THE APPROACHING DAY
The day in which the true nature of all things shall be manifested is approaching. This will be the occasion when God shall cause His saints, those He has made in the likeness of His Son to be publicly seen and declared. Every one of these are His sons and He shall joyously own them as exactly that! He shall send His angels to remove the scandals and to uproot the tares from His Kingdom, so that the true worshippers shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:24-30,43). This day has been predestined by God and shall be the most glorious of all days, for the redemptive work of Christ shall be revealed in all its fullness and majesty. Toward this day all creation and history moves. Every one who has this hope and looks forward to that great day proves its validity as he or she, “purifies himself as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). Their longing is to be found before Him, holy, without fault and blemish.
UNTIL THAT DAY
Until that day, the battle between the world and the true church, the Spirit of Christ and the antichrist spirit shall continue to rage with undiminished and ceaseless intensity. “We know we are of God and the whole world lies under the wicked one” (1 John 5v19). We are of God; He has begotten us as His sons and has given us His Spirit and this Spirit is the Spirit of His Son. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of truth and totally other than the spirit that is and operates in the world. This spirit is aptly named the spirit of deception, the spirit of antichrist. There can be no mixture between the Spirit of Christ and this other spirit at work the world. They are utterly opposed each to the other. Not only so, those who have the Spirit of Christ discern each other, they know they are of the same Spirit, they love their Holy God and His things. Simultaneously, each moment of every day the children of this world drink into that other deceiving, antichrist spirit and as they do so they recognize, accept and glory in its ways and thus remain blind and deaf to the things of God. Rejection of God is central to the philosophy of that lying spirit. “They are of the world: therefore they speak of the world and the world hears them. We are of God: he that knows God hears us; he that is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception”(1John 4v4-6). These two spirits and those that they indwell are constantly at variance with each other; it is unavoidable because they are totally different in every way.
AS HE IS, SO ARE WE
The children of God are in-dwelt by the Spirit of Christ; He does not come and go. When He is given He comes to abide, to remain (John 14:16-17). He becomes the enabling power by which the sons of God are able to shine in a dark world. Because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ He is able to reproduce the life of Jesus, His life of purity, love and faith in each one and so make them into living witnesses of the life of God. Jesus lived on earth the life of God and that Eternal Life was made available to us through His death, resurrection and the sending of the Spirit. In his first letter John puts love as a distinct characteristic of Christian life and as the undisputable proof that a person dwells in God and God in him “God is love, and he that dwells in love dwells in God and God in him” (1 John 4:16). But John does not finish there because he continues by saying that God intends that we should be perfected in that love as that love is perfected in us and this will result in our having confidence in the Day of Judgment, because as He is, we are in the world (1 John 4:17). The vocation and mission of God’s church lies exactly in this, we are to be living witnesses to His Life in a world that does not know Him. Unless, by the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence, the life of love, purity and holiness accompanies the preached word the world will pay little heed to what is said. The church is called to exist in the midst of society as vibrant, living members of the body of Christ. In so doing they are proof that He rose from the dead and is alive indeed.
It is impossible for anyone to experience what it means to be a vitally alive member of the church of Christ unless they are indwelt by God’s Spirit. It is the Spirit that gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). Likewise there is no possibility of His life being manifested in them without His Spirit. “Always bearing in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2Cor 4:10). This is part of the mystery of the glorification of Christ. When Jesus came He was alone, a single seed of grain, who in due course, fell into the ground and died, only then did He bring forth the fruit for which He came (John 12:24). The incarnation was unique. The Word of God had become flesh, never before had the life of God come in the flesh, in the life of a human being, yet it was confined at that time to One Man alone, Jesus of Nazareth. No one else shared the reality of that Life, it was solely His but when He died at Calvary, His death and subsequent resurrection and acceptance at the right hand of the Father in heaven meant that the Holy Spirit could be out poured into believing hearts so that that same life could become the life of myriads through the centuries since. Jesus lived His earthly life within the restrictions both of time and space. He lived to the age of thirty-three years in the land of Israel; within limited circumstances, but in all things He lived according to the will of His Father and glorified Him. After His enthronement with the Father all was changed for when He returned as a life giving Spirit through the Holy Spirit, His life became available to all mankind, it can be lived again, by young and old, male and female in every century, in all nations and in the midst of every culture. Our own cry must be, “Oh Lord, live Your own precious life in us also.”
