In sending forth this little book on the Image of our blessed Lord, and the likeness to Him to which we are called, I have only two remarks by way of preface.
The one is that no one can be more conscious than myself of the difficulty of the task I have undertaken, and its very defective execution. There were two things I had to do. The one was to draw such a portrait of the Son of God, as “in all things made like unto His brethren,” as to show how, in the reality of His human life, we have indeed an exact Pattern of what the Father wants us to be. What was wanted was such a portrait as should make likeness to Him infinitely and mightily attractive, should rouse desire, awaken love, inspire hope, and strengthen faith in all who are seeking to imitate Jesus Christ. And then I had to sketch another portrait,—that of the believer as he really, with some degree of spiritual exactness, reflects this Image, and amid the trials and duties of daily life proves that likeness to Christ is no mere ideal, but through the power of the Holy Ghost a most blessed reality.
How often and how deeply I have felt, after having sought to delineate some one trait of the blessed Life, how utterly insufficient human thoughts are to grasp, or human words to express, that spiritual beauty of which one at best only has seen faint glimpses! And how often our very thoughts deceive us, as they give us some human conception in the mind of what the Word reveals, while we lack that true vision of the spiritual glory of Him who is the brightness of the Father’s glory!
The second remark I wish to make is a suggestion as to what I think is needed really to behold the glory of the blessed Image into which we are to be changed. I was very much struck some time ago, in an infant school examination, with the practice a little class in object lessons was put through. A picture was shown them, which they were told to look at carefully. They then had to shut their eyes, and take time to think and remember everything they had seen. The picture was now removed, and the little ones had to tell all they could. Again the picture was shown, and they had to try and notice what they had not observed before; again to shut their eyes and think, and again to tell what more they had noticed. And so once more, until every line of the picture had been taken in. As I looked at the keen interest with which the little eyes now gazed on the picture, and then were pressed so tightly shut as they tried to realize, and take in, and keep what they had been looking at, I felt that if our Bible reading were more of such an object-lesson, the unseen spiritual realities pictured to us in the Word would take much deeper hold of our inner life. We are too easily content with the thoughts suggested by the words of the Bible, though these are but forms of truth, without giving time for the substantial spiritual reality, which the Word as the truth of God contains, to get lodged and rooted in the heart. Let us, in meditating on the Image of God in Christ, to which we are to be conformed, remember this. When some special trait has occupied our thoughts, let us shut our eyes, and open our hearts; let us think, and pray, and believe in the working of the Holy Spirit, until we really see the blessed Master in that special light in which the Word has been setting Him before us and can carry away for that day the deep and abiding impression of that heavenly beauty in Him which we know is to be reproduced in us. Let us gaze, and gaze again, let us worship and adore; the more we see Him as He is, the liker Him we must become. To study the image of God in the man Christ Jesus, to yield and set open our inmost being for that image to take possession and live in us, and then to go forth and let the heavenly likeness reflect itself and shine out in our life among our fellow-men,—this is what we have been redeemed for, let this be what we live for.
And now I entrust the little book to the gracious care of the blessed Lord of whose glory it seeks to tell May He give us to see that there is no beauty or blessedness like that of a Christ-like life. May He teach us to believe that in union with Him the Christ-like life is indeed for us. And as each day we listen to what His Word tells us of His image, may each one of us have grace to say, “O my Father! even as Thy beloved Son lived in Thee, with Thee, for Thee on earth, even so would I also live.”
P.S.—As the tone of the meditations is mostly personal, I have, at the close of the volume, added some more general thoughts. “On Preaching Christ as our Example.”
“He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself also so to walkeven as He walked.”—1 John 2:6.
Abiding in Christ and walking like Christ: these are the two blessings of the new life which are here set before us in their essential unity. The fruit of a life in Christ is a life like Christ.
To the first of these expressions, abiding in Christ, we are no strangers. The wondrous parable of the Vine and the branches, with the accompanying command, “Abide in me, and I in you,” has often been to us a source of rich instruction and comfort. And though we feel as if we had but very imperfectly learned the lesson of abiding in Him, yet we have tasted something of the joy that comes when the soul can say: Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I do abide in Thee. And He knows too how often the fervent prayer still arises: Blessed Lord, do grant me the complete unbroken abiding.
The second expression, walking like Christ, is not less significant than the first. It is the promise of the wonderful power which the abiding in Him will exert. As the fruit of our surrender to live wholly in Him, His life works so mightily in us, that our walk, the outward expression of the inner life, becomes like His. The two are inseparably connected. The abiding in always precedes the walking like Him. And yet the aim to walk like Him must equally precede any large measure of abiding. Only then is the need for a close union fully realized, or is the Heavenly Giver free to bestow the fulness of His grace, because He sees that the soul is prepared to use it according to His design. When the Saviour said, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love,” He meant just this: the surrender to walk like me is the path to the full abiding in me. Many a one will discover that just here is the secret of his failure in abiding in Christ; he did not seek it with the view of walking like Christ. The words of St. John invite us to look at the two truths in their vital connection and dependence on each other.
The first lesson they teach is: He that seeks; to abide in Christ must walk even as He walked. We all know that it is a matter of course that a branch bears fruit of the same sort as the vine to which it belongs. The life of the vine and the branch is so completely identical, that the manifestation of that life must be identical too. When the Lord Jesus redeemed us with His blood, and presented us to the Father in His righteousness, He did not leave us in our old nature to serve God as best we could. No; in Him dwelt the eternal life, the holy divine life of heaven, and every one who is in Him receives from Him that same eternal life in its holy heavenly power. Hence nothing can be more natural than the claim that he that abides in Him, continually receiving life from Him, must also so walk even as He walked.
This mighty life of God in the soul does not, however, work as a blind force, compelling us ignorantly or involuntarily to act like Christ. On the contrary, the walking like Him must come as the result of a deliberate choice, sought in strong desire, accepted of a living will. With this view, the Father in heaven showed us in Jesus’ earthly life what the life of heaven would be when it came down into the conditions and circumstances of our human life. And with the same object the Lord Jesus, when we receive the new life from Him, and when He calls us to abide in Him, that we may receive that life more abundantly, ever points us to His own life on earth, and tells us that it is to walk even as He walked that the new life has been bestowed. “Even as I, so ye also:” that word of the Master takes His whole earthly life, and very simply makes it the rule and guide of all our conduct. If we abide in Jesus, we may not act otherwise than He did. “Like Christ” gives in one short all-inclusive word the blessed law of the Christian life. He is to think, to speak, to act as Jesus did; as Jesus was, even so is he to be.
The second lesson is the complement of the first: He that seeks to walk like Christ, must abide in Him.
There is a twofold need of this lesson. With some there is the earnest desire and effort to follow Christ’s example, without any sense of the impossibility of doing so, except by deep, real abiding in Him. They fail because they seek to obey the high command to live like Christ, without the only power that can do so—the living in Christ. With others there is the opposite error; they know their own weakness, and count the walking like Christ an impossibility. As much as those who seek to do it and who fail, do those who do not seek because they expect to fail, need the lesson we are enforcing. To walk like Christ one must abide in Him; he that abides in Him has the power to walk like Him; not indeed in himself or his own efforts, but in Jesus, who perfects His strength in our weakness. It is just when I feel my utter impotence most deeply, and fully accept Jesus in His wondrous union to myself as my life, that His power works in me, and I am able to lead a life completely beyond what my power could obtain. I begin to see that abiding in Him is not a matter of moments or special seasons, but the deep life process in which, by His keeping grace, I continue without a moment’s intermission, and from which I act out all my Christian life. And I feel emboldened really to take Him in everything as my example, because I am sure that the hidden inner union and likeness must work itself out into a visible likeness in walk and conduct.
Dear reader! if God give us grace, in the course of our meditations, truly to enter into the meaning of these His words, and what they teach of a life in very deed like Christ’s, we shall more than once come into the presence of heights and depths that will make us cry out, How can these things be? If the Holy Spirit reveal to us the heavenly perfection of the humanity of our Lord as the image of the unseen God, and speaks to us, “so, even so ought ye also to walk,” the first effect will be that we shall begin to feel at what a distance we are from Him. We shall be ready to give up hope, and to say with so many, It avails not to attempt it: I never can walk like Jesus. At such moments we shall find our strength in the messaoe, He that abideth in Him, he must, he can, also so walk even as He walked. The word of the Master will come with new meaning as the assurance of strength sufficient: He that abideth in me beareth much fruit.
Therefore, brother, abide in Him! Every believer is in Christ; but not every one abides in Him, in the consciously joyful and trustful surrender of the whole being, to His influence. You know what abiding in Him is. It is to consent with our whole soul to His being our life, to reckon upon Him to inspire us in all that goes to make up life, and then to give up everything most absolutely for Him to rule and work in us. It is the rest of the full assurance that He does, each moment, work in us what we are to be, and so Himself enables us to maintain that perfect surrender, in which He is free to do all His will. Let all who do indeed long to walk like Christ take courage at the thought of what He is and will prove Himself to be if they trust Him. He is the True Vine; no vine ever did so fully for its branches what He will do for us. We have only to consent to be branches. Honour Him by a joyful trust that He is, beyond all conception, the True Vine, holding you by His almighty strength, supplying you from His infinite fulness. And as your faith thus looks to Him, instead of sighing and failure, the voice of praise will be heard repeating the language of faith: Thanks be to God! he that abideth in Him does walk even as He walked. Thanks be to God! I abide in Him, and I walk as He walked. Yes, thanks be to God! in the blessed life of God’s redeemed these two are inseparably one: abiding in Christ and walking like Christ.
