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BACK TO THE CROSS!
(The following is an excerpt from Spiritual Equipment for the Last Days, a book by Charles Usher. It was originally published by Marshall Brothers, LTD., London, England, July 1920.)
We are in the last hours of this dispensation. The hand of the clock is approaching the hour of twelve. It is the dark hour of midnight, but the darkest hour is just before the dawn.
The Church is rapidly drifting into a state of apostasy, further and further away from God.
The War has left the world chaotic and the Church paralysed.
Dark forces have been liberated which are producing as evil an effect upon the Church as upon the world.
The late conflict has left problems for the Church to face, as difficult to handle as those with which the world is battling.
The Cross of Christ is the light that will illuminate the present darkness.
We need a fresh revelation of sin, for it is through sin that we have lost our way, and it is through Christ's death on the Cross that we are won back and restored to God.
See I Peter iii. 18—"Christ...hath once suffered for sins...that He might bring us to God."
The reason why many lose the sense of the sinfulness of sin is that they get away from the reality of Christ's atoning death, for it is only at the Cross that we get a vision of the depths and misery of sin.
Calvary is a revelation of man's hatred to God's authority—a hatred which manifested itself in the blackest, darkest deed ever committed.
We are told that the Cross is the "Touchstone of Faith"; that is blessedly true! but it is also true that it is the criterion of the human heart. It reveals man in his true character.
The Church has lost sight of the Cross, and has therefore lost sight of the awfulness of sin. She has wandered from the place where sin is seen in God's light, and where the soul is led to cry out, "I have crucified my Lord."
What astonishes one in these days is the sin in the Church. How awful it is that Christians can sin and be unmoved by it!
God's people are sinning—sinning in the heart, sinning in the mind, sinning in the pulpit, sinning in the pew,—sinning in spite of Calvary and of all that the Bible reveals of the horror and degradation of sin!
Child of God! go back to Calvary and take the sinner's place. Let the Cross melt the hardness and cause the tears to flow!
BACK TO THE CROSS!
The Place of our Reconciliation with God.
Sin brings separation.
This is a Divine law which we need to know, not only theoretically but experimentally, and the Cross is the only place where we learn that lesson thoroughly.
Listen to the words of Christ as He hangs on Calvary's tree, — "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Mark xv. 34).
This is not the expression of One suffering physical death merely, but of One passing through spiritual separation from God. The sinless Christ had never been separated from His Father. Throughout the countless ages of Eternity they were One.
This blessed oneness was seen throughout His earthly life, and it was that which sustained Him and enabled Him to bear the contradiction of sinners against Himself.
But on the Cross, Christ lifted the load of our sin upon Himself and went into the awful darkness of separation in order to reconcile us to God.
It is this spiritual separation which Christ endured instead of us, which constitutes the meaning of the reconciliation and makes the death of Jesus unique.
Christ was forsaken in that dark hour FOR ME. Oh! child of God, if you forget this, you lose the spirit of that which makes the Cross the power of God unto salvation!
We need to come back to this aspect of the death of Jesus until its spirit takes possession of us, and the very principle of Calvary becomes established in our lives.
How reluctant we are to own that not only was it necessary for us to come to the Cross for reconciliation when we were in sin, but that after we become Christians we need the atoning death of Jesus to keep us from departing from God.
We often talk of "grace" in cold, theological terms, but as we come into personal relationship to the death of Jesus, grace is revealed in all its loveliness, and we are fired with a passionate love for Christ.
BACK TO THE CROSS!
The only way into union with Christ.
"Do we leave the Cross to go on to union with the risen Christ?" is the question that many of God's people are asking; and when one tells them of the need of a continual application of the death of Christ to the life, they say, "But I am in the risen Christ, and it is a living Christ we need, not a dead Christ." Much of this misunderstanding is due to dealing with this blessed truth in the letter rather than in the spirit; "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor. iii. 6).
The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of Calvary. Christ's death on the Cross was the highest expression of the life of Christ, and as you partake of His life, the spirit of Christ's crucifixion becomes the principle of your life.
Paul had not gone beyond the Cross when he sought for a deeper union with the risen Lord, but he saw that the deeper the union with the living Christ the deeper must he sink into His death (see Phil. iii. 10).
To be risen with Christ and to abide in Him by a living faith means that you share the death of Christ.
The condition for a triumphant Christian life is UNION WITH CHRIST.
The only way of overcoming sin is by a life of union with Jesus Christ.
Our blessed Lord teaches us this very clearly in John xv. He says, "Without ME ye can do nothing," and one of the early lessons of the believer is that he is absolutely dependent upon his Lord for everything. He learns the helplessness of being without Christ.
The message of Christ to the sinner is "Come unto Me"; His message to the believer is "Abide in Me."
"He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (I Cor. vi. 17). But how does that joining take place?
To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ implies a belief into Christ. The faith moves Christward and finds its anchorage in Christ Himself, and thus the believer is brought into vital contact with HIM.
Let us go to God's Word in the third chapter of John's Gospel. Here we get clearly the Lord's teaching of regeneration or the new birth.
First we are told our need of it (see verse 3); then we are told its nature—that it is a spiritual nature or birth (see verses 5 and 6); but in verses 14 and 15 we see the way into it—by believing in Christ; that word "in" should be translated "into." See verse 14—"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."
Calvary was necessary before the sinner could believe in Christ; the crucified Saviour draws all men unto Him. See John xii. 32, 33—"I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. This He said, signifying what death He should die."
Satan's desire is to get the believer away from the Cross, and he is often most successful when he offers an inducement to seek a life of union with the Risen Lord. But the devil knows that there is no real union apart and away from the Cross, and so he gives a counterfeit experience instead.
Paul teaches us clearly in Romans vi. that to be joined to the Risen Christ and to abide in Him by a living faith means that we must share His death. "Know ye not that so many of us [as, sic] were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?" (Rom. vi. 3).
He also teaches us that a deeper union with Christ is only possible as we have an ever deeper acquaintance of the Cross. See Philippians iii. 10—"That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." This is what we need to know, not in theory or sentiment, but in actual experience, and the result will be a life of power, of victory over sin, Satan, sickness and death, and the world, and this is only possible as we get back to the Cross.
To say that there is no need for a continual application of the blood of Christ to the life shows a superficial knowledge of the meaning of His death. It is blessedly true that the blood that has been shed on the Cross avails for all time for our complete atonement, but that does not exhaust the work of Christ's death. There is the need of continual cleansing from sin.
A saint of God once asked me a very startling question—"When did you have a bout of confession of sin last?" I was arrested by the question and could not answer. I therefore went to God about it, and discovered that I had been making the common mistake of relying upon the blood to automatically cleanse my sin; also I had lost sight of my sinnership. May I apply that question to you? When did you have a bout of confession last? "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John i. 9).
One of the things which hinders God from working in us is the activity of the evil natural life, which is continually getting us out of the Spirit and accounts for the failure to walk in the Spirit. Our spirits are being continually affected by this evil influence, and try as we may we cannot control our spirits and walk in the calm of God. This uncrucified evil nature is also the material which Satan and his evil spirits play upon and are able to fan into a flame, and is therefore the cause of much of the conflict which we have with the powers of darkness, and is "ground" for their continual attacks.
We may have learned how to overcome them by the application of the blood, but they will return again and again to the conflict as long as there is "ground."
The Cross is the REMEDY. "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal. v. 24). But how? by an absolute surrender of the evil natural life to the death of Christ, and by a perpetual attitude of abiding in Christ, and thus sharing the benefits of His death, the result being liberation from the power of sin and evil nature in order that we may walk in newness of life.
In Romans viii. we have one of the clearest descriptions of the life in the Spirit in the whole Bible; but we observe that on the very threshold of the chapter we have these words—"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." There is no possibility of entering into the spiritual life except through union with Christ—that union is one of death and life. Any attempt to obtain spiritual life apart from the Cross ends in failure or in counterfeit.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Cross; the Cross is the highest expression of the Spirit; it was "through the Eternal Spirit" Christ offered Himself to God (see Heb. ix. 14).
The Cross of Christ and Cleansing.
There is a great danger of the soul who knows death union with Christ failing to see the value of cleansing.
Cleansing has to do with our walk with God.
Sin is not only a ruling principle but it is a defilement.
We must first be clear upon our basis of identification with Christ in death, or the evil nature will continually defile the soul in spite of our continual claiming of cleansing. Some souls know the blessing of cleansing, but are not able to maintain it, because they rest upon their experience rather than upon the Divine basis of union with Jesus Christ in death and resurrection. It is Christ's death that causes the evil nature to cease its activity. As the believer abides by faith in Christ, the death of Christ cuts him off from bondage to sin as a master.
But the question arises,—"Is there need for cleansing if I abide in Christ and reckon myself dead indeed to sin?" Yes, because it is a faith attitude which you may fail to keep. Through lack of watchfulness you may yield to your evil nature and thus become defiled, hence the need for cleansing. Any sense of defilement will keep you away from the presence of God. It is not enough to say, "I am abiding in Christ's death and therefore I am free."
Sin committed must be confessed to God and cleansed away by the application of the blood of Christ. The death of Christ was once for all, but the blood is for perpetual application.
This is typically shown in the Old Testament type of the red heifer (see Num. xix. 2-22). The heifer was slain; the ashes were kept for application in cases of defilement. There was one atoning sacrifice made for the sinner, but yet necessitating the application of the "ashes" when needed. So with the sacrifice of Christ.
No one ever gets to the place where he does not need to confess his sins, and claim the blood to cleanse.
Defilement may come from without as well as from within. Our contact with the world defiles us. The very moral atmosphere that we breathe is contaminating.
Cleanliness of heart and life is essential to communion and fellowship with God.
We learn this very clearly from Psalm xxiv. 3, 4—"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully."
"CLEAN HANDS" refer to the things we touch.
In Numbers xix., we see that if a man "touched" any dead thing—whether intentionally, through neglect, or unconsciously—he became at once ceremonially unclean, and was cut off from the privilege of the redeemed worshipper.
This is a type of something far deeper than the physical. It points to God's jealousy over His people's lives, and shows how souls lose communion with God through touching that which is sinful in thought or deed.
Which of us can say that we never touch that which defiles us either consciously or unconsciously? Therefore there is need of a continual application of the blood of sprinkling.
"A PURE HEART." This has reference to the fountain whence spring the issues of life (see Prov. iv. 23 and Matt. xv. 18, 19).
Exceeding great and precious promises are given to us, "that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Pet. i. 4).
