Chapter 1 – Not I but Christ

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mat. 16: 24). “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ.” (Gal. 2: 20).

HERE lies the great difference between the world’s gospel and the Lord’s Gospel. The world says, when it bids you good-bye, “Take care of yourself.” The Lord says, “Let yourself go, and take care of others and the glory of your God.” The world says, “Have a good time, look out for Number One.” But the world gets left in the end, and the last comes in first. The man that lets go gets all, and the man who holds fast loses what he has, and the Lord’s words come true — “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

So the law of sacrifice is the greatest law in earth and heaven. The law of sacrifice is God’s great law. It is written in earth and every department of nature. We tread on the skeletons of ten thousand millions of generations that have lived and died that we might live. The very heart of the earth itself is the wreck of ages and the buried life of former generations. All nature dies and lives again, and each new development is a higher and larger life built on the wrecks of the former. A corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die, or else be a shrivelled-up seed, but as it dies it lives and multiplies, and grows into the beautiful spring, the golden autumn and the multiplied sheaves. And so it is in the deeper life of the higher world, as you rise from the natural to the spiritual. Everything that is selfish is limited by its selfishness. The river that ceases to run becomes a stagnant pool, but as it flows it grows fresher, richer, fuller.

If you turn your natural eye upon yourself, you cannot see anything. It is as you look out that the vision of the world bursts upon you. The very law of the natural life is love for others, caring for others by giving away and letting go. It is death and self-destruction to be selfish.

The law of sacrifice is the law of God. God who lived in supreme self-sufficiency as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost gave Himself. God’s glory was in giving Himself, and so He gave Himself in the creation, in the beauty of the universe, so formed that every possible sort of happiness could come according to its natural law. And then God gave Himself in Jesus Christ. “God so loved the world that he gave.” He gave His best, gave His all, gave His only begotten Son. The law of God is sacrifice. He loved until he gave ALL.

Then it is the law of Christ Himself. He came through God’s sacrifice, and He came to sacrifice. He laid His honors down, left the society of heaven for a generation, and lived with creatures farther beneath Him than the grovelling earth worm is beneath man. He made Himself one of them, and became a brother of this fallen race. He was always yielding and letting go, always holding back His power and not using it. He was always being subject to the will of the men beneath Him, until at last they nailed Him to the cross. His whole life was a continual refusing of Himself, carrying their burdens and sharing their sorrows. And so love and sacrifice is the law of Christ. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The law of Christ is the bearing of others’ burdens, the sharing of others’ griefs, sacrificing yourself for another.

It is the law of Christianity. It is the law of the saint. It is the only way to be saved. From the beginning it has always been so. It was so on Mt. Moriah where Abraham, the father of the faithful, gave up his only child, the child of promise. It reached its climax on Mt. Calvary. All along, the way was marked by blood and sacrifice. Not only did Abraham give up his Isaac but Isaac gave up his life and all through his life he laid himself down for others. We know how Jacob served for his wife, and then did not get the one of his choice. His was a suffering life, a passive life, a patient life. And so Joseph died to his circumstances. Because he was to rise so high, he must go down as low; down not only into banishment but into shameful imprisonment and almost into death. When Joseph was out of sight and all God’s promises concerning him seemed lost, and his prospects seemed hopeless, then God picked him up and set him on the world’s throne.

Moses had to be a fugitive. Moses had to try and then fail and for forty years God had to teach him and train him, and when at last Moses was out of sight, He gave him his desire. At the very last moment Moses had to let go the prospect of entering the Promised Land. He died outside the gates of Canaan, sacrificed his most cherished hope and waited till the years should roll and Jesus Himself should bring him in to stand with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration and say, “Now, Moses, you have the thing you let go, the thing you lost and died to, and now you have a better resurrection.” And so it was all through the past. Saul would not give up himself, would not destroy Agag and Amalek, types of the flesh. So Saul, head and shoulders above the people, all that a man could be, went down into the darkness, sank into obscurity and shame and perhaps perdition. And Jonah, the man whom God honored to deliver His own people and lead His kingdom into victory and mighty power in the days of Jeroboam II, the man whom God honored to be the first foreign missionary, the man whom God had picked up and sent to Assyria, and said, Go and preach to Nineveh, go bring the world to know and honor me; was so greatly blessed that in that city the mightiest revival the world ever saw was consummated. And yet Jonah got angry because He did not kill all the people in Nineveh, and so compromised Jonah’s reputation. Jonah had said that the people would die in forty days and before the forty days were up the people repented of their sins and God repented of what He said and forgave them, and Jonah said, “Where am I in this transaction? I will never be believed again. Why did you not destroy Nineveh and save my reputation?” And because Jonah could not let his own glory go, God had to dishonor him and leave him under the withered gourd, a sort of scare-crow to show to all generations how contemptible it is to seek one’s own glory. I think there is no more shocking and ridiculous spectacle than that poor old prophet sitting under his withered gourd scolding God and begging to die just because he felt God had dishonored him in fulfilling his mission in the repentance of the whole nation. And God just let him stand there as a spectacle of the shame and dishonor of selfishness.

