whatever tends to, and terminates in, the sinful gratification of the flesh is to be relinquished, as frustrating the great aim of the Christian in the mortification of the deeds of the body.

Mortification is aptly set forth as a crucifixion: “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh.” Death by the cross is certain, yet lingering. Our blessed Lord was suspended upon the tree from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. It was a slow lingering torture, yet terminating in His giving up the spirit.

Similar to this is the death of sin in the believer. It is progressive and protracted, yet certain in the issue. Nail after nail must pierce our corruptions, until the entire body of sin, each member thus transfixed, is crucified and slain.