It is only in the divine nature that we can approach God; this divine nature should rule, and it can only rule as the old is kept on the cross by faith.
The cleansing of the Blood does not deal with our evil nature, but crucifixion does;—"knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him" (Rom. vi. 6, R.V.); "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh" (Gal. v. 24).
But cleansing removes the defilement due to any activity of the evil nature, which severs communion and makes it impossible to "stand" before God. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. v. 8).
WHO HATH NOT LIFTED UP HIS SOUL TO VANITY."
The soul is the seat of self-love—pride—the "I" in us that wants to be seen and known and heard; also, the religious pride that says in effect "I thank God that I am not as other men are." This religious pride creeps into the most spiritual souls and they are defiled.
It manifests itself in an attitude of isolation from others, in a censorious spirit that seeks to put others right and in sitting in judgment on the saints.
But if these souls learn to walk in the light, as He is in the light, they will have fellowship one with another, that is, with all the saints, and the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse them from all sin.
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves" (I John i. 8); a disposition of self-justification condemns us.
"If we confess our sins" is an acknowledgement of our inherent sinnership and of our need of cleansing.
No one who is living consciously in the presence of God will say "I have not sinned," but the expression of a saved sinner before Him is "I confess my sins."
Then faith in the blood is the plea, and fellowship with the saints the result...
BACK TO THE CROSS!
The Place of Victory over Satan.
When Jesus Christ went to the Cross, He not only atoned for our sins but He defeated our spiritual enemy Satan. This was a most important part of Christ's work at Calvary, for not only is man in bondage to sin within but to Satan without. To lose sight of this aspect of Jesus Christ's work is to greatly weaken the position in the conflict with evil. It is only in the victory of Calvary that the child of God can successfully face the present activity of Satanic power that is abroad to-day.
Satan has flung his forces right across the path of the Church in her advance heavenward, and is thus delaying the return of Christ to reign as King upon the earth. These forces are spiritual and evil, and can only be antagonized by spiritual weapons.
But some one will ask, "How can the devil delay the return of Christ?"
By keeping the Church in defeat.
When Christ comes, the overcomers are to reign with Him over the earth—but they must have learnt to overcome and to rule in spirit here and now through their union with Jesus Christ.
Many of God's people are so taken up with earthly things that the realm of the spiritual is absolutely foreign to them.
Others, who are more spiritually minded, are being continually defeated because they are poorly equipped to face the conflict with these evil powers. The devil is able to make perpetual inroads into their work, harassing them in their labours, and they, not knowing the source from which the attack comes, submit, and thus are defeated. Not only does the foe interfere with their work, but their personal life is made the object of his malignant hatred,—trouble in the home, divisions, misunderstandings, follow one upon another until an atmosphere is created, which becomes a continual drainage upon them.
Doubtless all God's children know something of this in their experience.
Are these things sent into our lives for us to submit passively to? or is it intended that we should overcome them?
The reason why we do not resist them is that we fail to recognize the true cause of the attacks. We have left Satan, who is the silent, subtle source of our trouble, out of our reckoning, but as our eyes are opened to detect the enemy, we realize that we are called into a personal spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness. We also get a wider vision and a divine interpretation of the evil agencies which are opposing the Church and ruling the world, and we realize that they are super-natural and Satanic, and must be resisted by the child of God in union with the risen Lord.
But how can the devil and his host be conquered by the child of God?
Only through vital union with Jesus Christ and a spiritual knowledge of Calvary as the place of Satan's complete overthrow. How carefully the foe has sought to hide this! how subtly he has contrived to get the believer away from the place of his ignominy and defeat!
How clearly we are taught in John xii. 31, 32, that the lifting up of Christ is the casting down of Satan,—"Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out, and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." Lifted up—where? on a Throne? No! on a Cross, as verse 33 plainly tells us—"This, He said, signifying what death He should die."
In Colossians ii. 15, we read, "Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it," and the whole argument of Paul in the Colossian Epistle is—"why should we be subject to their power when Christ has so gloriously conquered?" Why?
Christ's death is the complete overthrow of Satan and his hosts, but in order for us to have the victory wrought into us, we must get back to the Cross and learn to wield it against the powers of darkness, which are feverishly labouring for the enthronement of Satan in this world.
While the child of God stands in triumph they are hindered in the accomplishment of their desire.
As the saint sees this, he will understand that his own personal conflict is only part of the general warfare that is raging.
The Devil is approaching his Waterloo! Child of God, put on your heavenly armour: learn to wear it now.
Be a veteran in the army of the Lord, and not a raw recruit!
Surely the days of sham fighting are over; a real war is raging.
Thy foes are strong, but thou art stronger in thy risen Lord. Be not afraid of their faces, for thou hast looked upon the marred face of Jesus! and soon, ah! soon, thou shalt see His face shining as the sun when He shall come in His glory to reign over this poor distracted world.
HOW TO WALK BY THE SPIRIT
(The following is an article by Jessie Penn-Lewis, "Spiritual Things to the Spiritual." It originally appeared in The Overcomer, Vol. 3, published by The "Overcomer" Office, Leicester, England, September 1911. The editor of The Overcomer was Jessie Penn-Lewis. The title, "How to Walk by the Spirit," was provided by Watchman Nee.)
The aggressive warfare against the powers of darkness is essentially a spirit conflict, and the "natural man" knows nothing about it. It is to be understood only by spiritual men and women, hence the importance of knowing what is the meaning of the term "spiritual," and how to walk in the spirit. We have put a capital S on the word spirit in the New Testament, where often it reads with a small s, or we have done that in the mind, by reading in the large S—referring to the Holy Spirit—in places where there should be a small s. The large S so read in by the majority of us, has hidden the fact that we have a human spirit, which is the organ for the Holy Spirit, and the place where the Holy Spirit dwells. (See "The Place of the Indwelling Spirit," in May Overcomer.) In the shrine of that spirit comes all His divine light, and leading. Not having understood clearly about the human spirit, we have not known how to co-operate with the Holy Spirit, and when He has come into our spirits, we have thought everything He had to say to us, must be given to the mind, with the result that we have mainly walked "after the soul," and not "after the spirit."
It will help you if I show you clearly from the Word of God what the spirit life is, and how to walk in it. First of all let us turn to 1 Cor. ii. 11, where Paul says, "Who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the SPIRIT of the man, which is in him?" Here we have the statement that the "spirit of the man" alone has knowledge of the man; and "even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God." None can know about God, only as the Spirit which is of God comes from God to reveal Him and His mind, to the believer, through the medium of his human spirit. The human spirit is the organ for the reception of the Spirit of God, and through which He reveals truth to the mind, and gives the knowledge of God. Hence, continues Paul, "We received not the spirit of the world." There is a "spirit of the world." People forget that. They ticket the world as "things," but there is a "spirit" of the world, and some "spirit" must work in us—either the Spirit which is of God, or "spirits" instigated by Satan, i.e., the "spirit of the world," the "spirit of error," etc. How can you know the way to shut your spirit against all these spirits outside in the world, unless you understand how to co-operate WITH THE SPIRIT OF GOD in the things of God?
You must shut your spirit to the influence of the world-spirit, as well as shut your mind to world thoughts and ways. You may have the "spirit of the world" in you without outwardly appearing to be worldly, hence the importance of understanding the teaching given by Paul in 1 Cor. ii. and iii. "We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the THINGS that are freely given to us of God. Which THINGS we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth." Here is Paul speaking of "THINGS" i.e., substantial facts in the spiritual realm, not of theories, opinions, visions, illusions, but "things," and the Holy Spirit actually giving words to describe these things, to "spiritual" men, able to apprehend them—"interpreting SPIRITUAL things to SPIRITUAL men...for the natural man (lit. "man of soul") receiveth not the things of the spirit, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
Now you see the place of the spirit in man, in regard to the things of God, and the necessity of our becoming spiritual men—men of spirit—not men of "soul," i.e., "the natural man," the man who seeks to apprehend spiritual things with his natural mind, which the Apostle emphatically declares he cannot do.
From various expressions used by Paul it also appears that the spirit of man is a distinct entity, or organism, if I may use that word. (Gall has a chapter on "The physiology of the spirit" in "Primeval Man Unveiled.") See 1 Cor. v. 3-4, "Ye being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus." He does not refer there to the Holy Spirit, but to his own spirit. In ch. xiv. 14, he adds a distinct action of the human spirit: "my spirit prayeth." In Rom. xii. 11, there is described both a characteristic of, and action of the spirit—"Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord"—and in 1 Peter iii. 4, you read of a "meek and quiet spirit"—again descriptive characteristics.
We also read of a "cool spirit" in Proverbs, the "heat of spirit" in Ezekiel, while it is said of John the Baptist that as a result of his wilderness time of fellowship with God, he got a "strong spirit," strong enough to go and face Herod, and to proclaim a message which was objectional to Jew and Gentile. We are needing for this spiritual warfare with principalities and powers, just such a strong spirit; a cool spirit, a fervent spirit, a spirit ruled, for "he that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city" in co-action with the Spirit of God.
The trouble to-day is the lack of knowledge of the spirit. Men are so "soulish," and even Christians walk as `natural' men, viewing everything from the natural standpoint—"of the earth, earthy"—with only the natural vision. Or, on the other hand, "spiritual" men do not understand how to "rule the spirit"; how to keep it "cool," as well as "fervent"; nor do they realize the danger of the power of darkness interfering with their spirits; nor the temptations of the spiritual sphere from forces of evil working upon, or driving their spirit out of steady co-operation with the Holy Spirit. If you get this light from God's Book, you will be able to read everything to-day without perplexity. You will see that the "spirit of the age"—Ephes. ii. 2—is a driving spirit, and that the forces of the spiritual realm have come upon us, demanding an understanding of what these forces are, and how we are to meet them.
Next, notice the powers of the human spirit. The spirit is capable of feeling. Paul said his "spirit" was refreshed. He did not say that his heart was refreshed, but his spirit. In one of his missionary journeys he says he was "pressed in spirit," showing that there is a pressure of spirit, which requires an understanding of what it means, so as to know thereby the leading of God. A great deal of our supposed "spiritual experiences" are soulish, that is to say they take place in the realm of feeling. Our demand is for something we can "feel" in the soulish realm, and not for something we may KNOW in the inner shrine of the Spirit.