HIS LIFE IN US
We will know that the eternal councils of God are being revealed to us, understood by us and His love shed abroad in our hearts when we begin to embrace the prospect we have in Christ, that we are to be like Him. This promise surpasses all imagination and knowledge and causes all those that believe in Him, to bow humbly in worship. These realities will also direct our hearts into purity of living. His love for us will quicken the desire and endeavor to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit and to perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1). We therefore purify ourselves as He is pure; we desire to love as He loves, to do righteousness as He is righteous, to walk in the light as He is in the light. The spirit of deception is at work to obscure these truths, even in the churches, it encourages a form of spirituality that has no morality whereas John’s writings (as those of all New Testament writers) are a light in the darkness. We can follow and find a sure path through the labyrinth of lies into the liberty of truth; this is the right of all sons of God. The New Testament writings are crystal clear, unpolluted and unspoiled by time and the cloudy accretions of men, they are full of instruction for all who are thirsty and hungry for the life of God. The people of God must be diligent in reading them and at the same time must draw near to the Lord. This will inevitably mean that we will bear in our bodies His death, and as we do, the more His life will be manifested in our mortal flesh, and all this, unique as it is, is impossible without His Spirit in us.
NO MORE SIN
Sin is something completely foreign to, and in utter contradiction to the life of Christ. Sin just does not belong and has no place in the Christ Life. It is the outcome and product of the union of the spirit of man with the evil spirit called the devil. The soul of Adam was created neutral; he did not know evil and enjoyed fellowship with God. However, he was created with the ability to choose, in other words he had a will that was truly free. It was absolutely essential for the Lord to create the human beings with the ability of free will, for without it man could not reach the perfections of son-ship and we must keep clearly in mind that that very son-ship was the God’s intention for man from the very outset. Man had the power of choice, to obey or disobey, to do the will of God or not to do it, to unite with Him in the face of temptation and live, or yield to the devil’s suggestions and die. He chose the second and so death entered in, first instantaneously, in his inner man, and then, slowly but certainly, in his outer physical man. It is for this reason that mankind has become the slave of sin, because his spirit has been united with him (the devil) that sinned from the beginning. “Whosoever commits sin is of the devil. For this reason the Son of God was manifested, that He might loose the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God does not do sin; for His seed remains in him. In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil” (1 John 3v8). New birth is exclusively the work of God and has to do with the severing of the bond the human spirit has with the devil and the union of that freed human spirit with the life giving Spirit of Christ. Jesus said these words, “As the Father raises up the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He will”(John 5:21). He said that the Father and the Son have life in Themselves and that the Son gives life to whomsoever He will (John 5:26). The human spirit does not possess life in itself, it ex-ists, this means that it derives life in order to be. The human spirit must become united with Christ the Living One in order to be truly alive. (1Cor 15:45). This spiritual miracle takes place in the new birth. It is the work of the Father through the Son and accomplished within a human being through the Holy Spirit. At the moment the Spirit of Christ unites with the human spirit and becomes one with it the human is simultaneously freed from its bond to the wicked one and his nature.
THE LIFE GIVING SPIRIT
When Jesus spoke to His disciples about the coming of the Comforter, Whom He promised to send after His departure to His Father, He said these words, “because I live you shall live also” (John 14:19). He assured them that He would come back to them, instead of leaving them as orphans He would soon return to them, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18). What did He mean? Surely this did not refer to His brief appearance to them after His resurrection, or His second coming in glory at the end of the age? No, in fact He was speaking of His invisible return to them ten days after His ascension to heaven when He would come to them as a Life Giving Spirit. “The world will see Me no more, but you will see me. Because I live you also will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:18-20).
The promise of Jesus was fulfilled in the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost to the disciples who were waiting faithfully in the upper room in Jerusalem. In that day the Lord returned to them not as an outward visitor, but in Spirit. Now He was IN them rather than simply WITH them and He came to remain forever. This same Jesus whom they had seen as He appeared and taught them in His resurrection body several times in the previous few weeks and who rose up into the sky before them in when He ascended now returned to them in Spirit, with the purpose of living within them. This is the authentic new birth He promised and has been the experience of multitudes that have believed in Him in their generation. We live because He lives, we receive His life that we might live His own life, we live because within us courses the crystal clear, pure river of His Spirit. Paul expresses this very clearly, “if someone does not have the Spirit of Christ he is not His. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:9-10).
THE FRUITFUL LIFE
As Jesus speaks of the indwelling life that is to come to all His disciples He comes to the outworking of it all. He does this by using the graphic image of the vine, its branches and its fruit (John 15:1-11). He stresses the fact that in order for them to bring forth fruit they must remain in Him and He in them. Absence of an abiding life will mean that there will be fruitlessness, it is as straightforward and simple as this; fruitful living comes from Him. The fruit to which He was referring, was the reproduction of His life in the members of His church, who, being His visible ‘branches’ on earth, would bear the vintage of His invisible life in her life and works until His second coming. The spirit that dwells in and has mastered someone will inevitably be is displayed as life, behavior and character and cannot be hidden. Jesus spoke of this when He said that “The healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit (Matthew 7:18). The implications of these things should be plain for if the Spirit of Christ indwells someone their life, conduct and behavior will display His likeness.