Blessed Saviour! Thou knowest how often I have said to Thee, Lord, I do abide in Thee! And yet I sometimes feel that the full joy and power of life in Thee is wanting. Thy word this day has reminded me of what may be the reason of failure. I sought to abide in Thee more for my own comfort and growth than Thy glory. I did not apprehend fully how the hidden union with Thee had for its object perfect conformity to Thee, and how only he who wholly yields himself to serve and obey the Father as completely as Thou didst, can fully receive all that the heavenly love can do for him. I now see something of it: the entire surrender to live and work like Thee must precede the full experience of the wondrous power of Thy life.
Lord, I thank Thee for the discovery. With my whole heart I would accept Thy calling, and yield myself in everything to walk even as Thou didst walk. To be Thy faithful follower in all Thou wert and didst on earth, be the one desire of my heart.
Blessed Lord! he that truly yields himself to walk as Thou didst walk, will receive grace wholly to abide in Thee. O my Lord! here I am. To walk like Christ! for this I do indeed consecrate myself to Thee. To abide in Christ! for this I trust in Thee with full assurance of faith. Perfect in me Thine own work.
And let Thy Holy Spirit help me, O my Lord each time I meditate on what it is to walk like Thee, to hold fast the blessed truth: as one who abides in Christ, I have the strength to walk liks Christ. Amen.
“I have given you an example, that ye also should do even as I have done to you.”—John 13:15.
It is Jesus Christ, the beloved Redeemer of our souls, who speaks thus. He had just, humbling Himself to do the work of the slave washed His disciples’ feet. In doing so His love had rendered to the body the service of which it stood in need at the supper table. At the same time He had shown, in a striking symbol, what He had done for their souls in cleansing them from sin. In this twofold work of love He had thus set before them, just before parting, in one significant act, the whole work of His life as a ministry of blessing to body and to soul And as He sits down He says: “I have given you an example, that YE ALSO should do, EVEN AS I have done to you.” All that they had seen in Him, and experienced from Him, is thus made the rule of their life: “EVEN As I have done, do YE ALSO.”
The word of the blessed Saviour is for us too. To each one who knows that the Lord has washed away his sin the command comes with all the touching force of one of the last words of Him who is going out to die for us: “EVEN AS I have done to you, SO DO YE ALSO.” Jesus Christ does indeed ask every one of us in everything to act just as we have seen Him do. What He has done to ourselves, and still does each day, we are to do over again to others. In His condescending, pardoning, saving love, He is our example; each of us is to be the copy and image of the Master.
The thought comes at once: Alas! how little have I lived thus; how little have I even known that I was expected thus to live! And yet, He is my lord; He loves me, and I love Him; I dare not entertain the thought of living otherwise than He would have me. What can I do but open my heart to His word, and fix my gaze on His example, until it exercises its divine power upon me, and draws me with irresistible force to cry: Lord, even as Thou hast done, so will I do also.
The power of an example depends chiefly on two things. The one is the attractiveness of what it gives us to see, the other the personal relation and influence of him in whom it is seen. In both aspects, what power there is in our Lord’s example!
Or, is there really anything very attractive in our Lord’s example? I ask it in all earnest, because, to judge by the conduct of many of His disciples, it would really seem as if it were not so. O that the Spirit of God would open our eyes to see the heavenly beauty of the likeness of the only-begotten Son!
We know who the Lord Jesus is. He is the Son of the all-glorious God, one with the Father in nature and glory and perfection. When He had been on earth it could be said of Him, “We show you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” In Him we see God. In Him we see how God would act were He here in our place on earth. In Him all that is beautiful and lovely and perfect in the heavenly world is revealed to us in the form of an earthly life. If we want to see what is really counted noble and glorious in the heavenly world, if we would see what is really Divine, we have only to look at Jesus; in all He does the glory of God is shown forth.
But oh, the blindness of God’s children: this heavenly beauty has to many of them no attraction; there is no form or comeliness that they should desire it.
The manners and the way of livino, in the court of an earthly king exercise influence throughout the empire. The example it gives is imitated by all who belong to the nobility or the higher classes. But the example of the King of heaven, who came and dwelt in the flesh, that we might see how we might here on earth live a God-like life, alas! with how few of His followers does it really find imitation. When we look upon Jesus, His obedience to the will of the Father, His humiliation to be a servant of the most unworthy, Hia love as manifested in the entire giving up and sacrifice of Himself, we see the most wondrous and glorious thing heaven has to show; in heaven itself we shall see nothing greater or brighter. Surely such an example, given of God on very purpose to make the imitation attractive and possible, ought to win us. Is it not enough to stir all that is within us with a holy jealousy and with joy unutterable as we hear the message, “I have given you an example, that even as I have done, ye should also do”?
This is not all. The power of an example consists not only in its own intrinsic excellence, but also in the personal relation to him who gives it. Jesus had not washed the feet of others in presence of His disciples; it was when He had washed their feet that He said: “Even as I have done to you, ye should also do.” It is the consciousness of a personal relationship to Christ that enforces the command: Do as I have done. It is the experience of what Jesus has done to me that is the strength in which I can go and do the same to others. He does not ask that I shall do more than has been done to me. But not less either: EVEN AS I have done to you. He does not ask that I shall humble myself as servant deeper than He has done. It would not have been strange if He had asked this of such a worm. But this is not His wish: He only demands that I shall just do and be what He, the King, has done and been. He humbled Himself as low as humiliation could go, to love and to bless me. He counted this His highest honour and blessedness. And now He invites me to partake of the same honour and blessedness, in loving and serving as He did. Truly, if I indeed know the love that rests on me, and the humiliation through which alone that love could reach me, and the power of the cleansing which has washed me, nothing can keep me back from saying: “Yes, blessed Lord, even as Thou hast done to me, I will also do.” The heavenly loveliness of the great Example, and the Divine lovingness of the great Exemplar, combine to make the example above everything attractive.
Only there is one thing I must not forget. It is not the remembrance of what Jesus has once done to me, but the living experience of what He is now to me, that will give me the power to act like Him. His love must be a present reality, the inflowing of a life and a power in which I can love like Him. It is only as by the Holy Spirit I realize WHAT Jesus is doing for me, and HOW He does it, and that it is HE who does it, that it is possible for me to do to others what He is doing to me.
“EVEN AS I have done to you, do YE ALSO!” What a precious word! What a glorious prospect! Jesus is going to show forth in me the Divine power of His love, that I may show it forth to others. He blesses me, that I may bless others. He loves me that I may love others. He becomes servant to me that I may become a servant to others. He saves and cleanses me that I may save and cleanse others. He gives Himself wholly for and to me, that I may wholly give myself for and to others. I have only to be doing over to others what He is doing to me—nothing more. I can do it, just because He is doing it to me. What I do is nothing but the repeating, the showing forth of what I am receiving from Him.
How beautifully the principle is expressed in the words of Moses to Hobab (Num. 10:3 ), “And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, if thou go with us, that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto them”! Wondrous grace! which thus calls us to be like our Lord in that which constitutes His highest glory. Wondrous grace! which fits us for this calling by Himself first being to us and in us what we are to be to others. Shall not our whole heart joyously respond to His command? Yes, blessed Lord I even as Thou doest to me will I also do to others.
Gracious Lord! what can I now do but praise and pray? My heart feels overwhelmed with this wondrous offer, that Thou wilt reveal all Thy love and power in me, if I will yield myself to let it flow through me to others. Though with fear and trembling, yet in deep and grateful adoration, with joy and confidence, I would accept the offer and say: Here I am; show me how much Thou lovest me, and I will show it to others by loving them even so.
And that I may be able to do this, blessed Lord, grant me these two things. Grant me, by Thy Holy Spirit, a clear insight into Thy love to me, that I may know how Thou lovest me, how Thy love to me is Thy delight and blessedness, how in that love Thou givest Thyself so completely to me, that Thou art indeed mine to do for me all I need. Grant this, Lord, and I shall know how to love and how to live for others, even as Thou lovest and livest for me.
And then grant me to see, as often as I feel how little love I have, that it is not with the love of my little heart, but with Thy love shed abroad in me, that I have to fulfil the command of loving like Thee. Am I not Thy branch, O my heavenly Vine? it is the fulness of Thy life and love that flows through me in love and blessing to those around. It is Thy Spirit that, at the same moment, reveals what Thou art to me, and strengthens me for what I am to be to others in Thy name. In this faith I dare to say, Amen, Lord, even as Thou doest to me, I also do. Yea, Amen.
“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” — John 13:14.
“I am among you as he that serveth.”—Luke 22:27.
Yesterday we thought of the right that the Lord has to demand and expect that His redeemed ones should follow His example. Today we will more specially consider in what it is we have to follow Him.
“Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet,” is the word of which we want to understand the full meaning. The form of a servant in which we see Him, the cleansing which was the object of that service, the love, which was its motive power,—these are the three chief thoughts.