Paul knew he was "bound" in the spirit, and that indicated, by the witness of the Holy Spirit, that "bonds and afflictions" awaited him. He knew, too, when his spirit was released, and the pressure and difficulties had passed away. As clearly as you understand the senses of the body, he understood the actions of his spirit, and of the Holy Spirit in and through his spirit as His channel. Through eyes and ears you understand the physical realm, and through the spirit you know the spiritual realm, and read the communications of God's will made known by the Holy Spirit (Rom. viii. 16), which are always in harmony with the Word of God.
Again, Mary said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord," and that magnifying came into the soul-realm; but she added "my SPIRIT hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." In Acts xix. 21, "Paul PURPOSED IN SPIRIT to go to Jerusalem." That is a very different thing from purposing in the mind, for it includes a knowledge of God's will in the spirit, and a purpose to do it. Our Lord Jesus Christ was "troubled IN SPIRIT," and when He went to the grave of Lazarus, we read in the margin that "He groaned in Himself with INDIGNATION IN HIS SPIRIT." Such an indignation in the spirit precedes an outbursting of victory over the powers of darkness. He stood by the grave of Lazarus, and with a loud voice, said, "Lazarus, come forth!" He went to that grave with His Spirit groaning with indignation against the prince of death, and in the outflashing of that indignation, Lazarus was loosed from the captivity of death, and raised to life.
In this story of Lazarus we have a glimpse of the source of spiritual authority over the powers of darkness. It is not the authority of words, nor the authority of Christ given to the natural man; but the authority of Christ communicated through the Spirit of God in action through the spiritual man. Those who take the aggressive against the Prince of this world in their own soul power, will find their words empty of spiritual force (see 1 Cor. iv. 20).
Now notice further that the spirit of the man is under the control of the will: The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets"—subject to the control of the will. Again note the words of Solomon, "He that ruleth his spirit." You, as a new creation in Christ, joined to Him in spirit, must rule the mind (1 Pet. i. 13), rule the body (1 Cor. ix. 27), rule the spirit. If you fail to rule the spirit, the spirit can carry you beyond God's measure, as much as the soul can carry you out of control. In many things we hear of to-day about ecstatic experiences, there is an element of great danger, lest the spirits of these believers are carried beyond the control of the will. It is almost a new danger in the Church of Jesus Christ which we have now to face. The Church has been so carnal in the past, that now when numbers are becoming "spiritual," the danger lies in not knowing the laws of the spirit, and the forces in the spiritual realm able to affect the spirit, as the thought-world affects the soul.
In the life of the spiritual man, the first thing is the new birth: "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." "a new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." In the new birth we get a renewed spirit. Again it is written, "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh, and spirit." Apparently there is a constant cleansing of the spirit needed. Our Lord "poured out His SOUL unto death," but He "committed" His SPIRIT to His Father. The soulish part of us must likewise be poured out to death, if the spirit is to be brought into essential union with God.
This separation of the spirit, from, what an old writer calls "the entanglements of the soul," is set forth in Heb. iv. 12, "The word of God is quick and powerful...dividing soul and spirit." How often we are conscious of so much mixture in even consecrated believers, and how rarely you can meet a pure spirit; how often there comes a word, or action, first from the spirit, and then from the soul part, the emotions, the intellect, or the mind. As the spirit is brought into pure union with God, it becomes sensitive to the touch of "soul," either in yourself, or in others. You will meet the "soul" element as if it were some little bit of hard substance which checks the flow of your spirit. Or you will discover it in the varying states of your own life: at one time there will be communion with God, when the spirit is open to Him, and thus full of light; then without any apparent cause a veil falls over it, and it is dark. That is just the action of the soul, you have gone back into the soul life, out of the light into the dark. Hence the importance of learning that position in Christ where the spirit is continually dominant. Let us look at this for a moment.
Paul says "The God of peace sanctify you...spirit, soul and body." God in the spirit sanctifying the soul, controlling and dominating the body. Fausset—a Commentator of authority—says, that "In the three fold division of man's being, body, soul and spirit, the due state in God's design is, that the spirit which is the recipient of the Holy Spirit, uniting man to God, should be first and rule the soul, which stands intermediate between body and spirit. In the natural man the spirit is sunk into subserviency to the animal soul, which is earthly in motives and aims. The carnal sinks still lower, for in this the flesh, the lowest element rules. Not having the Spirit means that in the natural man, the spirit which is the highest part, and ought to be the reservoir of the Holy Spirit, is not so, and therefore the spirit is not in the state that God wants it to be."
From this clear statement you will understand that the spirit must be first, and dominate the soul, and through the soul control the body. The "spirit man" is he who has the spirit in its due order, ruling soul and body. To become "spiritual"—i.e., under the rule of the spirit, the word of God needs to divide the soul, and spirit. For at first—when the man is a "natural man"—the spirit is sunk into the soul, netted round as it were, and all bound up in the soul. Sometimes the spirit gets a little light, and breaks into freedom, then the soul again predominates, and becomes like a thick film covering the light of the spirit. These phases affect the countenance—when the spirit sinks down into the soul the face becomes shadowed from within, and when the spirit rises to the place of control, the face is full of light. In truth the outer man is, what John describes as a "lampstand," to hold the light that comes from the spirit, which is meant to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and filled with the light of God.
Now the devil knows all about this, for he has studied man for a long time. He has observed, that when in meetings you have sung a spiritual song, you have broken into victory, and the spirit has ruled, then you have gone away to look upon a world that seemed different because all the dark shadows have disappeared in the light of God. With this knowledge, he comes a long to the children of God who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, and he brings all the weights he can bring, stirs up all the troubles he can, and puts them on the spirit, and as these heavy weights press upon the spirit and presses it down into the soul, you lose your testimony, and the ringing song of victory; all because you do not understand what he is doing.
To keep the spirit in real victory in union with Christ, you must understand the approach of the enemy, and know what he brings. This leads us to the spirit-warfare, we have in mind—expressed in crude language doubtless, but expressing something that is real. We want to get at this: what is victory, where is victory, how can we walk in victory?
The spirit is the place where the Holy Spirit dwells, and everything that God does in you comes from the spirit. It is through our spirit He works out to soul and body, not from outside in! The devil knows this, though we do not, and he brings things from the outside life to burden the spirit within. From the outside he also gives supernatural power, working upon the emotions and the senses, and gets hold of the bodies even of the children of God. It will help you to detect and to discern for yourself, to know that everything that the Spirit of God does, is through the organ of your spirit. It is in your spirit that you learn to know God for the spirit is the sanctuary, the shrine, the organ of the Holy Spirit, and it is there that He bears His witness—"The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." We have seen that the first thing the Holy Spirit does in regeneration is to give a renewed spirit, when you are "born of the Spirit," and you receive the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of sonship, when from your spirit comes the cry, "Father!" Then you know God as your Father. Then you next receive the Holy Spirit as a Person, as the Sanctifier, and He fills your spirit and makes it the shrine where He dwells, and the centre from which He works, and in that shrine He brings you into union with Christ when you become "joined to the Lord, one spirit." From the centre of the spirit He wields the Word of God, and cuts away the soul's entanglements with the knife of the Word; and as you obey that Word and submit to its requirements, the spirit becomes clarified, and drawn away from the soul-envelope into a deeper, closer, essential, perfect union with Christ the risen and ascended Lord. It is only in this real union of one spirit with Christ, that He is able to exercise His authority through you over spiritual foes.
In the light of these facts about the spirit of man, and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the eighth of Romans is simply wonderful: "If we walk in the spirit," "if ye live in the spirit," "the mind of the spirit is life," "ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit." "The mind of the flesh is death." "The minding of the spirit is life and peace. At the back of all these words can be seen the PERSONAL VOLITION of the man, as the helm of the ship, so to speak, at the centre. The ACTIVE EXERCISE OF THE WILL, moment by moment, determining his obedience to the mind of God through the Spirit, or his walk "after the flesh."
It is not a state you are brought into, but a position, where you have to choose every moment what you will do. Therefore it is important that you understand what is flesh, and what is spirit, since you have to hourly decide which you will obey.
In 1 Cor. xv.  we read, "The first man Adam was made a living soul, the second Adam a life-giving spirit." All the life you get from the first Adam is soul, and all the life you get from the new Adam is spirit. First that which is natural, or soulish, and then "that which is spiritual," for there is a "natural body," and there is a "spiritual body." So that the Church will be prepared for translation by being brought to know this spirit life, where the LIFE OF THE SPIRIT QUICKENS THE MORTAL BODY. Through all the tossing and the tumult and the suffering, God is preparing His Church for the coming of Jesus Christ; and through travail and often bitter tears, God's children are pressing on to know all that He can do for them.
When the spirit gets to its right place of predominance, united to Christ, and filled with the Spirit of God, and joined to the Lord, one spirit, "the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead, will quicken your mortal body by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." The devil just now is contending for the bodies, and for the mind of God's children. Did Christ not say to Peter "Satan hath obtained you by asking, that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not?" He did not say "I have prayed that you should not go into it;" but "I have let you go into it; you are so self-confident, Peter; you boasted that if all would forsake Me you would not, and I had to let Satan have you to sift you, and to break that self-confidence from you." That was soulishness in Peter, it was not of the spirit; and so he was sifted and prepared for his Pentecost in the judgment hall of Pilate.
How could God have used Peter if he had not got rid of his self-confidence first. All Peter's impulses, that wild devotion, that something about Peter that made him go headlong out of the ship towards his Master—God had to get it out of him. You would not say that Satan cannot touch a child of God, if you carefully read the Bible. Paul was a child of God, and yet he said he had a "messenger of Satan" to beat him, to keep him from being exalted above measure through the abundance of God's revelations to his spirit. Through Satan's buffetings and siftings, the children of God will advance into the knowledge of union with Christ, and victory over sin and Satan, which will prepare them for the Lord's coming.
What is the basis of this walk after the spirit? CALVARY. We must take our position with Christ in death, according to the sixth of Romans, crucified with Christ, we must know victory over sin, before we can talk about victory over Satan. Because Satan holds through sin, and it is only on the ground of the cross, standing there crucified with Christ, that you can dare take your position of victory over Satan. Romans vi. is the basis of victory.
In its practical outworkings you will see the need of avoiding a clouded spirit, because if you get a shadow, you will lose that keen spirit light which illuminates the mind, and shows you what to do. If the spirit is kept in clear unbroken victory, dominant over soul and body, the mind is given clear perception to detect the Spirit's leading; for "they that are led of the Spirit are the sons of God."
