The Gain Of The Cross: “Not I, But Christ”
By J. Gregory Mantle (1853 – 1925)
The goal to which the Holy Spirit leads every new-born soul is that which is so strikingly expressed by Paul in the familiar words, “Not I, but Christ.” The human “I” is not perfected by any such progress as some have so strangely concluded. The human “I” is delivered over to death, and by the power of the Holy Ghost is ever kept in the place of death, while Christ takes the place of the I, and reigns supremely on the throne of the being, the entire government of which is on His shoulders.
There is no more important question among the many which gather around this subject than this: How is it possible so to live that those around us will always see “Not I, but Christ”? We believe the answer is largely found in what Paul calls the “putting on” of Christ.
When Ignatius exclaimed: “My love is crucified!” he meant that his natural, earthly affection – with all the passions pertaining to it – hung on the Cross, and that he had claimed and received in its stead a heavenly and immortal love. Why is there such a lack of love among Christians? Why is the badge of true discipleship so seldom seen? Is it not because God’s children have not learned to put off the old love that is so limited in its power of expression and so easily provoked, and to put on the love of Jesus which is not provoked, thinketh no evil, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things, which never faileth?
“Whoever dies to the natural,” says Tauler, “the outflow as well as the inflow of his life is Divine love. Men who are not dead to themselves often love by nature, thinking it is by grace, and when they are blamed for this, they are troubled and may become angry. This should tell them that their love is natural. Divine love is at all times patient and suffers all things. It lets itself be hated, but it hates no one and puts the best construction on all things. Men not dead to themselves are agitated when contradicted and distracted from their peace.”
The secret of possessing an unfailing love is to claim the fulfillment, moment by moment, of Christ’s own desire, “That the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26). The indwelling of Jesus and the indwelling of Divine love are conceived of here as one and the same thing, and they truly are inseparable.
What has been said about natural and Divine love applies also to human and Divine patience. How often is a man upset and agitated and how this affects the lives of all those who immediately surround him, if he knows nothing of the art of appropriating the patience of Jesus. If a meal is a few minutes late, or someone is unavoidably hindered either in keeping or carrying out an appointment, if a sermon is a little longer than usual, or one whose salvation is sought is unusually perverse, the human patience is very quickly strained to the breaking point. This is ever to the loss and hurt of not one but many individuals, for, as we have suggested, the impatient spirit never suffers alone.
Is not this manifestation of impatience the revelation of a spirit that still largely revolves around the human “I”? Unquestionably it is, and there is but one remedy, the persistent claiming of death to self, and the daily putting on of the lamb-like patience of Jesus Christ. Living perpetually in the center of God’s will, nothing can put our patience to the test but by His ordering or permission. When someone is late or a letter goes astray, we have opportunity to prove whether our patience is creaturely or Divine, whether it belongs to the old man or the new.
Put On Christ
This “putting on” process is frequently referred to in both the Old and New Testaments (see Isaiah 61:10; Psalm 132:16; Zechariah 3:1-5; Romans 13:14; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:8-14; Revelation 19:8).
We cannot be too frequently reminded that it is only by “putting on” Christ that we “put off” self. Nothing can displace the tyrant “I” in us but the all-victorious competitor, Jesus. “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).
“We must ‘put away’ our old self,” writes R. W. Dale. “…We are to ‘put on’ Christ. We are to make our own every separate element of His righteousness and holiness. We are to make His humility ours, and His courage, His gentleness, and His invincible integrity; His abhorrence of sin, and His mercy for the penitent; His delight in the righteousness of others, and His patience for their infirmities; the quiet submission with which He endured His own sufferings, and His compassion for the sufferings of others; His indifference to ease and wealth and honor, and His passion for the salvation of men from all their sins and all their sorrows.
“We are to make His perfect faith in the Father ours, and His perfect loyalty to the Father’s authority; His delight in doing the Father’s will; His zeal for the Father’s glory. The perfection at which we have to aim is not a mere dream of the imagination, but the perfection which human nature has actually reached in Christ. Christ’s human perfection was really human, but it was the translation into a human character and history of the life of God. He is living still. The fountains of my life are in Him. It is the eternal purpose of the Father, that as the branch receives and reveals the life which is in the vine, I should receive and reveal the life which is in Christ. When, therefore, I attempt to ‘put on’ Christ, or to make my own the perfect humanity which God created in Him, I am not attempting to imitate a perfection which in spirit and form may be alien from my own moral temperament and character, and which may be altogether beyond my strength. I am but developing a life which God has already given to me. If I am in Christ, the spiritual power which was illustrated in the righteousness and holiness of Christ’s life is already active in my own life.
“…Christ is the prophecy of our righteousness as well as the Sacrifice for our sins.”
– Adapted from The Way Of The Cross by J. Gregory Mantle.