We need not trace through the New Testament the story of Simon Peter. The Master’s last message to him when He restored him was: “When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shall stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” And Jesus sent him to a life of crucifixion to be yielded, submissive, surrendered and led about by others against his natural choice till at last he should be crucified with downward head upon his Master’s cross.

The world says, look out for yourself; but Jesus says, “Not I, but Christ.” Not only your old self but the new man with all his strength and self-confidence, too, must die. Not only Ishmael must go out and be an outcast, but Isaac must be yielded and not hold up his head again.

It is so easy to talk about this. The longer I live, the longer I know myself and friends, the more thoroughly I am satisfied that this is the great secret of failure in our Christian life. We come a little way with Jesus but we stop at Gethsemane and Calvary. They followed Him in His ministry in Galilee. The Sermon on the Mount was splendid morality. They loved the feeding of the thousands, and said, What a blessed King He would make! They would not have to work as they used to. But when He stands and talks about Calvary and speaks of the cross for them as well as for Him, and how they must go with Him and go with Him all the way, they say, “This is a hard saying; who can bear it?”

And a few days after you could count them on your fingers. They said we do not understand Him; we thought He would be a king. They were not willing to go to the cross.

I am sure this is where multitudes have stopped short. They have said yes to self and no to God, instead of saying no to self and yes to God. Oh! it is so much easier to talk than to live! There is no use to talk about it unless the Holy Ghost shall bring it home to us. A writer has recently said that there are three baptisms to be baptized with. First, the baptism of repentance, then we turned from sin to God. Second, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, when we receive the Holy Spirit to live in us. Third, the baptism into death, after the Holy Spirit comes in. While he, perhaps, has no Scriptural authority for this precise distinction, there is no doubt that there are these three steps to take. After you receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost, after God comes to live in you, after the Holy Spirit makes your heart His home, then it is that you have to go with Christ into His own dying, and so He says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” And so He said about Himself, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” I have a burial to be buried with. He was going out into deeper dying every day, and His heart was all pent up with it, until He went down into Gethsemane, down to Joseph’s tomb, and down into Hades, and He passed through the regions of the dead and opened first the gates of heaven. That is what Jesus saw before Him after He was baptized on the banks of Jordan.

Oh! beloved, who have received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, it is you who have to go down into His death. Now, I know that in a sense we take all that by faith when we consecrate ourselves to Christ, and we count it all real and God counts it all real; but, my dear friends, you have to go through it step by step. I know God treats us as though it was accomplished, as though we were sitting yonder on the throne. But we must go through the narrow passage and the secret places of the stairs. There must be no fooling here. You may count it all done; but step by step it must be written on the records of your heart.

Now, my friends, what does all this mean? It is dying to self-will. After you consecrate yourself to God, then comes the tug of war, and tomorrow morning you will have the most awful battle of your life. Just because you have given up your will, the devil wants you to take it back. Do not think it will be an Elysian field; no, it will be a battlefield; battles with the dragon and the fiery darts. The devil will try to show you how unreasonable it is, how right it is that you should stand and have your will. It will be life or death perhaps for a week or for a month. Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days, and the devil tried to have Him have His own will, but He stood the test. He let His own will go, “I came . . . not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”

God could make Him a leader because He had been led. No man can govern until he has been governed. Joseph could not have been where he was in Egypt unless he had been sat upon by the people and then he sat there a broken man and a lowly, humble spirit. His brothers came down to see him. The world would have said, Make them feel how mean they were and how wicked. God said, No, help them to forget it; and so Joseph said, Don’t be angry or grieved with yourselves, God meant it “for good.” If Joseph had not been humbled, he would have been no good as Egypt’s ruler. No man can lead until he has been led. David had to have nine years of training, and it might have been better for him to have had nine more, then he would not have abused so shamefully his power when he got to the throne. Daniel in Babylon had to be disciplined by suffering before he could sit as Premier with Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar. If God is going to make anything of you, let all your will go into His hands. You will find a good many tests after the first surrender, but these are just opportunities for allowing the work to be done.

Then comes self-indulgence, doing a thing because you like to do it. No man has a right to do a thing for the pleasure it affords, because he enjoys or likes it. I have no right to take my dinner just because I like it. This makes me a beast. I do it because it nourishes me. Doing things because they please yourself, seeking your own interest, is wrong. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” We have no Divine warrant to seek ourselves in anything. Seek God, and God will seek your good. Take care of the things of God, because He will take care of you. Look not any man on your own things, but on the things of others.

