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Christ Our Life
“I thank God through Jesus Christ”! That exclamation of Paul’s is fundamentally the same as his other words in Galatians 2:20 which we have taken as the key to our study: “I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ“. We saw how prominent is the word ‘I’ throughout his argument in Romans 7, culminating in the agonized cry: “O wretched man that I am!” Then follows the shout of deliverance: “Thank God... Jesus Christ”! and it is clear that the discovery Paul has made is this, that the life we live is the life of Christ alone. We think of the Christian life as a ‘changed life’, a ‘substituted life’, and Christ is our Substitute within. “I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me.” This life is not something which we ourselves have to produce. It is Christ’s own life reproduced in us.
How many Christians believe in ‘reproduction’ in this sense, as something more than regeneration? Regeneration means that the life of Christ is planted in us by the Holy Spirit at our new birth. ‘Reproduction’ goes further: it means that new life grows and becomes manifest progressively in us, until the very likeness of Christ begins to be reproduced in our lives. That is what Paul means when he speaks of his travail for the Galatians “until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).
Let me illustrate with another story. I once arrived in America in the home of a saved couple who requested me to pray for them. I inquired the case of their trouble. ‘Oh, Mr. Nee, we have been in a bad way lately’, they confessed. ‘We are so easily irritated by the children, and during the past few weeks we have both lost our tempers several times a day. We are really dishonoring the Lord. Will you ask Him to give us patience?’ ‘That is the one thing I cannot do’, I said. ‘What do you mean?’ they asked. ‘I mean that one thing is certain’, I answered, ‘and that is that God is not going to answer your prayer.’ At that they said in amazement, ‘Do you mean to tell us we have gone so far that God is not willing to hear us when we ask Him to make us patient?’ ‘No, I do not mean quite that, but I would like to ask you if you have ever prayed in this respect. You have. But did God answer? No! Do you know why? Because you have no need of patience.’ Then the eyes of the wife blazed up. She said, ‘What do you mean? We do not need patience, and yet we get irritated the whole day long! What do you mean?’ ‘It is not patience you have need of’, I answered, ‘it is Christ.’
God will not give me humility or patience or holiness or love as separate gifts of His grace. He is not a retailer dispensing grace to us in doses, measuring out some patience to the impatient, some love to the unloving, some meekness to the proud, in quantities that we take and work on as kind of capital. He has given only one gift to meet all our need—His Son Christ Jesus, and as I look to Him to live out His life in me, He will be humble and patient and loving and everything else I need—in my stead. Remember the word in the first Epistle of John: “God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life” (1 John 5:11, 12). The life of God is not given us as a separate item; the life of God is given us in the Son. It is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Our relationship to the Son is our relationship to the life.
It is a blessed thing to discover the difference between Christian graces and Christ: to know the difference between meekness and Christ, between patience and Christ, between love and Christ. Remember again what is said in 1 Corinthians 1:30: “Christ Jesus... was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” The common conception of sanctification is that every item of the life should be holy; but that is not holiness, it is the fruit of holiness. Holiness is Christ. It is the Lord Jesus being made over to us to be that. So you can put in anything there: love, humility, power, self-control. Today there is a call for patience: He is our patience! Tomorrow the call may be for purity: He is our purity! He is the answer to every need. That is why Paul speaks of “the fruit of the Spirit” as one (Gal. 5:22) and not of ‘fruits’ as separate items. God has given us His Holy Spirit, and when love is needed the fruit of the Spirit is love; when joy is needed the fruit of the Spirit is joy. It is always true. It does not matter what your personal deficiency, or whether it is a hundred and one different things, God has one sufficient answer—His Son Jesus Christ, and He is the answer to every human need.
How can we know more of Christ in this way? Only by way of an increasing awareness of need. Some are afraid to discover deficiency in themselves and so they never grow. Growth in grace is the only sense in which we can grow, and grace, we have said, is God doing something for us. We all have the same Christ dwelling within, but revelation of some new need will lead us spontaneously to trust Him to live out His life in us in that particular. Greater capacity means greater enjoyment of God’s supply. Another letting go, a fresh trusting in Christ, and another stretch of land is conquered. ‘Christ my life’ is the secret of enlargement.
We have spoken of trying and trusting, and the difference between the two. Believe me, it is the difference between Heaven and hell. It is not something just to be talked over as a good thought; it is stark reality. ‘Lord, I cannot do it, therefore I will no longer try to do it.’ This is the point where most of us fail. ‘Lord, I cannot; therefore I will take my hands off; from now on I trust Thee for that.’ I refuse to act; I depend on Him to act and then I enter fully and joyfully into the action He initiates. It is not passivity; it is a most active life, trusting the Lord like that; drawing life from Him, taking Him to be my very life, letting Him out His life in me.
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