You know how to avoid sin, but do you know how to avoid weights? The devil knows that a shadow on your spirit will suit his purpose as well as anything else, so he does all he can to bring troublesome things to you in order to shadow your spirit. There is no outflow from a compressed spirit. It is absolutely essential for revival that the spirit shall be free, for thus only is the outflow continual. The law for keeping the spirit in victory is that it must be always going out; it must never turn back upon itself. Because these powers of darkness are outside, and they are always seeking to press you in. The enemy tries to accuse you, and get you occupied with yourself, and thus to lose all aggressive power against him; but you have to go out against him all the time.
But you say, "They won't let me pray in the prayer meeting; how can I always go out against him?" But you have a world-wide sphere in the prayer life, your spirit can go out in victorious prayer against all the powers of darkness, persistently, steadily for the whole church of Christ. ("Quiet Talks on Prayer", by S. D. Gordon, gives much light on this.) That will keep your spirit going out. The truth is you either must go out against what is outside, or else what is outside will come in, and crush you down.
Some of you have no flow now in testimony. In the Revival days your spirit was free. How easy it was then to speak; but, alas! the attacks, the conflict, the opposition, and the difficulties, have come like a great thick wall of clay, and the poor spirit has gone back into prison to be locked up and bound and compressed, so that it cannot move; and you have lost the power to perceive the will of God, and you don't know what to do. Let us ask God for liberation from all the accumulated weights that crush you down in spirit, so that you may enter into a sphere of mightier work in the unseen realm. Though you cannot pray in the prayer meetings, God calls you into a spirit union with Himself, that in prayer you may drive these forces of darkness back. It is a mightier work than anything else, and that field is open to any of you. The closing of the prayer meeting door against you can drive you to pray for Wales as you never prayed before. If you understood how to walk in the spirit, if you knew how to detect God's will in the spirit, that is possible for you.
Though absent in the body from them, Paul told the Corinthians that he was "present in spirit." Again he said to the believers, "Stand fast in one spirit, striving with one soul for the truth of the gospel." "Ye are all made to drink of one Spirit," ye are a "habitation of God through the Spirit." Endeavouring to keep the "unity of the spirit" in the bond of peace, "praying in the spirit," "fellowship in the spirit." It is "all in the spirit," and if the church of Jesus Christ was united in the spirit, there is no power of darkness that could stand before her. She would be fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.
Do you see in the light of this what is the matter with the prayer meetings? This great thick cloud of the powers of darkness comes down on the prayer meeting, and because you do not know how to fight in spirit through that wall, you are defeated. Satan tells you that God is not listening to you. Oh! if you knew how to penetrate through. Someone has said, "The Lord Jesus Christ has gone through the plane of the prince of the power of the air, and sat down on God's right hand, praying and keeping the way open for His people. The only way through is a blood-marked way; He is keeping open the way through the hosts of darkness." "Having boldness to enter by the blood"—a blood-marked way. If you have once known that life with Christ in God (for "ye died and your life is hid with Christ in God"), cease to walk after the natural man, the man of flesh. Learn to live in spirit with Christ on the Throne, and live the will of God as you learn it there. Your spirit must remain there, for that is the ascension place—"joined to the Lord, one spirit," and from that place you must understand how to resist everything that comes to you from the powers of darkness, direct, and indirect through men. Be determined that the one thing that you will do is to keep your spirit clear with God, so that you know the will of God. God must work out His own plans in His own way; and your one thing is to know Him, to live and walk in the spirit with Him, to obey His word, to refuse to have clouds that will shadow your spirit-fellowship with God, who is Spirit. That is the place of authority, and power over all the power of the enemy.
WALKING IN THE WILL OF GOD
(The following is an article by Jessie Penn-Lewis, "Walking in the Will of God." It originally appeared in The Overcomer, Vol. 6, published by The "Overcomer" Office, Leicester, England, June 1914.)
It is most important for the Lord's children to recognise that they have, and must use, their individual personal will. That the Lord Jesus had His own separate will is clearly set forth in John vi. 38. "I am come down from heaven not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me."
In John v. 30, the Lord Jesus said "I can of Mine own self do nothing"—this means that He never acted apart from His Father—"As I hear I judge: and My judgment is just, because I seek not Mine own will but the will of the Father which hath sent Me." Although He had a separate will, the principle of His life was not independent action, but a co-action in harmony with the will of God. His was not a passive will, but an active one, deliberately set to do the will of His Father.
It is important to know that God does not desire us to have a passive will for the Father to impress His will upon it, and move us apart from our own volition. The words of the Lord Jesus show that He used His will in distinct action. He said: "I SEEK NOT Mine own will," which shows that He was free to will and act in another direction to that which He deliberately sought and chose to follow.
Here we see the negative aspect of the Lord's walk with God the Father—He did not seek to do His own will.
Christ's meat the will of God.
In John iv. 34, we find described the positive aspect—that is how He did the Father's will. "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work." Here is the active choice to do. There was the choice not to seek His own will, and the choice to do the will of God. There is no trace of passivity here. Moreover, He found Divine sustenance in doing God's will; not in talking about it, but in doing it. "My meat is TO DO..." There must be the doing of God's will as well as the seeking of it, and until you have done the will of God as you know it, you cannot expect to be taken a step further in God's plan for you.
In the life of Christ you will see the exercise of His own separate will. But His will was set. We need to understand the setting of the will like the helm of a ship. As you set your will to do God's will, God can work. Your part is continually to make God's will the principle of your life. You say: "I choose God's will in this." You do not put your will aside, but on God's side, asking God to reveal His will to you. Christ's will was so set that it never lost co-operation with God's will for a moment. He perfectly and entirely did the will of God. "Lo, I come to do Thy will..." Not only was there the setting of His will to God's will, but the active use of it in that setting.
In Matt. viii. 3: "I will, be thou clean"—is an example of His vital co-operation in will with the Father's will. When the man came to Christ the Lord knew God's will, and said: "I WILL, be thou clean." God bore witness, and the man was cleansed. It was God's will manifested toward the man, through the exercise of Christ's will saying "I will, be thou..."
When the will is brought into complete co-operation with God as the principle of life, every moment the one question concerning everything is: "What is God's will?" You have no other question. Not "What do I like? What do I want?" but "God's will." Then there will come a time, when, in the enduement of the power of the Holy Spirit, you may turn to an evil spirit in another, and say, "In the Name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out." Under such circumstances, the Spirit of God will bear witness to what is done in faith, and it will be God's will manifested through you. This shows what the devil has to gain by making you believe you are to have no "will of your own." Understand that God works His works through you, by bringing your will into co-action with His, and enabling you to speak the word of authority over the enemy in His Name.
God's will in suffering.
GOD'S WILL IN SUFFERING. In Luke xxii. 42, we read: "Not My will, but Thine be done." These words, spoken in Gethsemane, indicate that Christ put His will on God's side, in the awful anguish He was going through. The pressure was so strong that His sweat became as great drops of blood. "Not My will, but Thine," was the declaration of His attitude as He set His will. He had come to the same choice just before—"Now is My soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour?"
"Shall I say, `Father, save Me'?" "No," but "Father, glorify Thy Name." Christ put His will for God's glory. And as He put His will on God's side against this awful pressure, He was heard, He was sustained. Then an angel came and ministered to Him.
If you too will make this the central principle of the spiritual life, and set the helm of your will unvaryingly to choose God's will because it is God's will, then He will apply to your life Christ's victory on Calvary in such a way, as to endue you with power, for the deliverance of others from the power of evil spirits.
HOW THE LORD KNEW THE WILL OF GOD. The Lord Jesus knew the will of God in His spirit. See John iv. 4: "He must needs go through Samaria." The literal rendering is that "It was binding upon Him." It was God's will that He should go, and He knew it, because His spirit was pliable. If you are to know the will of God you must not have a hard or unbending spirit. You need a spirit so flexible that it can move whichever way God wants, and I do not see how we are going to know and walk in the will of God, in harmony with God's Word, unless we consent to this walk in the spirit. If you insist that such and such a course must be taken to-morrow, you have not left yourself open to the will of God to effect any change. The Lord does not seem to have had inflexibly fixed plans. "But are we to make no plans?" you ask. Yes, but they should be made in such a way that you can drop them, if necessary, in a minute. You will not walk continuously in the will of God until you have learnt how to be pliable to His will.
A flexible spirit to know God's will.
You must have a flexible spirit. That is one of the first principles of revival. A meeting that cannot become elastic and subject to the movements of God, becomes a dead block in the way of the Spirit. The human spirit must be so sensitive to the Holy Spirit that just as He spoke to Philip, and said "Join yourself to this chariot," so He may make known His will to you, and get as ready a response.
An adaptable spirit is essential to fulfil the will of God. Christ's spirit was adaptable enough to respond to the needs and questions of Nicodemus. The will of God will be known in your spirit according to the attitude of the person who comes to you. If your spirit is closed, you can pass on no living truth to that person, probably because they are not ready.
If you traced and followed the delicate sense of your spirit it would become acute, and God could then make His will known to you—all in harmony with the written Word, for the Holy Spirit revealing in your spirit God's mind cannot contradict Himself in God's Word. It would mean a great deal if we all walked in the spirit and knew when we were speaking from the spirit and when merely from the mind, and therefore empty of spiritual power.
The spirit should illuminate the mind, but when the spirit drops out of co-operation with the Holy Spirit, the mind is left without the needed assistance, and its product is very poor. When you are in the spiritual plane and know the Holy Spirit in your spirit, you recognise there are grave consequences attached to all you do. You cannot go back from the spirit life without stepping into a pathway of failure. The moment you drop from the plane that you have reached you begin to lose spirit strength, and if you do not recover your place quickly you will ultimately sink into deeper failure. The loss not only affects yourself but everyone with whom you have to deal. You may wrongly interpret or reject the words of a servant of God, and that would cause you to go back without knowing it. This hindrance to your spirit life will be maintained while that wrong thought or attitude is held.
If the Holy Spirit has once had the quickening of your mind so that your mind becomes capable of doing what it could not accomplish naturally, then in order to maintain that you will be obliged to live up to the highest point you have attained, and be satisfied with nothing below.
If, after reaching an altitude in the spirit life, you descend, even without knowing it, you will find yourself in the realm where the powers of darkness can buffet you almost as they like. God only manifests His Divine power when you are living and acting at the point to which you have already attained (see Phil. iii. 16).
Shrinking from doing God's will.
When you find yourself defeated, you may ask what is the meaning of the interference of the enemy? Why cannot the stream of the power of God go on? You think it is this and that, and deal with it, but there is no change. Then, after asking God for light, you discover that you were shrinking from what you know you ought to do. How can the Holy Spirit work when you thus cease from co-operation? A little hesitation will push you below the point. Then you say, "Lord, I am going to do what Thou dost desire!" Then the power of God comes in, and all goes well.
