Christian State and the State of a Christian
I speak tonight for the sake of those here who are young believers. I would seek to help, in what I find, in moving about among them, are difficulties which they have to contend with, and especially as some of these touch present exercises amongst God's people as gathered to His name.
There are often expressions used by those who lecture and teach which young believers are quite in a fog about, and I desire to speak of one or two of these as simply as I can. I trust that you, my elder brethren, will bear with me. If you only knew how I felt you would pray for me, too, I am sure.
Well, the first thing I desire to speak of is in verse 9. It expresses a distinct fact, “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you.” It does not say, if you are born again, but “if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you.” No doubt you have often heard and read something about the “ Christian state ,” and have been a bit troubled, perhaps, when people have spoken of it as that which in itself is perfect, and have perhaps said, My state is not perfect anyway!
Ah! you are thinking of your practical state of soul as a Christian —a different thing. This may be very low or may be very heavenly. When we speak of the Christian state, it is not a question of our practical condition as Christians, variable thing, but of that which answers, by the Holy Ghost in us here, to our place in Christ there. We understand, I trust, what it is to have our standing in Christ. We have had it before us in these meetings. Well then, there is a state on earth exactly answering to that standing, and every one who has the Holy Ghost is in that state. “As he is, so are we in this world,” is not a question of my standing there, but of my state here in this world. Nor can this be changed or modified. We are in the Christian state if we have the Holy Ghost. We are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in us.
The difficulty is that many believers are not yet in the Christian state. They are troubled because they are not what they want to be. They think if only they could have a better self, or if only they were in different circumstances, it would be all right with them. Ah! I say, you have not reached what God speaks of here. You are not in the liberty of the Christian state. If a man has the Holy Ghost, he is in it. He may not be practically in the condition that properly answers to it. But he is there if he has the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost has not come down to connect Himself with any evil in me, but with the new nature as born of God. He is not said to dwell in the new nature, though He energizes it; but in my body, which by and by in resurrection will be in a new creation state. The Spirit's indwelling is the guarantee of this. If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Scripture does not speak, therefore, of His dwelling in the new nature, but in the body, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?”
The Holy Ghost, I was saying, does not connect Himself with the flesh. The flesh is in you, but do you not understand that Christ has come in, and by His death has broken the link between you and it, and that you are looked at now before God as in a new state, that is, in connection with the new nature and the Holy Ghost, and not in connection with the flesh? Everything of the old has been judged in the cross, all gone in the death of Christ, and the believer is looked at as in a new state. “Not in the flesh but in the Spirit.”
I know what I am saying is very elementary, but I need make no apologies for so speaking. It is necessary that we should be simple. I know well that these difficulties do come up in the minds of God's people, and help is called for. I know a brother who is very fond of asking two questions. After a lecture he will say to a person, “Do you see that?” and if he says, “Oh, yes, I see!” he puts his next question, “ What do you see?” I think these are two very useful questions, and if we begin to ask people what they see, we shall soon find out how very elementary we need to be. Young souls, I repeat, and sometimes old ones too, are in need of it.
Some souls, perhaps, may say, “Yes, that is all very well, ‘ If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you' but is the Spirit of God dwelling in me? Have I got Him? that is the question. I wonder sometimes if I am sealed, for I do not seem to realise it, nor see much of the fruit of the Spirit, in myself. I often get down very low, have not much power for prayer, and not much abounding in hope when I think of the Lord's coming.”
Ah! but this turning in upon yourself will not do. Let us look at your difficulty more closely.
There are two great actions of the Spirit of God with individuals. First, you are quickened by the Spirit. Now He does not come to you rand say, when He has done it, “I have quickened you; you are born again.” No; He makes you miserable. You find out that you have been sinning against God, and wish you had a Saviour. Now those looking on know that if these exercises are real and divine, you are born again. The Spirit has been producing in you the desire to possess that which it will be God's delight to bestow upon you. He had the gift of His own Son to give you, but you did not want the gift, you did not value it; and therefore He produces these desires in you that you may value and delight in the gift that God is longing to bestow upon you.
Now come to the second action of the Spirit. When the Holy Ghost comes to dwell in you He does not occupy you so much with the fact that He has done so, though there are blessed wonderful consequences attaching to it. You will rather be led to exclaim with joy, “What a wonderful Father I have! How He loves me.” His love being “shed abroad in your heart.” That is, the Holy Ghost does not come to occupy me with myself, or even with His presence in me, but with my Father and the wonderful love which the Father has bestowed on a poor thing like me, that I should be called a son of God. He takes our hearts away there to the place where Christ is, and brings Himself and His glories before us.