First, the form of a servant. All was ready for the last supper, to the very water to wash the feet of the guests, according to custom. But there was no slave to do the work. Each one waits for the other: none of the twelve thinks of humbling himself to do the work. Even at the table they were full of the thought, who should be greatest in the kingdom they were expecting (Luke 22:26, 27) All at once Jesus rises (they were still reclining at the table), lays aside His garments, girds Himself with a towel, and begins to wash their feet. O wondrous spectacle! on which angels gazed with adoring wonder. Christ, the Creator and King of the universe, at whose beck legions of angels are ready to serve Him, who might with one word of love have said which one of the twelve must do the work,—Christ chooses the slave’s place for His own, takes the soiled feet in His own holy hands, and washes them. He does it in full consciousness of His divine glory, for John says, “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God and went to God, rose.” For the hands into which God had given all things, nothing is common or unclean. The meanness of a work never lowers the person; the person honours and elevates the work, and imparts his own worth even to the meanest service. In such deep humiliation, as we men call it, our Lord finds divine glory, and is in this the Leader of His Church in the path of true blessedness. It is as the Son that He is the servant. Just because He is the beloved of His Father, in whose hands all things are given, it is not difficult for Him to stoop so low. In thus taking he form of a servant, Jesus proclaims the law of rank in the Church of Christ. The higher one wisher, to stand in grace, the more it must be his joy to be servant of all. “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matt. 20:27); “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 23:11). The higher I rise in the consciousness of being like Christ, God’s beloved child, the deeper shall I stoop to serve all around me.
A servant is one who is always caring for the work and interest of his master, is ever ready to let his master see that he only seeks to do what will please or profit him. Thus Jesus lived: “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45): “I am among you as he that serveth.” Thus I must live, moving about among God’s children as the servant of all. If I seek to bless others, it must be in the humble, loving readiness with which I serve them, not caring for my own honour or interest, if I can but be a blessing to them. I must follow Christ’s example in washing the disciples’ feet. A servant counts it no humiliation, and is not ashamed of being counted an inferior: it is his place and work to serve others. The reason why we so often do not bless others is that we wish to address them as their superiors in grace or gifts, or at least their equals. If we first learnt from our Lord to associate with others in the blessed spirit of a servant, what a blessing we should become to the world! When once this example is admitted to the place it ought to have in the Church of Christ, the power of His presence would soon make itself felt.
And what is now the work the disciple has to perform in this spirit of lowly service? The foot washing speaks of a double work—the one, for the cleansing and refreshing of the body; the other, the cleansing and saving of the soul. During the whole of our Lord’s life upon earth these two things were ever united: “The sick were healed, to the poor the gospel was preached.” As with the paralytic, so with many others, blessing to the body, was the type and promise of life to the spirit.
The follower of Jesus may not lose sight of this when he receives the command, “Ye ought also to wash one another’s feet.” Remembering that the external and bodily is the gate to the inner and spiritual life, he makes the salvation of the soul the first object in his holy ministry of love, at the same time, however, seeking the way to the hearts by the ready service of love in the little and common things of daily life. It is not by reproof and censure that he shows that he is a servant; no, but by the friendliness and kindliness with which he proves in daily intercourse that he always thinks how he can help or serve, he becomes the living witness of what it is to be a follower of Jesus. From such a one the word when spoken comes with power, and finds easy entrance. And then, when he comes into contact with the sin and perverseness and contradiction of men, instead of being discouraged, he perseveres as he thinks with how much patience Jesus has borne with him, and still daily cleanses him; he realizes himself to be one of God’s appointed servants, to stoop to the lowest depth to serve and save men, even to bow at the feet of others if this be needed.
The spirit which will enable one to live such a life of loving service, can be learned from Jesus alone. John writes, “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). For love nothing is too hard. ve never speaks of sacrifice. To bless the loved one, however unworthy, it willingly gives up all. It was love made Jesus a servant. It is love alone will make the servant’s place and work such blessedness to us, that we shall persevere in it at all costs. We may perhaps, like Jesus, have to wash the feet of some Judas who rewards us with ingratitude and betrayal. We shall probably meet many a Peter, who first, with his “Never my feet” refuses, and then is dissatisfied when we do not comply with his impatient “Not only the feet, but also the bead and the hands.” Only love, a heavenly unquenchable love, gives the patience, the courage, and the wisdom for this great work the Lord has set before us in His holy example: “Wash ye one another’s feet.” Try above all to understand that it is only as a son you can be truly a servant. It was as the Son Christ took the form of a servant: in this you will find the secret of willing, happy service. Walk among men as a Son of the Most High God. A Son of God is only in the world to show forth His Father’s glory, to prove how God-like and how blessed it is to live only and at any cost to find a way for love to the hearts of the lost.
O my soul, thy love cannot attain to this; therefore listen to Him who says, “Abide in my love.” Our one desire must be that He may show us how He loves us, and that He Himself may keep us abiding in “His love.” Live every day, as the beloved of the Lord, in the experience that His love washes and cleanses, bears and blesses you all the day long. This love of His flowing into you, will flow out again from you, and make it your greatest joy to follow His example in washing the feet of others. Do not complain much of the want of love and humility in others, but pray much that the Lord would awaken His people to their calling, truly so to follow in His footsteps that the world may see that they have taken Him for their example. And if you do not see it as soon as you wish in those around you, let it only urge you to more earnest prayer, that in you at least the Lord may have one who understands and proves that to love and serve like Jesus is the highest blessedness and joy, as well as the way, like Jesus, to be a blessing and a joy to others.
My Lord, I give myself to Thee, to live this blessed life of service. In Thee I have seen it, the spirit of a servant is a kingly spirit, come from heaven and lifting up to heaven, yea, the Spirit of God’s own Son. Thou everlasting Love, dwell in me, and my life shall be like Thine, and the language of my life to others as Thine, “I am in the midst of you as he that serveth.”
O Thou glorified Son of God, Thou knowest how little of Thy Spirit dwells in us, how this life of a servant is opposed to all that the world reckons honourable or proper. But Thou hast come to teach us new lessons of what is right, to show us what is thought in heaven of the glory of being the least, of the blessedness of serving. O Thou, who dost not only give new thoughts but implant new feelings, give me a heart like Thine, a heart full of the Holy Spirit, a heart that can love as Thou dost. O Lord, Thy Holy Spirit dwells within me; Thy fulness is my inheritance; in the joy of the Holy Spirit I can be as Thou art. I do yield myself to a life of service like Thine. Let the same mind be in me which was also in Thee, when Thou didst make Thyself of no reputation, and didst take upon Thee the form of a servant, and being, found in fashion as a man, didst humble Thyself. Yea, Lord, that very same mind be in me too by Thy grace. As a son of God let me be the servant of men. Amen.
“For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.”—1 Pet. 2:21.
The call to follow Christ’s example, and to walk in His footsteps, is so high that there is every reason to ask with wonder, How can it be expected of sinful men that they should walk like the Son of God? The answer that most people give is practically, that it cannot really be expected: the command sets before us an ideal, beautiful but unattainable. [*See Note.]
The answer Scripture gives is different. It points us to the wonderful relationship in which we stand to Christ. Because our union to Him sets in operation within us a heavenly life with all its powers, therefore the claim may be made in downright earnest that we should live as Christ did. The realization of this relationship between Christ and His people is necessary for every one who is in earnest in following Christ’s example.
And what is now this relationship? It is threefold. Peter speaks in this passage of Christ as our Surety, our Example, and our Head.
Christ is our Surety. “Christ suffered for us”,—”Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” As Surety, Christ suffered and died in our stead. He bore our sin, and broke at once its curse and power. As Surety, He did what we could not do, what we now need not do.
Christ is also our Example too. In one sense His work is unique; in another we have to follow Him in it; we must do as He did, live and suffer like Him. “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an Example” that we should follow in His footsteps. His suffering as my Surety calls me to a suffering like His as my Example. But is this reasonable? In His suffering as Surety He had the power of the Divine nature, and how can I be expected in the weakness of the flesh to suffer as He did? Is there not an impassable gulf between these two things which Peter unites so closely, the suffering as Surety and the suffering, 7 as Example? No, there is a blessed third aspect of Christ’s work, which bridges that gulf, which is the connecting link between Christ as Surety and Christ as Example, which makes it possible for us in very deed to take the Surety as Example, and live and suffer and die like Him.
Christ is also our Head. In this His Suretyship and His Example have their root and unity. Christ is the second Adam. As a believer I am spiritually one with Him. In this union He lives in me, and imparts to me the power of His finished work, the power of His sufferings and death and resurrection. It is on this ground we are taught in Romans 6 and elsewhere that the Christian is indeed dead to sin and alive to God. The very life that Christ lives, the life that passed throuch death, and the power of that death, work in the believer, so that he is dead, and has risen again with Christ. It is this thought Peter gives utterance to when he says: “Who His own self bore our sins upon the tree,” not alone that we through His death might receive forgiveness, but “that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.” As we have part in the spiritual death of the first Adam, having really died to God in him, so we have part in the second Adam, having really died to sin in Him, and in Him being made alive again to God. Christ is not only our Surety who lived and died for us, our Example who showed us how to live and die, but also our Head, with whom we are one, in whose death we have died, with whose life we now live. This gives us the power to follow our Surety as our Example: Christ being our Head is the bond that makes the believing on the Surety and the following of the Example inseparably one.