The enemy will endeavour to hide from you the fact that you are in a lower plane, by dulling the conscience and giving all sorts of excuses to account for what is going on, until you are in such a state as to be almost powerless. Then he inflicts his suffering, and you have the greatest difficulty in getting on your feet again. Live up to the hilt of the spirit life to which God has brought you, then you will have the power of God to do the will of God at the highest point God seeks from you.
See a few more examples of how Christ walked in the will of God:
John iv. 34 shows the Spirit of God guiding the Lord at the well, when, in answer to the disciples who were anxiously inquiring about His food, He said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me..." In John vii. 3, 6, His brethren said to Him, "Depart from hence...Jesus saith to them, My time is not yet come, but your time is alway ready." Here is the restraining power of the Spirit, so that He is not moved by His brethren.
Again in John xi. 5, 6, we read, "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick He abode two days still in the same place where he was." His were spiritual bonds. It was God's will first. Though misjudged by those He loved, He did not move. How did He know God's will? He was never moved from outside; never moved by a family taunt, by sarcasm and unbelief; never moved even by the calls of love. He was in spiritual bonds to do God's will.
The consent of the will.
It is important to remember that both GOD AND SATAN REQUIRE THE CONSENT OF THE WILL. The will of the unsaved, even though it be enslaved by Satan is capable of choice. "Whosoever will may come and take of the water of life freely." So man must put his will on God's side for Him to work. "If any man will to do..." God's part in giving you power to "will" is referred to in Phil. ii. 13. "It is God that worketh in you to will..." i.e., He works in you up to the point of your "willing"—He does not "will" instead of you. Man's will needs God's power to energize it. Apart from it, it is mere will-worship (Col. ii. 23). Paul said, "To will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I know not." Man may also set his will against God's will"—This they willingly are ignorant of" (2 Peter iii. 5). The servant that knew His will and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes (Luke xii. 47).
Now as to the danger of THE WILL OUT OF ACTION.
Passivity of will arises through a wrong conception of surrender. Romans xii. 1, gives the true meaning of surrender. "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service...that ye may prove what is...[the] will of God." To walk after the will of God the spirit requires a voluntary act of the will. Your will must guide or CONTROL your spirit. "The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets (1 Cor. xiv. 32). For instance, your spirit may go out into an ecstasy, or a strain, beyond the volitional control of your will. Then it goes too far.
YOUR SPIRIT MUST ALWAYS BE KEPT WITHIN THE CONTROL OF YOUR VOLITION. Reference has been made to the spirit being lifted, but when the spirit is liberated and buoyant, then the new plan of the powers of darkness is to drive your spirit, and drive your body. Some people are simply being driven on by the enemy—they are always in a strain, always on the stretch, running after something. It means that the spirit is being drawn out by the powers of darkness.
The Lord Jesus knew the will of God in His spirit because it was always in perfect poise—never strained, never crushed, never elated, never driven, never slow. When He was going to raise the girl from the dead, He was stopped on the way, and He had time to stay and attend to the needs before Him. The ideal is a spirit in perfect poise. It is in that condition you learn how to watch and resist the powers of darkness coming against your spirit, and forcing you on, or, more often, forcing you down.
The relationship of the will to the spirit may be illustrated by that of the string to the kite. The string of a kite, which holds it steady, is its power. The moment it is let go it is lost, and drops. The Lord Jesus walked in the will of God, by knowing it in His spirit and in His intelligence.
The reverse to the action of the will is passivity. When you find your will passive and slow in action you can bring it into action by saying "I have a will." Then having a will of your own, the principle to safeguard its action, is the Lord's own attitude and choice, "I seek not Mine own will."
May the Spirit of God teach us how to follow the steps of our Pattern, and like the Son of God so walk with God in seeking and doing His will, that we stand perfect and complete in all the will of God (Col. iv. 12).
MORE THAN CONQUERORS
(The following is a booklet by Jessie Penn-Lewis, More Than Conquerors. The material in the addendum, "The Foundation of the Victorious Life," was excerpted from a book by Jessie Penn-Lewis, The Cross: The Touchstone of Faith, pp. 18-19. Both were originally published by The Overcomer Literature Trust, Parkston, Poole, Dorset, England.)
"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." (Romans 8. 37.)
Calvary means that Christ not only bore on that Tree your sins, but that He carried to the Tree the sinner—carried you there. When you come to the point of recognising that God does not patch up the old life, but calls upon you to reckon it crucified, and to take from Him a new one, you will find that the new life has in it all the characteristics which belong to it. The old Adam-life has its own characteristics, and the new Adam-life has its own characteristics.
It is necessary to repeat this message of the Cross again and again, for the truth only lays hold of us "line upon line" until at last it grips us and effectually works in us who believe.
Moreover, to that Cross of Calvary, Christ, as the Representative Man, not only carried the sinner, but on that Cross and through the death of the Cross He utterly conquered Satan (Colossians 2. 15). There is therefore no need on the part of a Christian for a trace of fear of Satan. Satan is an absolutely conquered foe to the soul who knows:
THE VICTORY OF CALVARY.
"Fear hath torment." The finished work of Calvary ends the fear of death (Hebrews 2. 14, 5), and fear of the prince of death.
On the Cross Christ took away your sins, so that you might have the blotting out of them through His blood, when all the wicked spirits of Satan cannot bring them up to you, and throw them at you. God Himself has blotted them out saying, "I will remember them no more" (Hebrews 8. 12). That is salvation from the guilt and penalty of sin. But it is vitally important you understand that when God blots out sin, He blots out on the condition that you part with sin. God cannot blot out what you will not part with.
When you know that your sins are blotted out, and you are really begotten of God by the impartation of a new life, there are three aspects of the life of victory through the Cross that you need to understand.
1. VICTORY OVER SIN.
The sinner saved through the death of Christ has a right to break with sin. He can say, in the Name of the Conquering Jesus, "No sin has a right to master me"—e.g., you may say, as you stand on Romans 6. 6, "No doubtful habit has a right to me. I absolutely refuse, in the Name of the One Who died for me, to be in bondage to it." As a redeemed soul you have a right to say this, because on the Cross the work has been done for you, and you are to lay hold of all that Christ has obtained for you and appropriate it (Romans 6. 13). Victory over sin in this way is not any glory to you, for it is not gained through your human will, nor your human power, but through the finished work of Christ on the Cross. He obtained the forgiveness of sins for you; He obtained the victory for you over sin and death.
The lonely Cross, think of it! See there the Lamb! As Moody said, "God conquered the lion of hell with a slain Lamb!" And there it was done. Oh that the Church of Christ would rise up in the Name of Jesus Christ her Redeemer, and refuse to be in bondage to sin, or to Satan. The Church should rise up in the name of Christ, declaring that all the works of the devil against her (1 John 3. 8) can be destroyed, because Christ was manifested to destroy them.
Let us get hold of the fact of the Calvary victory, and of the truth that Satan is a conquered foe. Christ conquered him at Calvary. When you stand on Romans 6, reckoning the old life crucified, your spirit becomes joined to Christ—"Joined to the Lord, one spirit!" You are not going out against a great and terrible spirit-foe alone. Your spirit "joined to the Lord" is "one spirit" with Him. Christ is the Conqueror, and you are joined in one Spirit with the Conqueror.
It is not that God gives you victory by yourself. He gives you victory by your being joined in spirit to the Victor. "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4. 4). Then are we going to cower and tremble before the enemy, when we are joined to the Conqueror, joined to the Victor—joined in one spirit? But you do not know that "joining" until you come to Calvary, and stand steadily on the fact of the old Adam-life crucified with Christ, because the "old life" gets in the way, and is liable to do some "fighting" which is of no avail against the foe, but rather gives him ground and power over you. Therefore, the old Adam-life must be reckoned crucified, because it is material for Satan, and if the old life is not kept in the position of death every moment, it is the material Satan puts his "fiery darts" in. Satan has full rights over all the old creation. He knows that part of the old life in you which is not "crucified," and he directs all his fiery darts to that spot. These darts have a bit of fire from the pit (James 3. 6) at their tip, and when they get into you they burn and blaze, and make you "blaze."
Whenever you see a "blaze" in a Christian you may know where it comes from. It is from the old life
"set on fire of hell."
Child of God, do you "fire up," and say things which you ought not to say? Do you flash out unkind things, "set on fire" by Satan? This is not the "fight" that wins, but the fight that fails every time. Do you see the importance of Romans 6? Suppose without standing on Romans 6 you set out to take the aggressive against Satan, how he would laugh! He would say, "Why the `stuff' that belongs to me is there; they have so much of my `goods'." You cannot bind the "strong man," because his goods are in and about you. Therefore you must take your stand at Calvary, reckoning the old life crucified moment by moment, so that the fire from the pit may not fasten upon you, and set on fire the "wheel of nature"—that nature which already has the poison of the serpent in it through his victory over man in Eden.
There must be for this battle with the lion of hell the spirit of the Lamb—the Lion-Lamb—the very Spirit of Jesus. It must be, when the fiery darts come, that they find in you the Lamb-spirit, however much people may tread on you, ill-treat you and put upon you—there must not be any blaze in you, which you call "righteous indignation!" The Calvary deliverance is needed, and the Lamb-spirit of Calvary.
2. VICTORY IN SUFFERING.
This aspect of the victorious life is to be found in Romans 8. 35-39. The Apostle says, "We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter....In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!" "More than conquerors" when you are ill-treated, and when for Christ's sake you are counted, like Christ, a lamb only fit for slaughter. "For Thy sake...killed!" It is not nice to be considered a sheep fit for slaughter; it is not "dignified"! There is no room for pride here. There was not much room for "dignity" in the Lord Christ's Calvary death. When He was led along the road with a crown of thorns upon His brow, with the blood upon His face, after walking seven miles during the night, as He was moved from place to place—there was not much "dignity"—there was "no beauty that we should desire Him." It was not a "dignified" death! He was put to open shame!
With God's children, the thing which hurts them most is the thing that touches their dignity. They do not mind being put to shame before God, but they do mind being put to shame before men. How they blush over anything that humiliates! But that all dies when the believer feels that he is really
suffering with Christ.
