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Abiding In Him
Now although we have already spent long on this matter, there is a further thing that may help to make it clearer to us. the Scriptures declare that we are “dead indeed”, but nowhere do they say that we are dead in ourselves. We shall look in vain to find death within; that is just the place where it is not to be found. We are dead not in ourselves but in Christ. We were crucified with Him because we were in Him.
We are familiar with the words of the Lord Jesus, “Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4). Let us consider them for a moment. First they remind us once again that we have never to struggle to get into Christ. We are not told to get there, for we are told to stay there where we have been placed. It was God’s own act that put us in Christ, and we are to abide in Him.
But further, this verse lays down for us a Divine principle, which is that God has done the work in Christ and not in us as individuals. The all-inclusive death and the all-inclusive resurrection of God’s Son were accomplished fully and finally apart from us in the first place. It is the history of Christ which is to become the experience apart from Him. The Scriptures tell us that we were crucified “with Him”, that we were quickened, raised, and set by God in the heavenlies “in Him”, and that we are complete “in Him” (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 2:5, 6; Col. 2:10). It is not just something that is still to be effected in us (though it is that, of course). It is something that has already been effected, in association with Him.
In the Scriptures we find that no Christian experience exists as such. What God has done in His gracious purpose is to include us in Christ. In dealing with Christ God has dealt with the Christian; in dealing with the Head He has dealt with all the members. It is altogether wrong for us to think that we can experience anything of the spiritual life in ourselves merely, and apart from Him. God does not intend that we should acquire something exclusively personal in our experience, and He is not willing to effect anything like that for you and me. All the spiritual experience of the Christian is already true in Christ. It has already been experienced by Christ. What we call ‘our’ experience is only our entering into His history and His experience.
It would be odd if one branch of a vine tried to bear grapes with a reddish skin, and another branch tried to bear grapes with a green skin, and yet another branch grapes with a very dark purple skin, each branch trying to produce something of its own without reference to the vine. It is impossible, unthinkable. The character of the branches is determined by the vine. Yet certain Christians are seeking experiences as experiences. They think of crucifixion as something, of resurrections as something, of ascension as something, and they never stop to think that the whole is related to a Person. No, only as the Lord opens our eyes to see the Person do we have any true experience. Every true spiritual experience means that we have discovered a certain fact in Christ and have entered into that; anything that is not from Him in this way is an experience that is going to evaporate very soon. ‘I have discovered that in Christ; then, Praise the Lord, it is mine! I possess it, Lord, because it is in Thee.’ Oh it is a great thing to know the facts of Christ as the foundation for our experience.
So God’s basic principle in leading us on experimentally is not to give us something. It is not to bring us through something, and as a result to put something into us which we can call ‘our experience’. It is not that God effects something within us so that we can say, ‘I died with Christ last March’ or ‘I was raised from the dead on January 1st, 1937,’ or even, ‘Last Wednesday I asked for a definite experience and I have got it’. No, that is not the way. I do not seek experiences in themselves as in this present year of grace. Time must not be allowed to dominate my thinking here.
Then, some will say, what about the crises so many of us have passed through? True, some of us have passed through real crises in our lives. For instance George Muller could say, bowing himself down to the ground, ‘There was a day when George Muller died’. How about that? Well, I am not questioning the reality of the spiritual experiences we go through nor the importance of crises to which God brings us in our walk with Him; indeed, I have already stressed the need for us to be quite as definite ourselves about such crisis in our own lives. But the point is that God does not give individuals individual experiences. All that they have is only an entering into what God has already done. It is the ‘realizing’ in time of eternal things. The history of Christ becomes our experience and our spiritual history; we do not have a separate history from His. The entire work regarding us is not done in us here but in Christ. He does no separate work in individuals apart from what He has done there. Even eternal life is not given to us as individuals: the life is in the Son, and “he that hath the Son hath the life”. God has done all in His Son, and He has included us in Him; we are incorporated into Christ.
Now the point of all this is that there is a very real practical value in the stand of faith that says, ‘God has put me in Christ, and therefore all that is true of Him is true of me. I will abide in Him.’ Satan is always trying to get us out, to keep us out, to convince us that we are out, and by temptations, failures, suffering, trial, to make us feel acutely that we are outside of Christ. Our first thought is that, if we were in Christ, we should not be in this state, and therefore, judging by the feelings we now have, we must be out of Him; and so we begin to pray, ‘Lord, put me into Christ’. No! God’s injunction is to “abide” in Christ, and that is the way of deliverance. But how is it so? Because it opens the way for God to take a hand in our lives and to work the thing out in us. It makes room for the operation of His superior power—the power of resurrection (Rom. 6:4, 9, 10)—so that the facts of Christ do progressively become the facts of our daily experience, and where before “sin reigned” (Rom. 5:21) we make now the joyful discovery that we are truly “no longer... in bondage to sin” (Rom. 6:6).
As we stand steadfastly on the ground of what Christ is, we find that all that is true of Him is becoming experimentally true in us. If instead we come onto the ground of what we are in ourselves we will find that all that is true of the old nature remains true of us. If we get there in faith we have everything; if we return back here we find nothing. So often we go to the wrong place to find the death of self. It is in Christ. We have only to look within to find we are very much alive to sin; but when we look over there to the Lord, God sees to it that death works here but that “newness of life” is ours also. We are “alive unto God” (Rom. 6:4, 11).
“Abide in me, and I in you.” This is a double sentence: a command coupled with a promise. That is to say, there is an objective and a subjective side to God’s working, and the subjective side depends upon the objective; the “I in you” is the outcome of our abiding in Him. We need to guard against being over-anxious about the subjective side of things, and so becoming turned in upon ourselves. We need to dwell upon the objective—“abide in me”—and to let God take care of the subjective. And this He has undertaken to do.
I have illustrated this from the electric light. You are in a room and it is growing dark. You would like to have the light on in order to read. There is a reading-lamp on the table beside you. What do you do? Do you watch it intently to see if the light will come on? Do you take a cloth and polish the bulb? No, you get up and cross over to the other side of the room where the switch is on the wall and you turn the current on. You turn your attention to the source of power and when you have taken the necessary action there the light comes on here.
So in our walk with the Lord our attention must be fixed on Christ. “Abide in me, and I in you” is the Divine order. Faith in the objective facts make those facts true subjectively. As the apostle Paul puts it, “We all... beholding... the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image” (2 Cor. 3:18 mg.). The same principle holds good in the matter of fruitfulness of life: “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit” (John 15:5). We do not try to produce fruit or concentrate upon the fruit produced. Our business is to look away to Him. As we do so He undertakes to fulfill His Word in us.
How do we abide? ‘Of God are ye in Christ Jesus.’ It was the work of God to put you there and He has done it. Now stay there! Do not be moved back onto your own ground. Never look at yourself as though you were not in Christ. Look at Christ and see yourself in Him. Abide in Him. Rest in the fact that God has put you in His Son, and live in the expectation that He will complete His work in you. It is for Him to make good the glorious promise that “sin shall not have dominion over you” (Rom. 6:14).
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