The Indwelling Christ – Secret Of Victory
By Richard W. Bailey
There is a glaring discrepancy between the standard for the Christian life we find in the New Testament and the actual experience of the average Christian. The life we want to live and the life we actually live are too often a contradiction. For example, the Scripture teaches us that we are to love our enemies and bless them who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). But few of us actually do this. Is it possible to act as the Scripture requires?
My father was a businessman in the city of Wilmington, Delaware. On one occasion he hired a man and trained him in the business. After the apprentice had become somewhat of an expert in that kind of work he announced to my father that he was going to open a shop directly across the street and that he intended to drive my father out of business.
I will never forget my father’s reaction. As a regular practice, we had family devotions every morning. We all got down on our knees and my father led us in prayer. During that particular time he invariably would pray: “Lord, bless this man’s business. He has a family to provide for. Cause his business to prosper.” Then he would go on with the other prayer agenda for the day.
But such an attitude is exceptional. Not many Christians react this way to those who despitefully use us. My father’s attitude of love can only be demonstrated by one who is living under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Scripture teaches, “Do not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6). We are told, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes. 5:18). The Scriptures say that we are to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4).
God’s Word teaches us that we are to forgive 70 times 7 (Matt. 18:22) – which is just a figure to help us remember that we are to show an unending spirit of forgiveness toward others. We are instructed to think on things which are pure, admirable, praiseworthy and virtuous (Phil. 4:8). Scripture teaches that we are to “be holy, because [God] is holy” (1 Pet. 1:16), and that we are to be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
Yet with all of this exhortation and much more, the Apostle Paul gives his own testimony in Romans 7:18-19: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” That is probably the testimony of many of us concerning our own effort to live up to the standards of Scripture.
This was not only the experience of the Apostle Paul, it has been the experience of people in other ages. The Old Testament tells us how God sought to lead the people of Israel into the promised land of Canaan, and coming to Mt. Horeb God’s people were only an eleven day journey from Canaan.
Yet this is God’s word to the Israelites, not after a week or a month or a few years but after forty long years: “You have made your way around this hill country long enough” (Deut. 2:3). For forty long years they had wandered in the vicinity of that mountain. And the Lord said, “Break camp and advance.”
That may be what God is saying to some of us. Throughout our Christian lives we have heard of the blessings of the sanctified life. We have heard others testify of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. But for many years we have been going around the same mount, and now the Lord is saying to us, “Break camp and advance.”
The Wonderful Story
The land that God wants us to possess will never be taken just by hearing messages on the deeper life. It will never be achieved by going to conferences or reading good books. The Christ-filled life is not “making us over” or “patching us up.”
We think if we could just straighten out a few of the crooked places in our life we would then be pleasing to God. That is not the sanctified life. Christ and Christ alone must live His life through us.
I think the greatest mystery in Scripture is the Incarnation. I must accept it by faith because my mind cannot grasp how God Almighty could be clothed in flesh and blood, be born of a woman and dwell among us. I can only bow my head in reverence and thank God that it is so.
But I believe the second greatest mystery in Scripture is the fact that Christ is in the believer. The Apostle Paul testified, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). I do not understand how this can be, but thank God, it is so.
It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God that makes Christ a living reality within us. Thus, all that Christ is, we may become in Him. He partook of our humanity that we might be partakers of His divinity. We remain the same persons and have the same personality traits, but Christ is in us. We still labor at the office and in the factory, but whatever we do, we may do “in the Lord.” And in our weaknesses we may draw on His life, His health and His strength.
We are married, but our marriages are honorable in the Lord. We still face temptation, but we learn that “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). And His victory – the victory that He wrought upon the cross when He openly spoiled principalities and powers and put them to shame – becomes our victory. And death remains. But even death is blessed when it is in the Lord.
There is a lot of figurative and descriptive language in Scripture to describe this union. I think the most beautiful is in John 15 where Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” What could be closer than that? The branch and the vine are joined together, yet separate in individuality. The sap from the vine is given to the branches so they may bear the fruit in its likeness; one is dependent upon the other.