It does not say "killed" for "your own sake," but "for Christ's sake." It does not say beaten and whipped because you have been wrong, but beaten and whipped because you have been right! If ye do well and suffer for it, and take it patiently, this is grace; but if ye do wrong and suffer for it, and bear it patiently, what thanks have ye (see 1 Peter 2). This is victory and being a conqueror in suffering for Christ. If you do wrong, and "suffer for it," you must not call that "suffering with Christ." "For Thy sake...killed...in all these things more than conquerors!" This is the triumph of the spirit of the Lamb, in suffering "for Jesus' sake," and this is victory over the world.
3. VICTORY OVER SATAN.
In having victory over Satan you conquer in quite another way. Enduring grief, suffering wrongfully, with patience and a loving spirit is the true spirit-life of one who is joined to Christ, in the attitude to the human beings who are the visible and immediate cause of his suffering, but this is not to be the attitude to the devil. You have not to be a "lamb" to the devil. Be a "lamb" to the people, be patient with them, love them, be "more than conqueror" by showing the Spirit of the Lamb to them, but at the same time you must take an attitude of resistance against the devil according to 1 Peter 5. 8, 9 and James 4. 7.
There are therefore three aspects of the victorious life—(1) The aspect towards sin, Romans 6, "dead indeed unto sin"; (2) the aspect towards the people, "more than conquerors" when they "kill" you; and (3) the aspect to the devil, "Resist the devil" in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Ephesians 6 depicts this last aspect of the victorious life in resistance to the foe. When the Lord Jesus was the "Lamb" towards men, He was a "Lion" to the devil. We are told that He shook off from Himself the principalities and powers and put them to open shame, and what was defeat in the eyes of men was victory in the eyes of God. What was "shame" in the eyes of men was glory in the eyes of God. Towards Satan and all his wicked hosts Christ was a LION—the Lion of Judah.
In Ephesians 6 we see something of the spirit-warfare—the Lion-life—against the powers of darkness. Here we see the soldier, with the spirit of the soldier—"Henceforth be strong." On the human side Christ was "crucified through weakness," but He was "strong"—stronger than the "strong man." His name is called Strong—"When the Stronger than he shall come upon him." So Christ's name is the "Stronger than he." He is stronger than the "Strong man." So to the believer standing "in Christ" and facing Satan-wards, the message is "Be strong." You must not now talk of "weakness." You may be weak in your humanity and in yourself, but you must be
"strong in the Lord."
One of the devices of the devil is to get the children of God to accept weakness, because of the "weakness of the Cross" (2 Corinthians 13. 3, 4), but that is the human side towards men. In the spiritual sphere the rousing word is "BE STRONG!" On the earthly side, "I will boast of my weakness." said Paul. But in facing the foe "Be strong!" "From henceforth be STRONG!" It does not say "Try to be strong," it says "BE strong." When God says BE, He gives the power to be. He said, "Let there BE light," and there was light! So whenever God says to you "BE so-and-so," say "Amen, I AM so-and-so—"—i.e. IT IS SO! God speaks the word, you appropriate it, and it becomes fact as you act it. GOD does it. So God says "Be strong!" "Let the weak say, I AM STRONG!" Why have you to to say it? Because in the spiritual realm, words create. Christ said, "He shall have whatever he saith." In the spiritual realm there are no empty words; what you say is what comes about. Thus you need to be careful of your words. When you walk as a "natural man" in the earthly sphere you may say words that have little effect, but if you walk in the spiritual sphere you will need to watch that you do not contradict your faith by your words.
If you say "God tells me to 'BE strong,' and therefore
I am strong
by His strength," then strength comes in. The devil knows the laws of the spiritual sphere, and he whispers, "Oh, you do feel bad today!" and you say, "I am bad!" But God says, "Be strong," then you say, "By faith in God I am strong!" Satan whispers, "You are going to break down," and you say, "I believe I shall break down!" and you find yourself really going "down." This is the law in the spiritual sphere, yet few of us understand the power of words in that sphere. "Let the weak SAY, I am strong!"
BE STRONG! In yourself? No; "IN THE LORD." That is a position. It is not outside the Lord, but is "In the Lord." Stand "in the Lord." Take care you never stand anywhere else. Keep your faith set on the fact:
"I am in Christ"
and Christ is in me. I am not meeting things alone—I am personally weak, but Christ is strong. I am powerless, but Christ is mighty. I am strong in Christ; I have His strength, His power. "I stand in the Lord!" Not remembering their place in Christ, and "with Christ in God," many children of God are so "weak." You place them in an exposed position in the battle, and they run away. You hardly dare tell them some things you have to conquer by prayer, because they get so frightened. It is appalling that God has such a weak Church, weak in the conflict with sin and Satan, weak in its attitude to the world, all because it has not learnt the inner message of the Cross.
"HIS MIGHT." Let us meet the lion of hell with this verse. God says, "Be strong," and "stand" in the "strength of His might." It will take every bit of fear away. It is "MIGHT." Exactly the same word that Paul uses in Ephesians 1 that Christ was "raised from the dead" by the "might" of God—by the "strength of HIS MIGHT." Let us therefore go forward with God in steady hourly Victory, until the Lord comes, and we are gathered together unto Him.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE VICTORIOUS LIFE
The sixth of Romans is not an aspect of the truth, but the FOUNDATION TRUTH upon which every believer must stand, to know anything about victory. It not only reveals the very heart of Calvary, but the very heart of the resurrection. Calvary means the death-identification of the believer with Christ, so that he lives and moves in a spiritual sphere in resurrection life. "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. LIKEWISE RECKON YE also..." writes the Apostle to the Romans.
But we need to see too that there is a life side to the sixth of Romans, the resurrection side. On the resurrection side of the Cross, "death" hath no more dominion. The negative side of "death" should not be dwelt upon to the exclusion of the positive LIFE SIDE of union with Christ. The death is to be reckoned an accomplished fact, every moment. But "Christ being raised, dieth no more." He is ALIVE, and the believer identified by faith with Him in death, is united to Him in His life on the life-side of the Cross.
The believer must reckon to everything that he HAS died—not that he is going to die. If he again and again asks God to "put to death" some one point over and over again, he will never realize the positive life power. Reader are you saying, "I have not `died' to this and that." Take your position now on Romans 6. 6, and then "reckon" yourself "ALIVE UNTO GOD," and as you are alive unto God, you will surely come into the conflict with the spiritual foes in the spiritual sphere, described in Ephesians 6. 10-18, and standing on the foundation fact of Romans 6, go on to victory.
(The following is an article by Jessie Penn-Lewis. It originally appeared in The Overcomer, No. 41, published by The "Overcomer" Office, Leicester, England, May 1918.)
"That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death; that is, the devil" (Heb. ii. 14).
The Cross means not only the destruction of the fallen creation poisoned by the serpent, and the birthplace of a new race, but it eventually brings about the actual destruction of the serpent who was the original cause of the Fall. On the Cross the Victor of Calvary destroyed the destroyer. This is wonderfully depicted in the foreshadowing of Calvary given in the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness, and referred to by the Lord as the picture of His Cross, and His death at Calvary.
As one has said "The serpent is not the type of Christ. The serpent had poisoned the people; Christ had not. The type consists in this, that the death of the serpent was the triumph of the Saviour." The fallen race put to death in the Person of the Representative Man; the curse of God on the fallen Adam carried out; and the serpent himself destroyed through the very death he had brought into the world, is a brief and concentrated description of the Cross. Hence Paul writes that on the Cross the Lord Jesus Christ stripped Himself of principalities and powers, and put them to open shame, triumphing over them by the Cross.
An old writer has a very suggestive note on this passage, which opens out its meaning. He says: "The fallen flesh has been taken possession of by the powers and principalities of evil—it is the `armour' in which they have made themselves strong;" and therefore when Jesus overcame them, He put off "the likeness of sinful flesh," and having unclothed Himself, He made an open show of the powers and principalities.
How wonderfully divine the plan! "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. v. 19). The Creator in the Person of His Son, taking upon Himself the sins of the whole world—came in the likeness of sinful flesh, or "flesh of sin" (Rom. viii. 8), yet without SIN—and partaking of flesh and blood, formed a bond of union with the fallen race, that He in His divine personality should carry that fallen Adam-life to the Cross, and there suffer the penalty of death, which was its inevitable due and end; so that for the fallen creature He might break a way back to God, and become the Head of a new race, built up and formed out of His very nature and substance.
This is the meaning of the Cross in its divine purpose, and the way of victory for fallen man to triumph over the world, the flesh and the devil. This is the meaning of the Fall—the fallen flesh taken possession of by the spirit of Satan. This is the answer of Calvary to Satan, and to sin: the fallen creation crucified on the Cross, that every man may have the option of leaving the old race, and breaking away from its federal head, the first Adam, begin again "in Christ" a new creation.
The Cross is God's destroying weapon, to destroy the old creation (Rom. vi. 6), to destroy the fallen wisdom which set up itself against the wisdom of God (1 Cor. ii. 8), to destroy Satan (Heb. ii. 14), and eventually to destroy death itself (1 Cor. xv. 54, Rev. xx. 14). Through that Cross where (potentially) sin, Satan and fallen man were destroyed, then when the full results of the redemptive scheme will reach their full fruition, there shall come about a "new heavens," cleansed from every trace of the revolt of the fallen angels; and a "new earth" freed from every mark of the curse of the fall; inhabited by a new race, with every trace of the old fallen creation eliminated.
The Son of God will then see accomplished in its entirety, that which He was manifested on earth to do. The fruit of His lonely death on the Cross will have its full outworking, when "He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when He shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power" (1 Cor. xv. 24), having taken back both in the seen and unseen worlds, from the revolting Archangel Satan, who is at last finally be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. xx. 10), "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. xxv. 41). The Cross destroys the serpent. Hallelujah.
"THE LAST ENEMY THAT SHALL BE DESTROYED IS DEATH" (1 Cor. xv. 26). The Christ will reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. By the Cross the one who has the power of death is destroyed, and finally death itself abolished, "death shall be no more" (Rev. xxi. 4), and "there shall be no curse anymore" (Rev. xxii. 3).
Oh! wondrous Cross, and wondrous Saviour! The fallen race of Adam DESTROYED for the creation of a new race! The wisdom of fallen man DESTROYED in its exaltation against the Creator! The "Serpent" who fell from heaven, and drew down part of the host of heaven, and the whole race of man in his Fall, DESTROYED, and finally death, the result of the Fall, DESTROYED. The cross destroys the Serpent, and all that came into the world through the Serpent. Hallelujah.