These three are one. The three truths may not be separated from each other. And yet this happens but too often. There are some who wish to follow Christ’s Example without faith in His atonement. They seek within themselves the power to live like Him: their efforts must be vain. There are others who hold fast to the Suretyship but neglect the Example. They believe in redemption through the blood of the cross, but neglect the footsteps of Him who bore it. Faith in the atonement is indeed the foundation of the building, but it is not all. Theirs too is a deficient Christianity, with no true view of sanctification, because they do not see how, along with faith on Christ’s atonement, following His Example is indispensably necessary.
There are still others who have received these two truths,—Christ as Surety and Christ as Example,—and yet want something. They feel constrained to follow Christ as Example in what He did as Surety, but want the power. They do not rightly understand how this following His Example can really be attained. What they need is, the clear insight as to what Scripture teaches of Christ as Head. Because the Surety is not some one outside of me, but One in whom I am, and who is in me, therefore it is that I can become like Him. His very life lives in me. He lives Himself in me, whom He bought with His blood. To follow His footsteps is a duty, because it is a possibility, the natural result of the wonderful union between Head and members. it is only when this is understood aright that the blessed truth of Christ’s Example will take its right place. If Jesus Himself through his life union will work in me the life likeness, then my duty becomes plain, but glorious. I have, on the one side, to gaze on His Example so as to know and follow it. On the other, to abide in Him, and open my heart to the blessed workings of His life in me. As surely as He conquered sin and its cursefor me, will He conquer it in its power in me. What He began by His death for me, He will perfect by His life in me. Because my Surety is also my Head, His Example must and will be the rule of my life.
There is a saying of Augustine that is often quoted: “Lord I give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt.” This holds good here. If the Lord, who lives in me, gives what He requires of me, then no requirement can be too high. Then I have the courage to gaze upon His holy Example in all its height and breadth, and to accept of it as the law of my conduct. It is no longer merely a command telling what I must be, but a promise of what I shall be. There is nothing that weakens the power of Christ’s Example so much as the thought that we cannot really walk like Him. Do not listen to such thoughts. The perfect likeness in heaven is begun on earth, can grow with each day, and become more visible as life goes on. As certain and mighty as the work of surety which Christ, your Head, completed once for all, is the renewal after His own Image, which He is still working out. Let this double blessing make the cross doubly precious: Our Head suffered as a Surety, that in union with us he might bear sin for us. Our Head offered as an Example, that He might show us what the path is in which, in union with Himself, He would lead us to victory and to glory. The suffering Christ is our Head, our Surety, and our Example.
And so the great lesson I have to learn is the wonderful truth that it is just in that mysterious path of suffering, in which He wrought out our atonement and redemption, that we are to follow His footsteps, and that the full experience of that redemption depends upon the personal fellowship in that suffering. “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an Example.” May the Holy Spirit reveal to me what this means.
Precious Saviour! how shall I thank Thee for the work that Thou hast done as Surety? Standing in the place of me a guilty sinner, Thou hast borne my sins in Thy body on the cross. That cross was my due. Thou didst take it, and wast made like unto me, that thus the cross might be changed into a place of blessing and life.
And now Thou callest me to the place of crucifixion as the place of blessing and life, where I may be made like Thee, and may find in Thee power to suffer and to cease from sin. As my Head, Thou wert my Surety to suffer and die with me; as my Head, Thou art my Example that I might suffer and die with Thee.
Precious Saviour! I confess that I have too little understood this. Thy Suretyship was more to me than Thy Example. I rejoiced much that Thou hadst borne the cross for me, but too little that I like Thee and with Thee might also bear the cross, The atonement of the cross was more precious to me than the fellowship of the cross; the hope in Thy redemption more precious than the personal fellowship with Thyself.
Forgive me this, dear Lord, and teach me to find my happiness in union with Thee, my Head, not more in Thy Suretyship than in thine Example. And grant, that in my meditations as to how I am to follow Thee, my faith may become stronger and brighter: Jesus is my Example because He is my life. I must and can be like Him, because I am one with Him. Grant this, my blessed Lord, for Thy love’s sake. Amen.
“Thomas à Kempis has said, “All men wish to be with Christ, and to belong to His people; but few are really willing to follow the life of Christ.” There are many who imagine that to imitate Jesus Christ is a specially advanced state in the Christian life, to which only a few elect can attain: they think that one can be a real Christian if he only confesses his weakness and sin, and holds fast to the Word and Sacrament, without attaining any real confirm to tlte life of Christ; they even count it pride and fanaticism if one venture to say that conformity to the likeness of Jesus Christ is an indispensable sign of the true Christian. And yet our Lord says to all without exception: “He that doth not take his cross, and follow after me, is not worthy of me;” He mentions expressly the most difficult thing in His life—the cross, that which includes all else. And Peter writes not to some, but to the whole Church: Christ hath left us an Example that ye should follow His footsteps. It is a sad sign that these unmistakeable commands have been so darkened in our modern Christianity, that our leading ministers and church members have quietly, as by common consent, agreed to rob these words of their sting. A false dogmatic must bear no small share of the blame. To defend the Divinity of our Saviour against unbelief, men have presented and defended His Divine nature with such exclusiveness, that it became impossible to form any real living conception of His humanity. It is not enough that we admit that Christ was a true man; no one can form any true idea of this humanity who is ever afraid to lose the true Christ, if he does not every moment ascribe to Him Divine power and omniscience. For, of a truth, if Christ’s suffering and cross be only and altogether something supernatural, we must cease to speak of the imitation of Christ in any true or real sense of the word. Oh, the gulf of separation which comes between the life of Christ and the life of Christians, when the relation between them is only an external one! And how slow and slothful the Church of our day is to apply the great and distinct rule so clearly laid down in the life of Christ, to the filling of these gulfs and the correcting of the disorders of our modern life. The Church of Christ will not be brought again out of its confusions until the faithful actual imitation of her Lord and Head again become the banner round which she rallies His disciples.” – From M. Diemer, Een nieuw boek over de navolging van Jesus Christus (A new book on the imitation of Jesus Christ).
“For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently I but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this in acceptable with God.”—1 Pet. 2:19, 20.
It is in connection with a very everyday matter that Peter gave utterance to those weighty words concerning Christ as our Surety and Example. He is writing to servants, who at that time were mostly slaves. He teaches them “to be subject with all fear,” not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For, so he writes, if any one do wrong and be punished for it, to bear it patiently is no special grace. No; but if one do well, and suffer for it, and take it patiently, this is acceptable with God; such bearing of wrong is Christ-like. In bearing our sins as Surety, Christ suffered wrong from man; after His example we must be ready to suffer wrongfully too.
There is almost nothing harder to bear than injustice from our fellow-men. It is not only the loss of pain: there is the feeling of humiliation and injustice, and the consciousness of our rights asserts itself. In what our fellow-creatures do to us, it is not easy at once to recognise the will of God, who thus allows us to be tried, to see if we have truly taken Christ as our example. Let us study that example. From Him we may learn what it was that gave Him the power to bear injuries patiently.
Christ believed in suffering as the will of God. He had found it in Scripture that the servant of God should suffer. He had made Himself familiar with the thought, so that when suffering came, it did not take Him by surprise. He expected it. He knew that thus He must be perfected; and so His first thought was not how to be delivered from it, but how to glorify God in it. This enabled Him to bear the greatest injustice quietly. He saw God’s hand in it.
Christian! would you have strength to suffer wrong in the spirit in which Christ did? Accustom yourself in everything, that happens, to recognise the hand and will of God. This lesson is of more consequence than you think. Whether it be some great wrong that is done you, or some little offence that you meet in daily life, before you fix your thoughts on the person who did it, first be still, and remember, God allows me to come into this trouble to see if I shall glorify Him in it. This trial, be it the greatest or least, is allowed by God, and is His will concerning, me. Let we first recognise and submit to God’s will in it. Then in the rest of soul which this gives, I shall receive wisdom to know how to behave in it. With my eye turned from man to God, suffering wrong is not so hard as it seems.
Christ also believed that God would care for His rights and honour. There is an innate sense of right within us that comes from God. But he who lives in the visible, wants his honour to be vindicated at once here below. He who lives in the eternal, and as seeing the Invisible, is satisfied to leave the vindication of his rights and honour in God’s hands; he knows that they are safe with Him. It was thus with the Lord Jesus. Peter writes, “He committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” It was a settled thing between the Father and the Son, that the Son was not to care for His own honour, but only for the Father’s. The Father would care for the Son’s honour. Let the Christian just follow Christ’s example in this, it will give him such rest and peace. Give your right and your honour into God’s keeping. Meet every offence that man commits against you with the firm trust that God will watch over and care for you. Commit it to Him who judgeth righteously.
Further, Christ believed in the power of suffering love. We all admit that there is no power like that of love. Through it Christ overcomes the enmity of the world. Every other victory gives only a forced submission: love alone gives the true victory over an enemy, by converting him into a friend. We all acknowledge the truth of this as a principle, but we shrink from the application. Christ believed it, and acted accordingly. He said too, I shall have my revenge: but His revenue was that of love, bringing enemies as friends to His feet. He believed that by silence and submission, and suffering and bearing wrong, He would win the cause, because thus love would have its triumph.
