The words from which I wish to speak to you this evening, will take us back to the subject that we had last night. It is one of such deep importance – the indwelling of God – one to which believers are in many cases so unaccustomed, and one which, even when its truth is accepted, cannot be apprehended in its fulness all at once, that it may be well to come back to it again. My text is 2 Cor. Xiii. 5: “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”
Every thoughtful Bible-reader knows that the state of the Corinthian Church was a very sad one. There were terrible sins among them, and both epistles are full of sorrow and reproof. At the close of the second epistle, Paul sums up all his pleadings in this one question! Do you not know? I fear you do not, or you would live differently; do you not know that if you are not entirely reprobate, Jesus Christ is in you? Even as the text of last night, the words teach us that the great truth that will lift a Christian out of sin and sloth is the promise of God’s indwelling, the consciousness that Jesus Christ is in us.
Know ye not your own selves? Every Christian needs to know himself. Not only his own sinfulness and helplessness, but much more, the divine miracle that has taken place within him and made him the temple and dwelling of the three-one God. Do learn above everything to know your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you. There are in every Christian community numbers who are living a low and feeble life, without joy or power over sin, or influence to bless others. To all such the message of [the apostle] Paul comes; pause and listen, and take in the wonderous thought, that will be to you both the motive and the power to an entirely new life: Christ is in you. If you but learn to believe this, and to give away to it, and to yield yourself to Him, He will do His mighty saving work in you.
You see how we here get at once to the two great questions that occupy us at a Convention like this. The one is, How is it that so many Christians fail? To this the answer comes: They do not know aright that Jesus Christ is in them. Not one of us could live a worldly life, could give way to pride and selfishness and temper, could so grieve the Holy Spirit of God, if he knew, indeed, that Jesus Christ was in him. The effect of this knowledge would be simply wonderful. On the one hand, it would solemnise and humble, and draw man to say: I cannot bear the thought of grieving the Christ within me.
On the other hand, it would encourage and strengthen him to say: Praise God I have Jesus Christ within me, He will live my life for me. May God bring us to the confession of how much we have lost because we lacked this faith, and teach us to pray much that from moment to moment our life may be: Jesus Christ in us. Then comes the other question. If I find that I have not known and lived this life, am I ready to say to-night: Henceforth, by the grace of God, I will. I can rest content with nothing less than the full experience, Jesus Christ is in me? Let us but come in deep poverty and emptiness: He who did the work for us so perfectly on Calvary undertakes to do it in our hearts too.
May God by the Holy Spirit, reveal to each of us all the He means us to enjoy. I noticed in our meeting this afternoon many young people: I want to speak as simply as possible, so as to help the very youngest Christian to some right apprehension of this blessed life that God has prepared for us. I want to answer some of the questions that may have suggested themselves last night to those to whom this indwelling of God appears something too high and strange. Let us listen in the faith that God Himself will teach us.
Let me say, in the first place, if you would know the power of this life: Believe in and accept the indwelling Christ. Let me ask you the question: Do you fully and truly believer in the indwelling Christ? You do believe in an incarnate Christ. When the name of Christ is mentioned, you at once think of One who was born a little babe at Bethlehem, who took our nature upon Him and lived as a man upon the earth. That thought is inseparable from your faith in Him. You believe, too, in the crucified Christ, dying on Calvary for our sins. You believe, too, in the risen Saviour, one who lives for evermore. And you believe in the glorified Lord, now sitting on the throne of heaven.
But do you believe as definitely – as naturally – in the indwelling Christ? Have you made that one of the articles of your faith, as really as you believe in Christ incarnate or Christ crucified? It is only as the truth is accepted and held that the others can really profit. The experience of the love and the saving power of our incarnate, crucified, glorified Lord depends entirely upon His indwelling in us to reveal His presence and to do His work. If you find you life feeble or sickly, you may be assured that it is because you do not know that Jesus Christ is in you. Do come to-night and begin at once to say: I want with my whole heart to get possessed of this wonderful knowledge, not as a doctrine, but as an experience; Jesus Christ is in me. Begin to believe it at once. Accept of Him, even now, as an indwelling Saviour. Day by day be content with nothing less than the blessed consciousness of His indwelling presence. He loves to reveal Himself.
I said last night, speaking of God’s indwelling, that a man always, to some extent, makes his home the expression of his tastes and character. Even so the Lord Jesus brings the heart which accepts and trusts Him to dwell within, into sympathy and harmony with Himself. And if you ask what the influence is He will exert, the answer is not difficult: He becomes your life, all your thoughts and tempers and dispositions and actions, will have His life and spirit breathing in them. Oh, Christians who have never yet known yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you, believe in Him, accept Him even now as the indwelling Christ.