TRANSLATED OUT OFTHE POWER OF DARKNESS
(The following is an excerpt from an article by Jessie Penn-Lewis, "Translated Out of the Power of Darkness." It appeared in The Overcomer, Vol. 3, published by The "Overcomer" Office, Leicester, England, September 1911. It was later revised and reprinted in booklet form. Watchman Nee's translated excerpt was based on portions of both versions.)
"It is God who has delivered us out of the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of His dearly-loved Son." (Col. i:13; Weymouth).
What is God's purpose concerning the believer in Christ, and the powers of darkness? To see this we must turn to the work of Christ at Calvary, and understand Calvary's victory. On the Cross of Calvary He flung off from Himself the principalities and powers of evil, and put them to open shame. The soul identified with Christ in His death is translated with Him, and in Him, "out of the kingdom of darkness" into the "reigning life" of the Ascended Lord. Through Calvary's victory you have been in God's purpose translated out of that Kingdom of darkness, not to be walking in its sphere, not to take its view point, nor its standards, its ways, its wickedness.
But before this becomes actual experience you need first to apprehend God's full ideal for you, and that He has translated you out of the power of darkness, so that the prince of darkness HAS NO FURTHER CLAIM ON YOU, NO RIGHT to you; for God "hath raised us up together (with Christ) and made us to sit with Him" in His reigning life. However much you may come short of it in experience, remember you must never lower God's ideal for you; but ever keep in sight His intention, and ask Him to lead you on to the life He purposes for you. Your position is that you are "TRANSLATED OUT OF THE POWER OF DARKNESS." Then how much hold will you practically give the enemy in yourself, and your life? What is your WILL in the matter? What is your attitude towards Him? Is your will what God's will is—"translated out of the power of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son;" raised, and made to sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus?"
THE PRACTICAL WAY OF VICTORY.
Now as to the practical outworkings of this position. First of all there must be simplicity of faith in Christ and purity of thought toward Him. Paul said, "I fear lest as the serpent beguiled Eve, your MIND should be corrupted from the simplicity of faith that is in Christ." Paul would hardly be afraid of what could not take place, or be anxious about the impossible. So you cannot say it is "not possible" for a Christian to be beguiled. Eve was innocent, yet she was beguiled; and the knowledge of this fact led Paul to be anxious about this for the Corinthians. We must walk in simplicity of faith and purity of thought, as those who are delivered, and translated, and raised together with Christ.
Next, there is the need of care in speech (Matt. v. 37) and after that forgiveness—"lest Satan should get an advantage" (2 Cor. ii, 11). The unforgiving spirit always gives Satan an advantage. Paul appears to have been keenly on the alert against the Adversary, taking care that he did not gain any advantage in his actions. In 1 Tim. iii, 6, we read, "Not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the judgment of the devil." Apparently the devil has a right to judge any who are "puffed" up. The Apostle is speaking about a Christian—albeit a young one—and of the possibility of this believer falling under the "judgment of the devil" directly he gives him ground. The enemy seems to have certain rights which even God respects, and that right includes the power to "judge," or have some power over any believer who gives him occasion. What force this gives to Ephes. iv, 27, "GIVE NO PLACE to the devil!" In all these passages you have warnings to the children of God.
SATAN AS A ROARING LION.
Satan also goes about in various disguises. Peter writes, "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as A ROARING LION, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist, stedfast in the faith" (1 Peter, v. 8, 9). Are you quite sure you must be a special exception, and that he will not "devour you, nor touch you? If not, then "be sober," never be off guard one minute. Be watchful, for your adversary "walketh about." He is your adversary as well as Christ's, and he goes about roaring as a lion, making a noise which deafens and frightens so many. The adversary "roars" by stirring up "flesh and blood." He as a spirit must find channels for his working. If he "roars" he must find a human voice to roar through. Therefore the children of God should be on guard, and never act under the pressure of others, nor come to decisions in a time of storm. When there is clamour and strife of tongues, they should wait and be still. The adversary's "roar" is to drive them into a false step, and out of the calm, clear knowledge of the will of God. Always recognise the adversary behind flesh and blood when there is a clamour of voices, and stand still in the position of victory. When your eyes are opened to see and understand the devices of the enemy, you will lose sight of "flesh and blood," and realise that you must never act under the clamour of men. Alas, alas, the roaring lion can hide behind the greatest saint! Not with the saint's conscious co-operation, of course, but none the less true on that account. This is one of the solemn things we have to learn to-day, as we discover how the enemy can use some of God's best children unconsciously to themselves, simply because they are not awake to his power and his devices.
The reason for this is that Satan works on the "natural" man. He makes the "natural man" come to you with his viewpoint (see Matt. xvi, 22, 23), and his alarming pictures but you do not see the "roaring lion" in that; so you get frightened and wonder whether you are in the will of God; you get confused and lose your guidance, and the devil accomplishes his purpose.
SATAN AS AN ANGEL OF LIGHT.
Then you will find in 2 Cor. xi, 14, that the prince of the air also goes about as an ANGEL OF LIGHT. As a lion he seeks to DEVOUR, as an angel of light he seeks to deceive. Satan is a deceiver. If he can appear clothed in light—the very nature of God—then your "vision" can be no protection to you. When Satan makes a roar behind the voices of men your ears are no protection to you, and when he comes as an angel of light, vision is not enough to detect him. You say "it was ALL LIGHT" so it must be "of God;" yet the prince of darkness can appear as "light" i.e., as God. You must therefore have more ways of detecting and testing him than by vision, i.e., eyesight (even spiritual eyesight) and hearing. The safest detecting test is "fruit" (Matt. vii, 20), and KNOWLEDGE OF BASIC PRINCIPLES WHICH ETERNALLY DIVIDE BETWEEN GOD AND SATAN. Between Him who is truth itself, and Satan, the "father of lies."
In 2 Cor. xii, 7, we see how the adversary goes about as A TORMENTOR of the most godly and saintly servants of God. He "buffeted" Paul—and he did it with God's permission—"A MESSENGER OF SATAN TO BUFFET ME." Paul's resource was prayer, "I besought the Lord," he said, and then came strength to "glory in his weakness." In Luke xxii, 31, we see also he goes about as a sifter of the children of God. He attacks them in all these varied ways, "as a roaring lion," an "angel of light," a buffeter and a sifter.
"YES" TO GOD, AND "NO" TO THE DEVIL.
In relation to all these four aspects of the adversary's workings, there is one strong central position which the believer must hold toward them all. We have it tersely described in James iv, 7. "SUBMIT YOURSELVES TO GOD, RESIST THE DEVIL AND HE WILL FLEE;" which briefly means, say "Yes" to God, and "No" to the devil. "Joined to the Lord one spirit" your place is with Christ on the throne "far above all principality and power," and this position of victory you must hold persistently by the power of the Holy Ghost, whilst in regard to the approaches and attacks of Satan, you will, as the deciding factor, persistently assert your choice to walk with God. From the POSITION OF VICTORY you are to be awake to what Satan seeks to do to your circumference in all his various disguises, and from your centre-position to say in your will just "Yes" or "No"—i.e., "Yes" to God, "No" to the devil.
Granted your spirit in union with Christ, how can you be free from the bondage of the enemy in your circumference; that is to say, in mind or body? The spirit is in union with Christ in victory, but the enemy can attack the MIND with depression, and with dullness, or inflame the imagination, and the body, with its nerves and muscles, in fact, all that is in the circumference.
If the believer understands his true position in Christ, and maintains a simple attitude, of (1) submission to all that is of God, and (2) resistance to all that comes from the adversary, these attacks do cease. The "fight" is to maintain the attitude of victory in Christ; and to keep the helm of the ship set towards God; the "resistance" is a refusal to yield to Satan at all costs—THEN HE DOES FLEE.
But suppose the adversary appears as "light," and gets the "Yes" of the will under disguise? Alas, it is Yes, even though the believer gave the "yes" under deception, and it gives the adversary power over the believer TO THE EXTENT OF THE "YES" WHICH THE DECEIVER OBTAINED BY FRAUD.
THE EXPOSING OF THE ENEMY'S WILES
This is the reason why believers need light on the devices of the enemy. If the Lord Jesus is a reality to you, surely you can bear some light on the foe who is always seeking to trap your feet. How are you going to resist the foe if you do not know when he attacks you? If you do not know that he can take hold of your imagination, and torture you with his pictures, or your mind, and fill it with all kinds of thoughts, how are you going to resist him at these points. But immediately you RECOGNIZE that it is the adversary, he cannot stand the light, he will FLEE from you.
The Lord gave much light upon the characteristics and aims of the powers of darkness, which enable us to understand their workings, for they are the same now as then. For instance, the Lord said about the wicked spirit, that when it goes out of a man it goes "through waterless places seeking rest," then because it can find no relief, and no sustenance, it says it will go back to "MY HOUSE." This shows that a human being is looked upon by them as a "house" wherein they can find REST. This throws great light upon their condition and their desires. They want relief and nourishment, and outside the human "house," this is to them a world of waterless places.
We see therefore why Satan's emissaries seek so actively to gain entrance to human bodies, and why when they can get a footing they seem to feed upon the vital power of the life, and dry up the sensibilities and even sympathies, withering up what has been expressively described as "the milk of human kindness." This explains the inhuman actions of fanaticism, and the cruelties performed under the name of religion, which is "not after Christ"; and how even "supernatural experiences" to-day act upon the man in such a way, as to rob him of all tenderness and kindness, for every touch of the Satanic power hardens, and blinds men to the needs and feelings of others.
We must speak plainly about these things, because of the paralysis that has come upon the spiritual section of the church, from these subtle workings of the enemy. Strife and division may be the fruit of the carnal life; but when there is lack of sympathy and tenderness amongst the fully-surrendered souls, we know it is not from the "carnal" life, but from the unrecognized workings of the enemy, causing the drying up of sympathy and love to others, joined to the same Lord. Whenever you find that "supernatural" experiences harden you, you may gravely question the source, for everything that comes from God makes you tender and sensitive. Note that metallic sound in the voice which tells of the adversary's interference, and see how he brings the believer into bondage, and makes him hard, unreasonable, powerless and stony; whereas everything that comes from the Holy Spirit liberates, and quickens; increases tenderness, sympathy, acuteness of conscience, and power of discernment of right and wrong.
The reason also why many Christians do not get into full liberty in the life, lies in the fact that the Holy Spirit in the centre of them, is not relied upon to liberate the circumference. Many receive the fulness of the Spirit, but lose all the power of it, because there is a working of the enemy on their circumference which they are not aware of.