And this is what He desires of us too. In our sinful nature there is more faith in might and right than in the heavenly power of love. But he who would be like Christ must follow Him in this also, that He seeks to conquer evil with good. The more another does him wrong, the more he feels called to love him. Even if it be needful for the public welfare that justice should punish the offender, he takes care that there be in it nothing of personal feeling; as far as he is concerned, he forgives and loves.
Ah, what a difference it would make in Christendom and in our churches, if Christ’s example were followed! If each one who was reviled, “reviled not again if each one who suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” Fellow-Christians, this is literally what the Father would have us do. Let us read and read again the words of Peter, until our soul be filled with the thouaht, “If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” [*See N ote.]
In ordinary Christian life, where we mostly seek to fulfil our calling as redeemed ones in our own strength, such a conformity to the Lord’s image is an impossibility. But in a life of full surrender, where we have given all into His hands, in the faith that He will work all in us, there the glorious expectation is awakened, that the imitation of Christ in this is indeed within our reach. For the command to suffer like Christ has come in connection with the teaching, “Christ also suffered for us, so that we, being dead to sins, might live unto righteousness.”
Beloved fellow-Christian! wouldst thou not love to be like Jesus, and in bearing injuries act as He Himself would have acted in thy place? Is it not a glorious prospect in everything, even in this too, to be conformed to Him? For our strength it is too high; in His strength it is possible. Only surrender thyself day by day to Him to be in all things just what He would have thee to be. Believe that He lives in heaven to be the life and the strength of each one who seeks to walk in His footsteps. Yield thyself to be one with the suffering, crucified Christ, that thou mayest understand what it is to be dead to sins, and to live unto righteousness. And it will be thy joyful experience what wonderful power there is in Jesus’ death, not only to atone for sin, but to break its power; and in His resurrection, to make thee live unto righteousness. Thou shalt find it equally blessed to follow fully the footsteps of the suffering Saviour, as it has been to trust fully and only in that suffering for atonement and redemption. Christ will be as precious as thy Example as He has ever been as thy Surety. Because He took thy sufferings upon Himself, thou wilt lovingly take His sufferings upon thyself. And bearing wrong will become a glorious part of the fellowship with His holy sufferings; a glorious mark of being conformed to His most holy likeness; a most blessed fruit of the true life of faith.
O Lord my God, I have heard Thy precious word: If any man endure grief, suffering wrongfully, and take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. This is indeed a sacrifice that is well-pleasing to Thee, a work that Thine own grace alone hath wrought, a fruit of the suffering of Thy beloved Son, of the example He left, and the power He gives in virtue of His having destroyed the power of sin.
O my Father, teach me and all Thy children to aim at nothing less than complete conformity to Thy dear Son in this trait of His blessed image. Lord my God, I would now, once for all, give up the keeping of my honour and my rights into Thy hands, never more again myself to take charge of them. Thou wilt care for them most perfectly. May my only care be the honour and the rights of my Lord!
I specially beseech Thee to fill me with faith in the conquering power of suffering love. Give me to apprehend fully how the suffering Lamb of God teaches us that patience and silence and suffering avail more with God, and therefore with man too, than might or right. O my Father, I must, I would walk in the footsteps of my Lord Jesus. Let Thy Holy Spirit, and the light of Thy love and presence, be my guide and strength. Amen.
“What is it thou sayest, my son? Cease from complaining, when thou considerest my passion, and the sufferings of my other saints. Do not say, “To suffer this from such a one, it is more than I can or may do. He has done me great wrong, and accused me of things I never thought of. Of another I might bear it, if I thought I deserved it, but not from him!” Such thoughts are very foolish: instead of thinking of patience in suffering, or of Him by whom it will be crowded, we only are occupied with the injury done to us, and the person who has done it. No, he deserves not the name of patient who is only willing to suffer as much as he thinks proper, and from whom he pleases. The truly patient man asks not from whom he suffers, his superior, his equal, or his inferior; whether from a good and holy man, or one who is perverse and unworthy. But from whomsoever, how much soever, or how often soever wrong is done him, he accepts it all as from the hand of God, and counts it gain. For with God it is impossible that anything suffered for His sake should pass without its reward.
“O Lord, let that become possible to me by Thy grace, which by nature seems impossible. Grant that the suffering wrong may by Thy love be made pleasant to me. To suffer for Thy sake is most healthful to my soul.” – From Thomas à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, 3. 19, That the suffering of wrong is the proof of true patience.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”—Gal. 2:20; 6:14.
Taking up the cross was always spoken of by Christ as the test of discipleship. On three different occasions (Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Luke 14:27) we find the words repeated, “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” While the Lord was still on His way to the cross, this expression—taking up the cross, was the most appropriate to indicate that conformity to Him to which the disciple is called.
See note. Christians entirely miss the point of the Lord’s command when they refer the taking up of the cross only to the crosses or trials of life. It means much more. The cross means death. Taking up the cross means going out to die. It is just in the time of prosperity that we most need to bear the cross. Taking up the cross and following Him is nothing less than living every day with our own life and will given up to death. But now that He has been crucified, the Holy Spirit gives another expression, in which our entire conformity to Christ is still more powerfully set forth,—the believing disciple is himself crucified with Christ. The cross is the chief mark of the Christian as of Christ: the crucified Christ and the crucified Christian belong to each other. One of the chief elements of likeness to Christ consists in being crucified with Him. Whoever wishes to be like Him must seek to understand the secret of fellowship with His cross. At first sight the Christian who seeks conformity to Jesus is afraid of this truth: he shrinks from the painful suffering and death with which the thought of the cross is connected. As His spiritual discernment becomes clearer, however, this word becomes all his hope and joy, and he glories in the cross, because it makes him a partner in a death and victory that has already been accomplished, and in which the deliverance from the powers of the flesh and of the world has been secured to him. To understand this we must notice carefully the language of Scripture.
“I am crucified with Christ,” Paul says; “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”! Through faith in Christ we become partakers of Christ’s life. That life is a life that has passed through the death of the cross, and in which the power of that death is always working. When I receive that life, I receive at the same time the full power of the death on the cross working in me in its never-ceasing energy. “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me” (R.V.); the life I now live is not my own life, but the life of the Crucified One, is the life of the cross. The being crucified is a thing past and done: “Knowing this, that our old man was (R.V.) crucified with Him;” “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh;” “I glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world hath been (R.V.) crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” These texts all speak of something that has been done in Christ, and into which I am admitted by faith.
It is of great consequence to understand this, and to give bold utterance to the truth: I have been crucified with Christ; I have crucified the flesh. I thus learn how perfectly I share in the finished work of Christ. If I am crucified and dead with Him, then I am a partner in His life and victory. I learn to understand the position I must take to allow the power of that cross and that death to manifest itself in mortifying or (R.V.) making dead the old man and the flesh, in destroying the body of sin (Rom. 6:6).
For there is still a great work for me to do. But that work is not to crucify myself: I have been crucified; the old man was crucified, so the Scripture speaks. But what I have to do is always to regard and treat it as crucified, and not to suffer it to come down from the cross. I must maintain my crucifixion position; I must keep the flesh in the place of crucifixion. To realize the force of this I must notice an important distinction. I have been crucified and am dead: the old Adam was crucified, but is not yet dead. When I gave myself to my crucified Saviour, sin and flesh and all, He took me wholly; I with my evil nature was taken up with Him in His crucifixion. But here a separation took place. In fellowship with Him I was freed from the life of the flesh; I myself died with Him; in the inmost centre of my being I received new life: Christ lives in me. But the flesh, in which I yet am, the old man that was crucified with Him, remained condemned to an accursed death, but is not yet dead. And now it is my calling, in fellowship with and in the strength of my Lord, to see that the old nature be kept nailed to the cross, until the time comes that it is entirely destroyed. All its desires and affections cry out, “Come down from the cross, save thyself and us.” It is my duty to glory in the cross, and with my whole heart to maintain the dominion of the cross, and to set my seal to the sentence that has been pronounced, to make dead every uprising of sin, as already crucified, and so not to suffer it to have dominion. This is what Scripture means when it says, “If ye through the spirit do make to die (R.V.) the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13). “Make dead therefore your members which are upon the earth.” Thus I continually and voluntarily acknowledge that in my flesh dwells no good thing; that my Lord is Christ the Crucified One; that I have been crucified and am dead in Him; that the flesh has been crucified and, though not yet dead, has been for ever given over to the death of the cross. And so I live like Christ, in very deed crucified with Him.