A second thought: When you accept Christ to dwell in you, be sure and accept the whole Christ. There are some people who long for the indwelling Christ, but think of Him chiefly as one who comes to comfort and make glad, to bring peace and joy, but who do not accept of him in all his characters and offices. Beware of being content with only half of Christ; see to it that you have the whole Christ. There are people who accept of Christ as a priest to atone for their sins, but do not yield to His rule as king; they never think of giving up their own will wholly and entirely to Him. They come to Christ for happiness but not for holiness. They trust in the work He has done for them; they do not surrender themselves to Him for the work He is to do in them. They speak of the forgiveness of sins, but of the cleansing from all unrighteousness they know little. They have not accepted a whole Christ, the Saviour from the power as much as from the guilt of sin.
Let me urge you to make a study of this. As you read of the life of Christ on earth, take every trait of that holy character, as the will of God concerning you. Study His holy humility and meekness, and say, this is the Christ who dwells in me. Look upon His deep dependence upon the Father, and the perfect surrender of His will to do only what pleased the Father, and say, I have yielded myself that my indwelling Lord may work this in me too. As you gaze upon Him as the crucified One, think not only of the Cross in its atonement, as the means of propitiation for your sin, but of its fellowship, as the means of victory over sin. Beware of only saying, Christ crucified for me, ever; say too, I am crucified with Christ. The one thing for which He lives in you is to breathe His own likeness into your nature, to impart to you His own crucifixion spirit, that blessed disposition that made His sacrifice so well pleasing to the Father. Do accept the whole Christ as dwelling in you.
Especially, do not forget that the Christ who is in you is the loving One, the Servant and the Saviour of the lost. This is the chief mark and glory of the Son of God: that He lived and died, not for Himself, but for others. When He comes to dwell in you, He cannot change His nature; it is the crucified, redeeming Love of God has taken possession of you. Yield yourself to Him that He may breathe into you His own love for souls, His own willingness to give up all, that they may be saved, His own faith in God’s almighty conquering grace.
Do accept a whole Christ, a Saviour from all sin and selfishness, a Saviour, not only for yourself, but for all around you. My third thought. If you accept the whole Christ accept Him with the whole heart. Nothing less than this can satisfy God, can secure Christ’s full indwelling, can give our heart rest. This was what even the Old Testament demanded: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy strength.” To it alone the promise is given, Blessed are they which seek Him with their whole heart. The old saints made confession: I have sought Thee with my whole heart. How can we think that this wonderous New Testament blessing, Jesus Christ, the whole Christ, in us, can be known in power, unless the whole heart be given Him.
With the whole heart – what does that mean? First of all, the heart means love and affection. Our relationship to Christ must not only be that of trust in His help and devotion to His service, but one of intense personal attachment. His heart toward us is all love; His work was and is nothing but the revelation of infinite love and tenderness; and nothing but love on our part can be the proof that we have really accepted and known His love.
When Peter had denied Christ, his restoration to Christ’s favour and to his place as the shepherd of Christ’s flock, all hinged on his answer to the thrice-repeated question, Lovest thou Me? Do not let us think that it is only for women and children, or for mystics and saints, to speak the language of tender, fervent love to the Saviour. If we accept him with the whole heart, let us cultivate an intense personal love. Let us not hesitate to say often, Thou knowest that I love Thee. The heart means love, and the whole heart means love with all our strength.
Then the heart also means the will. Accept Christ with the whole heart – that is to say, give up your will entirely and absolutely to Him. Say to yourself that it is a settled thing that never in anything are you to seek your own will. In things great and small, in decisions of supreme importance, in the most apparently insignificant questions of daily life, live as one who only exists that the will of God and of Christ may be carried out in him.
It was to do God’s will that Christ came from heaven. It is to do God’s will in you that He has entered you heart. Beware of hindering or grieving Him in this His blessed work. People sometimes ask: Did not God give us a will for us to use? Is it not this man’s nobility that he has a will? How can you ask us to give up that will so entirely and absolutely to God? What misunderstanding the question implies. God gave us a will that with it we might intelligently will what He wills. It is no degradation to a child to give up his will to be guided by that of a wise and loving father. So it is man’s highest dignity to find out and accept and delight in the perfect will of God.
Accept Christ with the whole heart and a perfect will; count it your true and only blessedness to let Him breathe and work all God’s will in you. The whole heart means the whole will given up. Never my own will in anything; let that be the decision with which you bow to let His will rule. And let every sense of difficulty and feebleness only urge you afresh to believe that there is but one way of having your desire fulfilled – accepting Jesus Christ within you as an indwelling Saviour, the living, inspiring power that breathes through all your will. You can have just as much of Christ as you give of yourself to Him: the whole heart can have the whole Christ.
At a meeting of the speakers this afternoon the conversation and prayer, we were asking what is needed to make our Convention a blessing. One said that there seldom was much blessing until there had first come a great breaking down and Christians had been brought to feel how much there is wanting in their life. In England, at Keswick, last year, I heard tell of Conventions where Christians were so convicted of the evil and the shame of their Christian life, that as they left the meeting they hardly dared to speak, and felt driven to go to God and make confession. This is what we need; what we cannot give ourselves; what God can work in us.