THE CONDITION FOR GOD'S PROTECTION
Full deliverance depends upon the recognition of the possibility of these things. But, you may say, "If I trust God to keep me, how can the adversary thus attack my body, or mind?" We need to understand that all God's promises are conditional. If we trust God to keep us, and the conditions are not fulfilled, then our "faith is vain," i.e. if you trust God to keep you, and at the same moment FULFIL THE CONDITIONS for the enemy's working, God does not stop him working. We must earnestly seek to know the conditions upon which God can do what we ask Him to do, otherwise we may be terribly deceived.
This explains why, when we trust God to keep us on a certain thing, we have yet made mistakes and blunders in relation to it. These facts have perplexed logical minds, but they can be explained. God's children are not careful to examine the ground upon which they may expect God to keep them. Again, God will not "keep" you without your watching. You must watch, and ask Him for vision and power and knowledge to recognise the attacks of the enemy on you, so that you may work with God in the keeping, i.e. "He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, that the wicked one toucheth him not" (I John v.). He "keeps himself" by watching, by resisting the adversary, by giving him no "advantage" by admitting an unforgiving spirit; by knowing his devices, so as not to yield to them unawares. As he does his part, God does His, and keeps him by giving him the power of the Holy Spirit for all he has to do.
If you as a "spiritual" man, will recognize the existence of the powers of darkness always round about you, because you are in a spiritual realm, then in much that comes to you in ordinary life you will recognize one degree to be "natural" causes, and possibly ninety-nine degrees supernatural. Take, for instance, that "tired feeling" which comes upon you unaccountably, and when you "rest" you are no better for it, for you find you become heavier, and you say, "I did not know how tired I was." You need to test this, and not yield to it. You were "tired" it is true, but you let your spirit go down, too, into passivity, with the result that the adversary gained his aim to stop the work, or sidetrack you out of some vital service which he feared. You will quickly grow suspicious of everything when you discover the devices of the foe, and you will reason this way: "I do not know what the enemy has to do with this, but I resist him in any plan he has, and refuse to let him have anything from me." And thus you watch, watch, and watch, and all the time maintain an attitude of "watching" and resisting [refusing], praying continually to the Lord for light upon your path, and upon the foe, and throwing things off you which once you yielded to so quickly, so that there comes increasingly into your spirit buoyant victory.
What joy now comes into the life, as you see the way of victory over everything touching you, in your circumference of mind and body. Calm in the central union with Christ, you quietly say "I refuse all ground to evil spirits in mind and body, and I take back from them all I ever gave them by mistake, or through ignorance, and give it all to the Lord Jesus Christ." Then will come a quickening of your memory, and every faculty of mind, or body, liberated for God's use.
It is growing upon me, that this light upon the way the powers of darkness have fettered and dulled the minds, and bodies of God's children, will be a mighty factor in the preparation of the Body of Christ for translation. The "earnest of the spirit" is certainly for mind and body (2 Cor. v. 4, 5), but if the adversary is holding much ground unknowingly, how can God's people receive it? It is easy to see now why we have a paralyzed and feeble church, for it has been gripped by the powers of darkness.
THE WAY TO BE VICTORIOUS ALL THE TIME
Now finally, as to the keeping of the position in the spirit where these things can become true, and where you will have your spirit perpetually in victory. As you walk in victory resisting the devil in his attacks on soul and body, you will find the "wrestling" in spirit, which Paul speaks of in Ephes. vi. 12, become your experience. The enemy will attack your spirit, so that you may lose your centre position of victory, where you detect, and resist his onslaughts on your circumference. For instance, you must understand that if a weight comes on your spirit you lose all buoyancy, and when the weight goes off it there is spring. The first "weight" on the spirit should be dealt with in a moment. Pray that you may be able to recognise quickly, and take the victory at once, so that you may get free quickly. Practise taking "weights" to the Lord immediately. When the spirit is in triumph, the work looks so easy, but once there comes the weight, then the spirit goes down, and how dark everything looks, the work is heavy, the "bogies" are many, and at times, like Elijah, you feel you are going to die! It is when your spirit is in victory, that you have "authority" and "power over all the power of the enemy." The Holy Spirit is the "dunamis" that conquers him, but the Holy Spirit can only manifest this power through a LIBERATED SPIRIT. A "weight" on the spirit crushes it, and prevents the heavenly dunamis going out against the enemy. He knows this, so he attacks your spirit. There follows a tussle; and he says "you must go under," and you say "No, I will not go under, I stand in Christ." He says "You shall go in to yourself," and you say "I won't go in." So the "wrestle" goes on, until at last he flees—put to flight by the Spirit of God, and your co-operation with Him in your attitude of will. When your spirit is thus triumphant, you possess clear vision and perception; but when your spirit is shadowed, the mind is dull, and then the deceiving spirits can decoy you out of the path of God's will. The spirit must be kept pure, and clear, and full of light; and then you see so simply the path the Lord would have you walk in.
(The following is an excerpt from an article by Evan Roberts. It originally appeared in The Overcomer, Vol. 4, published by The "Overcomer" Office, Leicester, England, February 1912. The paragraphs below reflect the order in Watchman Nee's publication.)
If God can do things without prayer in the church, why does He not carry them out in His own time instead of delays and hindrances?...And why does God lay a complaint against the church that she does not pray?...Why did Christ say, "Pray ye the Lord of the Harvest to send forth labourers?" Why did He not send them apart from prayer?
...There is value in the expression of prayer. What is the meaning of "Ye have not because ye ask not"? Is it God's unwillingness—i.e., you shall not "get" if you do not ask? Or is it that God sees the need, and He cannot meet the need, until the prayer is made?
The cycle of prayer moves in this wise: (1) God wants a thing done; (2) He moves the believer to pray that that thing might be done; (3) God does it in answer to that prayer....There is a thought abroad in the church: "Oh! God works so slowly." He does not. HE WORKS ACCORDING TO THE PRAYERS OF THE CHURCH, and according as there is co-operation with Him. Did God work very slowly in Egypt in delivering the bound nation? He did not. He worked for a prolonged season in getting the instrument ready in the wilderness—forty years....God's work is rapidly done when the instruments see to it that the divine conditions are fulfilled. There must be conformity to the laws of God before God can work; and according to the absolute conformity to God's will and laws there is a fulness of operation.
THE CHIEF PURPOSE OF PRAYER
(The following is an article by S.D. Gordon. It originally appeared in The Overcomer, published by The "Overcomer" Office Leicester, England, August 1910.)
"Be earnest and unwearied in prayer, being on the alert in it, and in your giving of thanks..." Col. iv. 2. Weymouth.
The great thing that makes the difference is not the service, not the life, but God's touch upon them. God always needs human agency. He must have someone to use always.
He mostly talks to men through men, and He will use us if we will let Him, but the great thing in all the using is not the agency but Himself.
We all need power, the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no power apart from Him—He must be in full control of all power—bodily, mentally and spiritually.
Five outlets of power.
What we are.
What we say.
What we do.
What we do not keep.
What we claim in the Lord Jesus,the Victor's Name.
The greatest is number five. The greatest thing anybody can do is to pray. The man pleads only as much as he loves.
The greatest thing anybody can do is to pray, but it is not the only thing, but it is the first thing, and the chief thing.
If a man must change things by prayer he must first of all be right in his touch with the Father, and that is only possible through our Lord Jesus.
Prayer and then the serving, and the sacrificing, and the offering will grow out of prayer.
The greatest people in the world are the people who pray—I do not mean those who speak about prayer, or believe in prayer, nor those who can explain nicely about prayer, but I mean the people who take time and pray.
Prayer is to give the cream of your thought—of your strength, to the quiet time alone with God for prayer.
Take time from something else, something else less important, and there are people who take time, first time for prayer, they are the followers to-day, who are being used of God in defeating the great traitor prince of this world.
The word to-night is this. That the full purpose of prayer is not upwards but outwards.
The chief purpose of prayer is not Godward, but it is Satanward, i.e. the prayer is always directed to God the Father, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and in dependence on the Holy Spirit, but the effective drive of the prayer is upon the vast world.
All prayer begins yonder, then to a man here, and then back to God. Prayer does not influence God's purpose, but it does influence His actions, because it gives Him the liberty through our willingness to carry out His plan down here in the world—the whole driving purpose of prayer is this:—To join hands with God to defeat the Evil One
Prayer concerns three:—1. God—to whom we pray.2. Man—who prays.3. Evil One—against whom we pray.
In our prayer we men down on earth join hands with God, with Jesus Christ, in utterly turning back, and utterly defeating all the power of the Evil One. See Daniel x. and companion chapter Ephesians vi.
We never wrestle against man, "flesh and blood," but against powers, principalities, &c. Paul tells us how to overcome, "withal praying with all supplications," etc., etc. Luke xviii.1-10 (Parable). Three in parable (1) Judge. (2) Widow. (3) Adversary.
A prayer picture. The whole drive of the parable story is to get the judge to join with the widow, to foist the attacks of the adversary against her!
We never will pray up to the full limit of our power, and to the possibility of prayer, until we realize this, that the whole drive of prayer is to foist the power of the Evil One. "Thy will be done," i.e., "The other will be undone."
God needs in His great plan for the world more people who will stay where they have been put. Stay where you have been put with a whole heart and life in full conscious touch with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Evil One is to be defeated. The victory of the Lord Jesus Christ is here. The enemy fears most, next to God, the man who will put his whole life in full touch with the Lord Jesus, and stay where he has been put, and right there keep in prayer.
Victory in Jesus' Name is ours. We want to say "Get thee hence Satan, in my master's Name," and claim for the Lord Jesus.
The Evil One must turn back before the Lord Jesus. Always keep two in mind when praying:—
(1)The Satan of the Book—of great power and of great dignity.
His whole concern is regarding this earth, and regarding the race of man—that is his chief concern—not with the outer crowd but in the inner crowd—within the Church. He is subtle, powerful, but not all powerful.
(2)The Lord Jesus the Victor.
Had a running fight for 33 years from cradle to Calvary, and then Satan thought that he had won, but the third morning came, and our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave His life for us, was Victor, and through Him only can we be ever raised up out of death. While Satan is great, the Lord Jesus is infinitely greater.
With a whole life in touch with Jesus Christ, with a heart beating with full witnessing in His power, then we can pray "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. Deliver us from the Evil One."
The greatest need to-day—God's greatest need—is a people who will stay where they have been placed, and keep the whole life in touch with Himself.
May there be more of these Victors.