The fruit of the Spirit of which Paul speaks in his letter to the Galatians is nothing less than the nature of Christ’s life defined in nine distinct words (Galatians 5:22-23). He names it fruit of the Spirit, not plural but singular. Fruit is contrasted to works in these verses, the former comes, as fruit always does, without effort and sweat, it is naturally manifested in its season. The ability of the children of God to love, to be patient, to be meek, to forgive, to do righteousness, to do the will of their Father is the manifestation and overflow of their new nature in Christ. These characteristics were not present in their life before Christ came to them and they emerge now, not because they are striving and trying hard to bring them forth, but because they have become one Spirit with Him.
We often notice how, in a natural family, the children share common characteristics and it is so within the spiritual family of God also. Brothers and sisters genetically resemble each other and they often bear striking similarity to one another. The children of God bear the characteristics of their firstborn brother Jesus and these common family habits are unique in the world and their likeness to Jesus Christ is what makes them the light and salt of the earth. Those who are not the children of God bear a likeness to the devil, for his nature is yet at work in them whether in a subtle and sophisticated form or a crude and sensual way. Their father is called the prince of darkness, and so, inevitably they keep the world in darkness instead of bringing light.
Just as the Spirit of Christ lives and operates in the true church, so, another spirit lives and operates in the world. John calls this spirit the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:3) or the spirit of deception (1 John 4:6). To many it may appear that there has been a continuous struggle between these two spirits throughout the history of the church. But this is only partly true because in this great conflict those that are of God overcome those of the world because the Spirit of Christ in them is greater than the spirit that operates in the world (1 John 4:4). At times the conflict is particularly subtle because this deceiving, cunning, antichrist spirit masquerades as a spirit from God. John warns us about this in his letter and he instructs us to try the spirits to ascertain if they are of God. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Frequently these false prophets seem to look like harmless sheep outwardly but within they are dangerous wolves ready to fleece and devour the flock of God. God’s people need to keep themselves from them and pastors must protect the sheep by helping the flock to discern and test the spirit coming through the ministry. The test is simple; does that spirit confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh? “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is the spirit of antichrist…” (1 John 4:2). A clear likeness to Jesus in the manner of daily living is what we must look for. We must not be swept off our feet by other phenomena that might appear powerful in the things of God. This will help keep us from impostors and false prophets, who come dressed in sheep’s clothing but underneath are wolves and robbers. In all the confusion and voices that clamor for attention in the churches the children of God must learn to identify their brethren and reject courageously the false ministries who, at bottom, are the enemies of God and His truth no matter how attractive they may seem on the surface. John is not so much placing the emphasis on what a mouth confesses, but upon what the spirit confesses. Does the very spirit of the person speaking testify that Jesus is come in the flesh? It is not only a matter of a confession of faith in the historical fact of Jesus and His incarnation but the reality that the flesh (life) is the outward showcase through which the spirit that lives inside manifests itself. A spirit has no mouth and does not speak words, but confesses its identity through its manifestation in the flesh. This outward manifestation is called ‘fruit’ and is the nature of that spirit within showing itself. The Lord warning His disciples said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves, you shall know them from their fruits” (Mathew 7:15-16). Words can be deceiving, for at times the words of the mouth differ from the confession of the spirit within, therefore we must exercise patience as we test the spirits to see if both mouth and life corroborate one other. If therefore the confession of a spirit is the same as the Christ life in the flesh, then it is of God, if not, then it is not. When a man preaches or prophesies does he remind us of Christ does he bring us to Him? Is there a genuine likeness to Him? These are the questions we must ask ourselves; this is the testing ground. It is most certainly the truth that those in whom the Spirit of Christ lives, walk as He walked, see and judge as He did. It is said of Him that He was “Full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) and surely these two words go some way to expressing the spirit of the true ministers of God. For the last twenty centuries multitudes in the churches have confessed in their daily pathway that the Christ Who died for their sins is raised indeed and is come to live His life in their flesh life upon the earth. In the midst of tribulation and trial, in joy and sorrow their manner of life has testified saying, “Jesus is alive!” Oh! What a wonderful mystery, the risen Jesus, comes to dwell in ordinary men and women, who willingly open their hearts to Him. He takes up residence so as to live His risen life again in them. The confession of one such man after twenty-five years of Christian life was “For me to live is Christ” and “I live and yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Philippians 1:21 Galatians 2:20). His name was Paul and these words were not simply a doctrinal statement but his personal testimony and through the long centuries the Lord Jesus has been just as real to countless millions so making them a sweet savor of Christ unto God and unto those around them in the world.