Again, there is self-complacency, dwelling on the work that you have done. How easy after performing some service or gaining some victory to think, “How good.” How quickly this runs into vain glory! How many are more interested in what people think and say of them than what they are themselves.

In the work of God there is nothing we need to so guard against as vanity. That was Jonah’s curse. The seraphim covered their faces with their wings, they covered their feet with their wings. They covered their faces because they did not want to see their beauty, and their feet because they did not want to see their service, nor have anyone else see them. They used only two to fly. Take care how you put temptation in another’s way. It is all right to encourage workers with a “God bless you.” But don’t praise. God does not say, How beautiful, how eloquent, how lovely, how splendid! That is putting on a human head the crown that belongs to Jesus. I want the Holy Ghost to enable me simply to do you good, but I do not want power to bring me the honor of the world. If I had it, I should feel it the greatest peril of my life. We have no more right to take Christ’s honors here than we have to sit on Jesus’ throne and let angels worship us. We have to be so careful when God uses us to bless human souls. There is a sweetness which is not of God. God save us from all these snares woven by the tempter.

Philip as soon as he had led the eunuch to Jesus got out of the eunuch’s way. Beloved, there are subtle spells that come between man and man, and between woman and woman, and between man and woman. They seem sweet and right, but you need much of the Holy Ghost to keep your spirit pure. I am not talking here of sinful love. Surely, it is not needful to speak of that. I am thinking of a far more subtle and refined and spotless spell, which is more dishonoring to God and more dangerous to you, because it is so pure. God keep us from every service, and every friendship, and every thought that is not in the Holy Ghost and not to the honor of Jesus alone.

Then there is self-confidence, that which feels its strength, spiritual or mental self-righteousness, power to be good or do good. God has to lead us to lay all that aside and realize our utter nothingness.

Time will not permit me to speak of the self life of sensitiveness, that fine susceptibility of your feelings to be wounded, and of selfish affection, wanting people to love you because you like to be loved. Divine love loves that it may bless and do good. You ought to love not because it pleases you, but because it blesses them. Paul could say, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” He does not say, I will help you as long as you love me. No; I gladly spend my last drop of blood to bless you at any cost even when I know you don’t appreciate me the least bit. That is what is the matter with you. People hurt you, they don’t appreciate you. Well, spend and be spent all the more when you are the less loved.

Time would fail to tell of selfish desires, covetousness, selfish motives, selfish possessions, our property our own, our children our own, and they give us loads of trouble, and care, and worry, just because we insist on owning them.

There are selfish sorrows. I know of nothing more selfish than the tears we shed for our own sorrows. When God saw Israel weeping, He was angry and said, “You have polluted my altar with your tears.” You are weeping because you have not better bread. You are weeping because something else is dearer to you than Christ. You are weeping because you are not altogether pleased or gratified.

Even our sacrifices and self-denials may be selfish. Yes, our sanctification may be selfish. A sarcastic friend of mine used to say when he heard people testify about their sinlessness, “Poor old soul, she committed the biggest sin of her life for she told the biggest lie.” Self can get up and pray, and sit down and say, “What a lovely prayer!” Self can preach a sermon and save souls and go home, pat itself on the back and say, or let the devil say through him, “You did splendidly; what a useful man you are!” Self can be burned to death and be proud of its fortitude. Yes, we can have religious selfishness as well as carnal selfishness.

-How can we get rid of this? Well, I think above everything else we must see the reality of the thing, we must see the danger of the thing, we must see that it is our sin. We must look at it frankly and choose that it shall go. The worst of it is that it deceives us so. It says, “How that fits somebody else, not me.” Many of you are shedding it on others and not taking it home. God means you. Pass sentence of death upon it or else it will pass sentence on you. You may keep it as long as you like. It is like the lovely little serpent with little spots on it like Jewels. Ah — at the last — how it stings!

May God show us everything in us that will not stand the searching flames. Above everything don’t let us have a bigger Gospel than we have a life. Having passed sentence of death upon ourselves then take Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to do the work. Don’t try to fight it.

Then when the test comes and God leads you out to meet the test, be true, BE TRUE. The test will come in that very line after you have taken the victory, and when the battle comes, forget yourself; don’t defend yourself but say, Lord, keep me. Perhaps someone will try to provoke you. Perhaps someone will try to praise you. Just say, Yes, the Lord let you come to see if I wanted to be appreciated. The Holy Spirit is able to take everything we dare to give and gives everything we dare to take. “He is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless.” What a blessed exchange it will be! Take the cross and we shall some day wear the crown, sit upon the throne, and all that He is we shall be, and all that He has we shall share.