Awake To Abundant Life In Christ
By J. C. Ryle
“If ye then be risen with Christ…” (Col. 3:1).
The Lord Jesus is a complete Savior. That mighty living Head has no dead members. His people are not only justified and pardoned – but quickened together with Him, and made partakers of His resurrection. To Him the Spirit joins the sinner, and raises him by that union from death to life. In Him the sinner lives after he has believed. The spring of all his vitality is the union between Christ and his soul, which the Spirit begins and keeps up. Christ is the appointed fountain of all spiritual life, and the Holy Spirit the appointed agent who conveys that life to our souls.
Come to the Lord Jesus Christ, if you would have life. Come, and your soul shall live. Yes! those among us who now seem most utterly dead in sins, may yet be raised to a new being, and walk before God in newness of life.
Why should it not be so? The Holy Spirit is a merciful and loving Spirit. There was nothing in the Corinthians that He should come down and quicken them. Paul reports of them that they were fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners. “Such,” he says, “were some of you.” Yet even them the Spirit made alive. “Ye are washed,” He writes, “ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
There was nothing in the Colossians, that He should visit their hearts. Paul tells us that they walked in sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Yet them also the Spirit quickened. He made them “put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him” (see Colossians 3:5-10).
The Power of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit is an almighty Spirit. He can change the stony heart into a heart of flesh. He can break up and destroy the strongest bad habits, like string in the fire. He can make the most difficult things seem easy, and the mightiest objections melt away like snow in spring. He can fill up every valley, and make every rough place smooth. He has done it often, and He can do it again. He is still doing wonders, and will do to the very end.
Does anyone of us desire to help the church of Christ? Then let him pray for a great outpouring of the Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can give edge to sermons, and point to advice, and power to rebuke, and can cast down the high walls of sinful hearts. What is needed this day is more of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Are You Alive in Christ?
See now how all professing Christians should examine themselves and try their own state. Are you indeed alive unto God? Can you say with truth, “I was dead, and am alive again. I was blind – but now I see”?
Are you alive? Then see that you prove it by your actions. Be a consistent witness. Let your words, and works, and ways, and tempers all tell the same story. Let not your life be a poor torpid life, like that of a tortoise or a sloth – let it rather be an energetic stirring life, like that of a deer or bird. Let your graces shine forth from all the windows of your life, that those who live near you may see that the Spirit is abiding in your hearts. Let your light not be a dim, flickering, uncertain flame; let it burn steadily, like the eternal fire on the altar, and never become low. Let the savor of your religion, like Mary’s precious ointment, fill all the houses where you dwell. Be an epistle of Christ so clearly written, penned in such large bold characters – that he who runs may read it. Let your Christianity be so unmistakable, your eye so single, your heart so whole, your walk so straightforward that all who see you may have no doubt whose you are, and whom you serve. If we are quickened by the Spirit, no one ought to be able to doubt it. It ought not to be necessary to tell people, as in the case of a badly painted picture, “This is a Christian.” We ought not to be so sluggish and still, that people shall be obliged to come close and look hard, and say, “Is he dead or alive?”
Are you alive? Then see that you prove it by your growth. Let the great change within become every year more evident. Let your light be an increasing light, ever shining more and more to the very end of your days. Let the image of your Lord, wherein you are renewed, grow clearer and sharper every month. Let it not be like the image and superscription on a coin, more indistinct and defaced the longer it is used. Let it rather become more plain the older it is, and let the likeness of your King stand out more fully and sharply.
Remember the words of the Apostle Peter, “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). This is the way to be a useful Christian. People will believe you are in earnest when they see constant improvement, and perhaps be drawn to go with you.
I say the spiritual life there is in Christians ought to be more evident. Our lamps need trimming – they ought not to burn so dim. Our separation from the world should be more distinct – our walk with God more decided. Let us be up and doing. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. If we really have life, let us make it known.
The state of the world demands it. The latter days have fallen upon us. The kingdoms of the earth are shaking, falling, crashing, and crumbling away. The glorious kingdom that will never be removed is drawing near. The King Himself is close at hand. The children of this world are looking round to see what the saints are doing. God, in His wonderful providences, is calling to us, “Who is on My side? Who?”
Seek Abundant Life
Hearken, my believing reader. What is the cause of your weakness? Is it not because the Fountain of Life is little used? Is it not because you are resting on old experiences, and not daily gathering new manna – daily drawing new strength from Christ? He has left you the promise of the Comforter. He “giveth more grace” – grace upon grace to all who ask it. He came “that [you] might have life, and that [you] might have it more abundantly.” “Open thy mouth wide,” He says this day, “and I will fill it” (Jas. 4:6; John 10:10; Psa. 81:10.)
If you want your spiritual life to be more healthy and vigorous, you must just come more boldly to the throne of grace. The Lord has provided a store of strength for you. But you do not draw upon the store He has provided – you have not, because you ask not. The secret of your weakness is your little faith – and little prayer. The Fountain is unsealed – but you only sip a few drops. The Bread of Life is before you – yet you only eat a few crumbs. The Treasury of Heaven is open – but you only take a few pennies. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt. 14:31).
Awake to know your privileges – awake, and sleep no longer. Tell me not of spiritual hunger, and thirst, and poverty – so long as the throne of grace is before you. “Come boldly unto the throne of grace,” where the Father is ever waiting to give, and Jesus ever sits by Him to intercede (Heb. 4:16). Come boldly, and ask largely, and you shall have abundant answers – mercy like a river, and grace and strength like a mighty stream. Come boldly, and you shall have supplies exceeding all you can ask or think. “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
While we live, may we live unto the Lord. When we die, may we die the death of the righteous. And when the Lord Jesus comes, may we be found ready, and “not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28).
– Adapted from the sermon “Alive or Dead?” by J. C. Ryle.