But the question may arise in some mind as to how we get the Holy Ghost. I think the ease of the leper in the Old Testament (Lev. 14) will help us. He was first washed with water, which I have no doubt answers to our being born again of the word, our moral cleansing; then we find his right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the great toe of his right foot are tipped with blood. What does that signify? The application of the blood of Christ. When I come to possess a new nature as born of God, nothing but that which satisfies the holy, righteous God about sins can satisfy that new nature. The blood of Christ meets those claims, and the Holy Ghost now testifies to me of that precious blood. I rest my soul upon it, and my conscience is at rest, for grace and peace are mine. The oil was put upon the right ear, and upon the thumb of the right hand, and upon the great toe of the right foot, upon the blood of the trespass offering. Remember the oil did not touch the flesh of the man, it was not there because of what the man was, it was the blood that touched the man's flesh; the blood was there because of what the man was, the oil was there because of what the blood was. The Holy Ghost seals you “till the day of redemption.” He will never leave you till the blood loses its value. It is not because of your conduct you have Him. “Received ye the Holy Ghost,” says the apostle to the Galatians, “by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” You heard by faith of Him whose blood was shed for you, you trusted the blood, and were sealed with the Holy Ghost. It was not by your goodness that you got Him, nor is it by your badness that you will lose Him. It was because of the unchanging value of the blood of Christ you received Him, and He will continue to indwell you until that day when our bodies will be as fit for new creation scenes by Christ's power, as our souls are now by His blood; we are sealed “unto the day of redemption,” that is, the redemption of our bodies. All is thus made sure to us, and we are secured for the coming glory.
The “ earnest of the Spirit” is connected with what I am going to get. And what is that? I am going to be in that wondrous circle where the Son was from all eternity, at home in that blessed scene where there will be nothing between my soul and the enjoyment of the Father and the Son. The Holy Ghost comes down into my heart and says, I am going to give you a taste of it now . That is the “earnest.”
Did you never get a taste of it? Do you remember such and such a time, when on your knees you got something of the joy of that wonderful place, a sight of that wonderful Person in that place? What untold blessedness was poured into your soul! Where were your troubles then? Where were your failures? You had not a thought of them; no, you were enjoying a little bit of heaven. The Holy Ghost brought into your soul a foretaste of what it will be to be there. But He is not only the “earnest” of what I shall get, He is the “ seal ” of what He has got; Christ is going to have me there, and so He has sent the Holy Ghost to make sure of me till the day of redemption Hence the exhortation—Do not grieve Him.
May I just say a word about what I have felt all through these meetings? I have heard one and another pouring out those precious truths, and the thought of all we have had here in bygone years has come before me too, and I have said to myself, What has been the fruit of it in my life? I think of the thousands of God's people who have never, in their souls, touched the fringe of what God has been pleased to open out to us, and what have our lives been in response to it? Have all these things been given for nothing? Follow us to our homes, for after all that is the place where perhaps we are most tested. What have our lives been there? What tale have our inner histories told? What sort of men have we been when no eye but His saw us? He knows. And I believe what we want after these meetings is, greater purpose of heart to go on , and to get on . We have been hearing (and, indeed, it is true) that you will never know what the hindrances are till you want to go on.
You may be marking time, and not get a step forward. Marking time is not marching. We may seem to keep in step, we may come to meetings and be “marking time,” but are we going on? If we are there will be difficulties to face, and we shall need faith. Directly we are purposed to press forward, we shall find the difference between what is true of us in His sight, and what is true in us by the Holy Ghost, a very important thing to remember. Many things may be true of us that are not true in us.
Take the thought of the Lord's coming. It is true that the Lord is coming to take up His people, and there is not a saint on earth but this is true of him, and he will be caught up to meet the Lord at His coming. But even as to ourselves who believe this is true of us in the scriptures, is it true in us in power? What makes the difference? When a thing becomes true to you, that is, when you lay hold of it in your souls by faith, then what before was only true you in the Bible, is true in you by the power of the Holy Ghost.
May I say that I think this is underneath many of our difficulties of late; some have been seeking to press what should be true in us by the Spirit through faith, while others may have been confounding this with what is true of us in God's word?
When the truth is “mixed with faith” it effectually works in them that believe. It is then that it becomes part and parcel of our moral being.
In conclusion, do we see the difference between the two things mentioned at the beginning, namely, what it is to be in the Spirit, that is, our Christian state, and our practical every-day condition of soul which ought to answer to it?
If you have the Holy Ghost you are in the true Christian state; do not grieve Him, and your practical state will correspond with it. Do not be occupied with yourself in order to see if you have the Holy Ghost. He will take care of that which is His own gracious prerogative. You make sure that you are trusting the blood, and He will take care of all the rest. Oh! what a tide of love He will pour into your soul day by day! What wonders of grace and glory will He bring before you! All that belongs to Christ, with all the heavenly realities that are true of us now in Him will be His delightful theme.
May the Lord give us to take these things in, for His name's sake!
Notes at Quemerford 1890