In order to enter fully into the meaning and the power of this fellowship of the crucifixion of our Lord, two things are specially necessary to those who are Christ’s followers. The first is the clear consciousness of this their fellowship with the Crucified One through faith. At conversion they became partakers of it without fully understanding it. Many remain in ignorance all their life long through a want of spiritual knowledge. Brother, pray that the Holy Spirit may reveal to you your union to the Crucified One. “I have been crucified with Christ;” “I glory in the cross of Christ, through which I have been crucified to the world.” Take such words of Holy Scripture, and by prayer and meditation make them your own, with a heart that expects and asks the Holy Spirit to make them living and effectual within you. Look upon yourself in the light of God as what you really are, “crucified with Christ.” Then you will find the grace for the second thing you need to enable you to live as a crucified one, in whom Christ lives. You will be able always to look upon and to treat the flesh and the world as nailed to the cross. The old nature seeks continually to assert itself, and to make you feel as if it is expecting too much that you should always live this crucifixion life. Your only safety is in fellowship with Christ. “Through Him and His cross,” says Paul, “I have been crucified to the world.” In Him the crucifixion is an accomplished reality; in Him you have died, but also have been made alive: Christ lives in you. With this fellowship of His cross let it be with you, the deeper the better: it brings you into deeper communion with His life and His love. To be crucified with Christ means freed from the power of sin: a redeemed one, a conqueror. Remember that the Holy Spirit has been specially provided to glorify Christ in you, to reveal within you, and make your very own all that is in Christ for you. Do not be satisfied, with so many others, only to know the cross in its power to atone: the glory of the cross is, that it was not only to Jesus, but is to us too, the path to life, but that each moment it can become to us the power that destroys sin and death, and keeps us in the power of the eternal life. Learn from your Saviour the holy art of using it for this. Faith in the power of the cross and its victory will day by day make dead the deeds of the body, the lusts of the flesh. This faith will teach you to count the cross, with its continual death to self. all your glory. Because you regard the cross, not as one who is still on the way to crucifixion, with the prospect of a painful death, but as one to whom the crucifixion is past, who already lives in Christ, and now only bears the cross as the blessed instrument through which the body of sin is done away (Rom. 6:6, R.V.). The banner under which complete victory over sin and the world is to be won is the cross.
Above all, remember what still remains the chief thing, It is Jesus, the living loving Saviour, who
Himself enables you to be like Him in all things. His sweet fellowship, His tender love, His heavenly power, make it a blessedness and joy to be like Him, the Crucified One, make the crucifixion life a life of resurrection—joy and power. In Him the two are inseparably connected. In Him you have the strength to be always singing the triumphant song: God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Precious Saviour, I humbly ask Thee to show me the hidden glory of the fellowship of Thy cross. The cross was my place, the place of death and curse. Thou didst become like us, and hast been crucified with us. And now the cross is Thy place, the place of blessing and life. And Thou callest me to become like Thee, and as one who is crucified with Thee, to experience how entirely the cross has made me free from sin.
Lord, give me to know its full power. It is long since I knew the power of the cross to redeem from the curse. But how long I strove in vain as a redeemed one to overcome the power of sin, and to obey the Father as Thou hast done! I could not break the power of sin. But now I see, this comes only when Thy disciple yields himself entirely to be led by Thy Holy Spirit into the fellowship of Thy cross. There Thou dost give him to see how the cross has broken for ever the power of sin, and has inade him free. There Thou, the Crucified One, dost live in him and impart to him Thine own Spirit of whole-hearted self-sacrifice, in casting out and conquering sin. Oh. my Lord, teach me to understand this better. In this faith I say, “I have been crucified with Christ.” Oh, Thou who loveds’t, me to the death, not Thy cross, but Thyself the Crucified One, Thou art He whom I seek, and in whom I hope. Take me, Thou Crucified One, and hold me fast, and teach me from moment to moment to look upon all that is of self as condemned, and only worthy to be crucified. Take me, and hold me, and teach me, from moment to moment, that in Thee I have all I need for a life of holiness and blessing. Amen.
“Jesus hath now many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross. He hath many who desire His consolation, few His tribulation; many who are willing to share His table, few His fasting. All are willing to rejoice with Him, few will endure anything for Him. Many follow Jesus into the breaking of bread, but few to drink of the cup whereof He drank. Many glory in His miracles, few in the shame of His cross.” – From Thomas à Kernpis, Of the Imitation of Christ, 2. 11. That the lovers of the Cross of Jesus are few.
“To many it seems a hard speech, “Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow Jesus.” But it will be much harder to bear that other word, “Depart from me, ye cursed;” for only they who now hear and follow the word of the cross shall then have no fear of the word of condemnation. For the sign of the cross will be seen in the heaven when the Lord cometh to judgment, and all the servants of the cross, who in their lifetime have been conformed to Christ crucified, will then draw near to Christ their judge with great confidence. Why, then, dost thou fear to take up the cross which fitteth thee for the kingdom? In the cross is life, in the cross is salvation: the cross defends against all enemies: in the cross there is the infusion of all heavenly sweetness; in the cross is strength of mind, joy of spirit; the cross is the height of virtue and the perfection of sanctity. There is no happiness for the soul but in the cross. Take up, therefore, thy cross and follow Jesus, and thou shalt live for ever.
“If thou bear the cross cheerfully, it will bear thee. If thou bear it unwillingly, thou makest for thyself a burden which still thou hast to bear. What saint was there ever who did not bear the cross? Even Christ must needs suffer. How then dost thou seek any other way than this, which is the royal way, the way of the sacred cross?
“He that willingly submits to the cross, to him its whole burden is changed into a sweet assurance of divine comfort. And the more the flesh is broken down by the cross, the more the spirit is strengthened by inward grace. It is not in man by nature, to bear the cross, to love the cross, to deny self, to bring the body into subjection, and willingly to endure suffering. If thou look to thyself, thou canst accomplish nothing of all this. But if thou trust in the Lord, strength shall be given thee from heaven, and the world and the flesh shall be made subject to thy rule. Set thyself, therefore, to bear manfully the cross of thy Lord, who out of love was crucified for thee.
“Know for certain thou oughtest to lead a dying life, for the more any man dieth unto himself, the more he liveth unto God. Surely, if there had been any better thing, and more profitable to man’s salvation, than bearing the cross, Christ would have showed it us by word and example. But now He calleth all who would follow Him plainly to do this one thing, daily to bear the cross.” – From Thomas à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, 2, 12. Of the Royal Way of the Sacred Cross.
“We then that we strong ought to bear the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me. Wherefore receive ye one another, even as Christ also received us to the glory of God.”—Rom. 15:1–3, 7.
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”—Matt. 16:24.
Even Christ pleased not Himself: He bore the reproaches, with which men reproached and dishonoured God, so patiently, that He might glorify God and save man. Christ pleased not Himself: with reference both to God and man, this word is the key of His life. In this, too, His life is our rule and example; we who are strong ought not to please ourselves.
To deny self—this is the opposite of pleasing self. When Peter denied Christ, he said: I know not the man; with Him and His interests I have nothing to do; I do not wish to be counted His friend. In the same way the true Christian denies himself, the old man: I do not know this old man; I will have nothing to do with him and his interests. And when shame and dishonour come upon him, or anything be exacted that is not pleasant to the old nature, be simply says: Do as you like with the old ties of the Adam, I will take no notice of it. Through the cross of Christ I am crucified to the world, and the flesh, and self: to the friendship and interest of this old man I am a stranger; I deny him to be my friend; I deny his every claim and wish; I know him not.
The Christian who only thinks of his salvation from curse and condemnation cannot understand this; he finds it impossible to deny self. Although he may sometimes try to do so, his life mainly consists in pleasing himself. The Christian who has taken Christ as his pattern cannot be content with this. He has surrendered himself to seek the most complete fellowship with the cross of Christ. The Holy Spirit has taught him to say, I have been crucified with Christ, and so am dead to sin and self. In fellowship with Christ he sees the old man crucified, a condemned malefactor; he is ashamed to own him as a friend: it is his fixed purpose, and he has received the power for it too, no longer to please his old nature, but to deny it. Because the crucified Christ is his life, self-denial is the law of his life.
This self-denial extends itself over the whole domain of life. It was so with the Lord Jesus, and is so with every one who longs to follow Him perfectly. This self-denial has not so much to do with what is sinful, and unlawful, and contrary to the laws of God, as with what is lawful, or apparently indifferent. To the self-denying spirit the will and glory of God and the salvation of man are always more than our own interests or pleasure.
Before we can know how to please our neighbour, self-denial must first exercise itself in our own personal life. It must rule the body. The holy fasting of Him who said, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God; and who would not eat until His Father gave Him food, and His Father’s work was done, teaches the believer a holy temperance in eating and drinking. The holy poverty of Him who had not where to lay His head, teaches him so to regulate the possession, and use, and enjoyment of earthly things, that he may always possess as not possessing. After the example of the holy suffering of Him who bore all our sins in His own body on the tree, he learns to bear all suffering patiently: even in the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, he desires to bear about the dying of the Lord Jesus; with Paul he keeps under the body and brings it into subjection; all its desires and appetites he would have ruled by the self-denial of Jesus. He does not please himself.
This self-denial keeps watch over the spirit too. His own wisdom and judgment the believer brings into subjection to God’s word: he gives up his own thoughts to the teaching of the Word and the Spirit. Towards man he manifests the same self-denial of his own wisdom in a readiness to hear and learn, in the meekness and humility with which, even when he knows he is in the right, he gives his opinion, in the desire ever to find and to acknowledge what is good in others.
And then self-denial has special reference to the heart. All the affections and desires are placed under it. The will, the kingly power of the soul is specially under its control. As little as self-pleasing could be a part of Christ’s life, may Christ’s follower allow it ever to influence his conduct. “We ought not to please ourselves. For even Christ pleased not Himself.” Self-denial is the law of his life.
Nor does he find it hard when once he has truly surrendered himself to it. To one who, with a divided heart, seeks to force himself to a life of self-denial, it is hard indeed; but to one who has yielded himself to it unreservedly, because he has with his whole heart accepted the cross to destroy the power of sin and self, the blessing it brings more than compensates for apparent sacrifice or loss. He hardly dare any longer speak of self-denial, there is such blessedness in becoming conformed to the image of Jesus.