Conditions to Be Met
Yet, for this union to affect our manner of living adequately there are certain conditions which must be met. First, we must allow God to deal with the matter of our sin. Sin is what we are, as opposed to sins which we do. In the Bible sin is called “the body of sin,” “the flesh,” “the carnal mind,” “the sin that dwelleth in me” or “the old man.” It is that part of us which is totally depraved, without any desire for God.
This fallen nature causes us to commit sins – sins of jealousy, sins of covetousness and lust and lying. Scripture says these are “the works of the flesh.”
Forgiveness for sins – in the plural – is made possible through confession and faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. Scripture clearly teaches, “If we confess our sins” – plural – “He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). And we are told, “The blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from every sin” (1 John 1:7).
But while we may rely on the blood to forgive us our sins, let me say reverently that the atonement cannot avail for the old man, the body of sin. It must be abolished by death.
We are in error to think we can improve our nature. We try to train it; we try to discipline it; we try to be better. But the carnal mind is enmity against God. Our old nature must be put to death, the death of crucifixion.
Romans 6:6 says, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him.” Why? “So that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Verse 7 adds, “Anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” The only person who is freed from sin is a dead man. He has eyes but cannot see, ears that cannot hear and hands that cannot work or move. He does not respond to the world, the devil or the flesh.
Scripture is trying to teach us that Christ’s work of redemption is so complete that in Christ not only do we find His shed blood for the forgiveness of sins but also we have been crucified with Jesus. It is just as though we individually had been nailed to the other side of His cross. We have been crucified, buried and made victorious over hell, the grave and sin.
Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ.” Never, never in his life did he get away from that. And then one day he gave a testimony: “The only thing that I can boast about” – and the one speaking was one of the greatest servants of God who has ever lived – “is the cross of Jesus Christ. I have no other glory.”
“I have been crucified,” he said, “to the world and the world to me” (Gal. 6:14). He meant that, he was crucified to the world within him, crucified to the lust of the eye and the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.
Concerning the things his eyes could see and covet he said, “I am dead to that. It is as though it has no attraction for me. Concerning the lust of the flesh – my desires for the pleasure craze of this world – I have been crucified; it has no attraction for me.
“To the pride of my life, my self-importance, my self-advantage, my self-interests, it is just as though I am dead; it has no attraction for me.”
How Does It Work?
“Well,” someone may say, “that is correct theology, but how does this death to sin work out experientially in an individual life?”
The key is found in Romans 6:11. The King James Version uses the term “reckon.” It is a mathematical term; it means to account something as being so.
It is a fact that Jesus died and rose again. It is also a fact that God sees us in Jesus Christ in His crucifixion and in His resurrection. We must account that to be true. When temptation comes we appropriate this truth by saying, “I am crucified, and a dead man cannot have any attraction to temptation. I turn from it and I believe I am in the resurrection power of Jesus.”
Romans 8:11 is one of the most beautiful verses in Scripture: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.”
We, by an act of our wills, declare that we are in union with Jesus Christ and dead to the world around us, and to the world within us and to the world beneath us. When we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, God sees that sacrifice, and His Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will give life to us – the resurrected life of Jesus.
Then we live in the newness of the life of Jesus. Just as we reckon ourselves alive unto God in the newness of His life.
In Christ crucified we put off the old man. The cross is for destruction; resurrection is for life. We do not set before us some ideal and strive for it. We behold what He has accomplished and we appropriate it. We do not refine the old man, but we appropriate the new man, Christ Jesus, our Sanctifier.
We cannot sanctify ourselves. God the Holy Spirit makes Jesus Christ our Sanctifier. He imparts His holiness when we have none of our own to offer.
He imparts His victory when all that we can confess is defeat and failure. In all of our weakness He gives us His strength and His glory and His faith. It is all of Jesus because the Holy Spirit makes the sanctification of Jesus Christ a reality in our lives.
– Reprinted with permission from Alliance Life, official magazine of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, February 26, 1986.