Self-denial has not its value with God, as some think, from the measure of pain it causes. No, for this pain is very much caused by the remaining reluctance to practise it. But it has its highest worth in that meek or even joyful acquiscence which counts nothing a sacrifice for Jesus’ sake, and feels surprised when others speak of self-denial.
There have been ages when men thought they must fly to the wilderness or cloister to deny themselves. The Lord Jesus has shown us that the best place to practise self-denial is in our ordinary intercourse with men. So Paul also says here, “We ought not to please ourselves, let every one please his neighbour unto edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself. Therefore receive ye one another, even as Christ has received you.” Nothing less than the self-denial of our Lord, who pleased not Himself, is our law. What He was we must be. What He did we must do.
What a glorious life will it be in the Church of Christ when this law prevails! each one considers it the object of existence to make others happy. Each one denies himself, seeks not his own, esteems others better than himself. All thought of taking offence, of wounded pride, of being slighted or passed by, would pass away. As a follower of Christ, each would seek to bear the weak and to please his neighbour. The true self-denial would be seen in this, that no one would think of himself, but live in and for others.
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” This word not only gives us the will, but also the power for self-denial. He who does not simply wish to reach heaven throuoh Christ, but comes after Him for His own sake, will follow Him. And in his heart Jesus speedily takes the place that self had. Jesus only becomes the centre and object of such a life. The undivided surrender to follow Him is crowned with this wonderful blessing, that Christ by His Spirit Himself becomes his life. Christ’s spirit of self-denying love is poured out upon him, and to deny self is the greatest joy of his heart, and the means of the deepest communion with God. Self-denial is no longer a work he simply does as a means of attaining perfection for himself. Nor is it merely a negative victory, of which the main feature is the keeping self in check. Christ has taken the place of self, and His love and gentleness and kindness flow out to others, now that self is parted with. No command becomes more blessed or more natural than this: “We ought not to please ourselves, for even Christ pleased not Himself.” “If any man come after me, let him deny himself, and FOLLOW ME.”
Beloved Lord, I thank Thee for this new call to follow Thee and not to please myself, even as Thou didst not please Thyself. I thank Thee that I have now no longer, as once, to hear it with fear. Thy commandments are no longer grievous to me; Thy yoke is easy, and Thy burden light. What I see in Thy life on earth as my example, is the certain pledce of what I receive from Thy life in heaven. I did not always so understand it. Long after I had known Thee, I dared not think of self-denial. But for him who has learned what it is to take up the cross, to be crucified with Thee, and to see the old man nailed to the cross, it is no longer terrible to deny it. Oh, my Lord! who would not be ashamed to be the friend of a crucified and accursed criminal? Since I have learned that Thou art my life, and that Thou dost wholly take charge of the life that is wholly entrusted to Thee, to work both to will and to do, I do not fear but Thou wilt give me the love and wisdom in the path of selfdenial joyfully to follow Thy footstep. Blessed Lord, Thy disciples are not worthy of this grace; but since Thou hast chosen us to it, we will gladly seek not to please ourselves, but every one his neighbour, as Thou hast taught us. And may Thy Holy Spirit work it in us mightily. Amen.
“Walk in love, even as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.”—Eph. 5:2.
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”—1 John 3:16.
What is the connection between self-sacrifice and self-denial? The former is the root from which the latter springs. In self-denial, self-sacrifice is tested, and thus strengthened and prepared each time again to renew its entire surrender. Thus it was with the Lord Jesus. His incarnation was a self-sacrifice; His life of self-denial was the proof of it; through this, again, He was prepared for the great act of self-sacrifice in His death on the cross. Thus it is with the Christian. His conversion is to a certain extent the sacrifice of self, though but a very partial one, owing to ignorance and weakness. From that first act of self-surrender arises the obligation to the exercise of daily self-denial. The Christian’s efforts to do so show him his weakness, and prepare him for that new and more entire self-sacrifice in which he first finds strength for more continuous self-denial.
Self-sacrifice is of the very essence of true love. The very nature and blessedness of love consist in forgetting self, and seeking its happiness in the loved one. Where in the beloved there is a want or need, love is impelled by its very nature to offer up its own happiness for that of the other, to unite itself to the beloved one, and at any sacrifice to make him the sharer of its own blessedness.
Who can say whether this is not one of the secrets which eternity will reveal, that sin was permitted because otherwise God’s love could never so fully have been revealed? The highest glory of God’s love was manifested in the self-sacrifice of Christ. It is the highest glory of the Christian to be like his Lord in this. Without entire self-sacrifice the new command, the command of love, cannot be fulfilled. Without entire self-sacrifice we cannot love as Jesus loved. “Be ye imitators of God,” says the apostle, “and walk in love, even as Christ hath loved us, and given Himself a sacrifice for us.” Let all your walk and conversation be, according to Christ’s example, in love. It was this love that made His sacrifice acceptable in God’s sight, a sweet-smelling savour, As His love exhibited itself in self-sacrifice, let your love prove itself to be conformable to His in the daily self-sacrifice for the welfare of others, so will it also be acceptable in the sight of God. “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
Down even into the daily affairs of home life, in the intercourse between husband and wife, in the relation of master and servant, Christ’s self-sacrifice must be the rule of our walk. “Likewise, ye husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.”
And mark specially the words, “Hath given Himself for us an offering to God.” We see that self-sacrifice has here two sides. Christ’s self-sacrifice had a Godward as well as a manward aspect. It was for us, but it was to God that He offered Himself as a sacrifice. In all our self-sacrifice there must be these two sides in union, though now the one and then again the other may be more prominent.
It is only when we sacrifice ourselves to God that there will be the power for an entire self-sacrifice. The Holy Spirit reveals to the believer the right of God’s claim on us, how we are not our own, but His. The realization of how absolutely we are God’s property, bought and paid for with blood, of how we are loved with such a wonderful love, and of what blessedness there is in the full surrender to Him, leads the believer to yield himself a whole burnt-offering. He lays himself on the altar of consecration, and finds it his highest joy to be a sweet-smelling savour to his God, God-devoted and God-accepted. And then it becomes his first and most earnest desire to know how God would have him show this entire self-sacrifice in life and walk.
God points him to Christ’s example. He was a sweet-smelling savour to God when He gave Himself a sacrifice for us. For every Christian who gives himself entirely to His service, God has the same honour as He had for His Son, He uses him as an instrument of blessing to others. Therefore John says, “He who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” The self-sacrifice in which you have devoted yourself to God’s service, binds you also to serve your fellow-men; the same act which makes you entirely God’s, makes you entirely theirs. [*See N ote.]
It is just this surrender to God that gives the power for self-sacrifice towards others, and even makes it a joy. When faith has first appropriated the promise, “Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” I understand the glorious harmony between sacrifice to God and sacrifice for men. My intercourse with my fellow-men, instead of being, as many complain, a hindrance to unbroken communion with God, becomes an opportunity of offering myself unceasingly to Him.
Blessed calling! to walk in love EVEN AS Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us a sacrifice and sweet-smelling savour to God. Only thus can the Church fulfil its destiny, and prove to the world that she is set apart to continue Christ’s work of self-sacrificing love, and fill up that which remaineth behind of the afflictions of Christ.
But does God really expect us to deny ourselves so entirely for others? Is it not asking too much? Can any one really sacrifice himself so entirely? Christian! God does expect it, Nothing less than this is the conformity to the image of His Son, to which He predestinated you from eternity. This is the path by which Jesus entered into His glory and blessedness and by no other way can the disciple enter into he joy of His Lord. It is in very deed our calling to become exactly like Jesus in His love and self-sacrifice. “Walk in love, EVEN AS Christ loved.” It is a great thing when a believer sees and acknowledges this. That God’s people and even God’s servants understand it so little, is one great cause of the impotence of the Church. In this matter the Church indeed needs a second reformation. In the great Reformation three centuries ago, the power of Christ’s atoning death and righteousness were brought to light, to the great comfort and joy of anxious souls. But we need a second reformation to lift on high the banner of Christ’s example as our law, to restore the truth of the power of Christ’s resurrection as it makes us partakers of the life and the likeness of our Lord. Christians must not only believe in the full union with their Surety for their reconciliation, but with their Head as their example and their life. They must really represent Christ upon earth, and let men see in the members how the Head lived when if.e was in the flesh. Let us earnestly pray that God’s children everywhere may be taught to see their holy calling.
And all ye who already long after it, oh, fear not to yield yourselves to God in the great act of a Christ-like self-sacrifice! In conversion you gave yourself to God. In many an act of self-surrender since then you have again given yourselves to Him. But experience has taught you how much is still wanting. Perhaps you never knew how entire the self-sacrifice must be and could be. Come now and see in Christ your example, and in His sacrifice of Himself on the cross, what your Father expects of you. Come now and see in Christ—for He is your head and life—what He will enable you to be and do. Believe in Him, that what He accomplished on Earth in His life and death as your example, He will now accomplish in you from heaven. Offer yourself to the Father in Christ, with the desire to be, as entirely and completely as He, an offering and a sacrifice unto God, given up to God for men. Expect Christ to work this in you and to maintain it. Let your relation to God be clear and distinct; you, like Christ, wholly given up to Him. Then it will no longer be impossible to walk in love as Christ loved us. Then all your intercourse with the brethren and with the world will be the most glorious opportunity of proving before God how completely you have given yourself to Him, an offering and a sacrifice for a sweet-smeeing savour.
O my God, who am I that Thou shouldest have chosen me to be conformed to the image of Thy Son in His self-sacrificing love? In this is His divine perfection and glory, that He loved not His own life, but freely offered it for us to Thee in death. And in this I may be like Him; in a walk in love I may prove that I too have offered myself wholly to God.
O my Father, Thy purpose is mine; at this solemn moment I affirm anew my consecration to Thee. Not in my own strength, but in the strength of Him who gave Himself for me. Because Christ, my example, is also my life, I venture to say it: Father, in Christ, like Christ, I yield myself a sacrifice to Thee for men.
Father, teach me how Thou wouldest use me to manifest Thy love to the world. Thou wilt do it by filling me full of Thy love. Father, do ik that I may walk in love, even as Christ loved us. May I live every day as one who has the power of Thy Holy Spirit to enable me to love every one with whom I come into contact, under every possible circumstance, to love with a love which is not of me, but of Thyself. Amen.
One of the most earnest and successful labourers in the work of saving the lost writes as follows: “If I had not been led to a clearer and fuller experience of what salvation is, I never could have gone through the work of the last few years. But, at the same time, one thing has continually been becoming clearer, that we cannot speak of unbroken fellowship with our Lord unless we give up ourselves, and that without ceasing, to a world lying in the wicked one, to save in the strength of our Lord what He gives us to save. A consecration to the Lord without a consecration to our neighbour becomes an illusion or leads to fanaticism. It is this giving up of ourselves to the world to be its light and salt, to love it, even when it hates us, that constitutes for all really consecrated souls the true battle of life. To find in labour our rest, and in fighting the sin around us in the power of Jesus our highest joy, to rejoice more in the happiness of others than our own, and so not to seek anything for ourselves, but everything for others, this, this is our holy calling.”
May God help us not only to admire such thoughts, but at once to join the little bands among His children who are really giving up everything, and making their life work the winning of souls for Jesus.
“These are in the world.” “The world hath hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”—John 17:11, 14, 16.
“Even as He is, so are we in this world.”—1 John 4:17.
If Jesus was not of the world, why was He in the world? If there was no sympathy between Him and the world, why was it that He lived in it and did not remain in that high and holy and blessed world to which He belonged? The answer is, The Father had sent Him into the world. In these two expressions, “In the world,” “Not of the world,” we find the whole secret of His work as Saviour, of His glory as the God-man.
“In the world”; in human nature, because God would show that this nature belonged to Him, and not to the god of this world, that it was most fit to receive the divine life, and in this divine life to reach its highest glory.
“In the world”; in fellowship with men, to enter into loving relationship with them, to be seen and known of them, and thus to win them back to the Father.
“In the world”; in the struggle with the powers which rule the world, to learn obedience, and so to perfect and sanctify human nature.
“Not of the world”; but of heaven, to manifest and bring nigh the life that is in God, and which man had lost, that men might see and long for it.
“Not of the world”; witnessing against its sin and departure from God, its impotence to know and please God.
“Not of the world”; founding a kingdom entirely heavenly in origin and nature, entirely independent of all that the world holds desirable or necessary, with principles and laws the very opposite of those that rule in the world.
“Not of the world”; in order to redeem all who belong to Him, and bring them into that new and heavenly kingdom which He had revealed.
“In the world,” “Not of the world.” In these two expressions we have revealed to us the great mystery of the person and work of the Saviour. “Not of the world,” in the power of His divine holiness judging and overcoming it; still in the world, and through His humanity and love seeking and saving all that can be saved. The most entire separation from the world, with the closest fellowship with those in the world; these two extremes meet in Jesus, in His own person He has reconciled them. And it is the calling of the Christian in his life to prove that these two dispositions however much they may seem at variance, can in our life too be united in perfect harmony. In each believer there must be seen a heavenly life shining out through earthly forms.
To take one of these two truths and exclusively cultivate it, is not so difficult. So you have those who have taken “Not of the world” as their motto. From the earliest ages, when people thought they must fly to cloisters and deserts to serve God, to our own days, when some seek to show the earnestness of their piety by severity in judging all that is in the world, there have been those who counted this the only true religion. There was separation from sin, but then there was also no fellowship with sinners. The sinner could not feel that he was surrounded with the atmosphere of a tender heavenly love. It was a one-sided and therefore a defective religion.
Then there are those who, on the other side, lay stress on “In the world,” and very specially appeal to the words of the apostle, “For then must ye needs go out of the world.” They think that, by showing that religion does not make us unfriendly or unfit to enjoy all that there is to enjoy, they will induce the world to serve God. It has often happened that they have indeed succeeded in making the world very religious, but at too high a price;—religion became very worldly.
The true follower of Jesus must combine both. If he does not clearly show that he is not of the world, and prove the greater blessedness of a heavenly life, how will he convince the world of sin, or prove to her that there is a higher life, or teach her to desire what she does not yet possess? Earnestness, and holiness, and separation from the spirit of the world must characterize him. His heavenly spirit must manifest that he belongs to a kingdom not of this world. An unworldly, an other-worldly, a heavenly spirit must breathe in him.
And still he must live as one who is “in the world.” Expressly placed here of God, among those who are of the world, to win their hearts, to acquire influence over them, and to communicate to them of the Spirit which is in him, it must be the great study of his life how he can fulfil this his mission. Not, as the wisdom of the world would teach, by yielding, and complying, and softening down the solemn realities of religion, will he succeed. No, but only by walking in the footsteps of Him who alone can teach how to be in the world and yet not of it. Only by a life of serving and suffering love, in which the Christian distinctly confesses that the glory of God is the aim of his existence, and in which, full of the Holy Spirit, he brings men into direct contact with the warmth and love of the heavenly life, can he be a blessing to the world.
Oh, who will teach us the heavenly secret, of uniting every day in our lives what is so difficult to unite,—to be in the world, and not of the world? He can do it who has said: “They are not of the, world, EVEN AS I am not of the world.” That “EVEN AS” has a deeper meaning and power than we know. If we suffer the Holy Spirit to unfold that word to us, we shall understand what it is to be in the world as He was in the world. That “EVEN AS” has its root and strength in a life union. In it we shall discover the divine secret, that the more entirely one is not of the world, the more fit he is to be in the world. The freer the Church is of the spirit and principles of the world, the more influence she will exert in it.
The life of the world is self-pleasing and self-exaltation. The life of heaven is holy, self-denying love. The weakness of the life of many Christians who seek to separate themselves from the world, is that they have too much of the spirit of the world. They seek their own happiness and perfection more than ought else. Jesus Christ was not of the world, and had nothing of its spirit; this is why He could love sinners, could win them and save them. The believer is as little of the world as Christ. The Lord says: “Not of the world, EVEN AS I am not of the world.” In his new nature he is born from heaven, has the life and love of heaven in him; his supernatural heavenly life gives him power to be in the world without being of it. The disciple who believes fully in the Christ-likeness of his inner life, will experience the truth of it. He cultivates and gives utterance to the assurance: “EVEN AS Christ, so am I not of the world, because I am in Christ.” He understands that alone in close union with Christ can his separation from the world be maintained; in as far as Christ lives in him can he lead a heavenly life. He sees that the only way to answer to his calling is, on the one side, as crucified to the world to withdraw himself from its power; and, on the other, as living in Christ to go into it and bless it. He lives in heaven and walks on earth.
Christians! see here the true imitation of Jesus Christ. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” Then the promise is fulfilled, “I will dwell in them and walk in them.” Then Christ sends you, as the Father sent Him, to be in the world as the place ordained of your Father to glorify Him, and to make known His love. Not so much in the desire to leave earth for heaven, as in the willingness to live the life of heaven here on earth, does a truly unworldly, a heavenly spirit, manifest itself.
“Not of the world” is not only separation from and testimony against the world, but is the living manifestation of the spirit, and the love, and the power of the other world, of the heaven to which we long, in its divine work of making this world partaker of its blessedness.
O Thou great High Priest! who in Thy high priestly power didst pray for us to the Father, as those who, no more than Thyself, belong to the world, and still must remain in it, let Thy all-prevailing intercession now be effectual in our behalf.
The world has still entrance to our hearts, its selfish spirit is still too much within us. Through unbelief the new nature has not always full power. Lord, we beseech of Thee, as fruit of Thy all-powerful intercession, let that word be fully realized in us: “Not of the world, EVEN AS I am not of the world.” In our likeness to Thee is our only power against the world.
Lord, we can only be like Thee when we are one with Thee. We can only walk like Thee when we abide in Thee. Blessed Lord, we surrender ourselves to abide in Thee alone. A life entirely given to Thee Thou dost take entire possession of. Let Thy Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, unite us so closely with Thyself that we may always live as not of the world. And let Thy Spirit so make known to us Thy work in the world, that it may be our joy in deep humility and fervent love to exhibit to all what a blessed life there is in the world for those who are not of the world. May the proof that we are not of the world be the tenderness and fervency with which, like Thee, we sacrifice ourselves for those who are in the world. Amen.