When once we begin to see that, just as it is a matter of shame and humiliation when a wife has been unfaithful to the husband to whom she had pledged her whole heart, the thought that we have been guilty of withholding from God that undivided love to which, as the all-glorious One, our Creator, and our Redeemer, He had such perfect right, ought to bow us in the very dust, then the sense of not having given the whole heart to Christ will become unbearable.
As we make confession that we have not given God His glory, that we have sought our own will and honour and pleasure, that we have given self and the world a place in the heart where Christ wanted to dwell alone, God’s Holy Spirit can so show us the sinfulness of our Christian life, as to leave us no rest until we have said with full purpose, and the assurance of divine approval: I accept the whole Christ with my whole heart.
Now comes the fourth thought: Count upon the indwelling Christ to do all in your heart that needs to be done. In a verse just preceding our text, Paul says: “Ye seek for a proof of Christ speaking in me.” It was not only Christ living in him, but Christ acting and speaking through him, they looked for. The Corinthians were justified in that expectation. And so when Christ comes in to take possession, He will by His Spirit, do within us what we cannot do. He will make you what God would have you be – conformable to the image of His Son.
It is utterly vain for us to think of following Christ’s steps or imitating His example, or copying His life, by any effort of ours. Jesus lived upon earth a human life that He might show us what the life is we are to live. But what folly for us to think now we are Christians, that we can or shall approach to anything like His life. It is impossible. We are, indeed, called to it. It is our first duty. But it can only be if we let Himself live that life in us. The life of Christ is altogether too high and too divine for us to reproduce. It is His own life, and only His. But He will live it out in us. You would fain be humble, or patient or gentle. How often have you prayed and struggled, but all in vain. You sought for a humility here on earth, in yourself, something like that which He, as God, brought from heaven.
What folly. Oh, learn to cease from self and its efforts. Turn inwards; let faith be occupied with and rest in the Almighty indwelling One, who has become your life, for the very purpose of filling it with His own. Count upon Him who dwells within you to do the work He has undertaken. When He was upon earth, He began His life as a little babe, unknown and very feeble. He grew up in seclusion, and no one thought that this was the Redeemer of men.
When He began His public ministry He lifted not up his voice in the streets; He was despised and rejected of men; they knew not that He was the Lord of Glory. Even so within thy heart, His appearance will be low and feeble and scarce to be observed. Then comes the time to heed His command: only believe. Trust in Him with an unmeasured confidence, that He will do His work within you in His own way and time. However slow and hidden and all unlikely things seem to be within, hold fast your confidence that He is there, and that He is working, and that in due time He will reveal Himself.
Dear Christians, when you believe in the incarnate or the crucified Christ, it means that you believe that He did the work perfectly, for which He came to live and die upon earth. When you believe in the risen and glorified Lord, it means that you have no shadow of doubt but that He is now living and reigning at God’s right hand, in divine power. Let your faith in the indwelling One be as simple and clear. The work for which He entered your heart, the great work of possessing and renewing and glorifying your whole inner life, He will do in wondrous power and love.
Trust Him for it; the Christ of Bethlehem, the Christ of Calvary, the Christ of the Throne in heaven, is the Christ in you. Do begin to believe: Jesus Christ is in me; Jesus Christ will do the work perfectly in me. Just listen to that wonderful promise in Hebrews: “The God of peace perfect you in every good work, that ye may do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.” Yes, through Jesus Christ! If it is through Jesus Christ that God Himself works in you, how can this be in any other way but Jesus Christ Himself being in you? God fits you to do His will through Jesus Christ dwelling in you. Doubt no longer, but rejoice. Know your own selves that Jesus Christ is in you.
More than one is doubtless asking: Can this really be? Oh, that I knew what is needed to have Christ Himself dwelling in me. You find the answer in the simple, well-known words: “My son, give Me thine heart.” Have you in every deed done that? I do not ask. Are you believers? Are you sure that your sins are pardoned? Are you seeking to live a Christian life? But have you given your heart to Christ to possess, to rule, to renew, to dwell in all alone, to fill with the will of God? Have you given it away, out of your power into His? Your self-confidence, your self-contentment, your self-pleasing, your self-will, has it all been laid at Christ’s feet? so that He can cast it out, and fill the heart with Himself.
If not, let nothing keep you back from giving what belongs to God, and what Christ came to win back for Him. Your heart was made for God. A man has the wondrous power of in one moment setting his heart upon some object that strongly attracts him, or that has won his affection – of giving away his heart. At this moment bow in penitence and shame that you have so little known that Jesus Christ is in you, and have so little, day by day, yielded up the whole being to Him.
Bow in lowly confession, and offer Him even now this sin-stained and unworthy heart, and believe that He takes possession. What I give, God takes; what God takes He will hold and keep through Jesus Christ. Blessed Lord! even now we give ourselves, and know Thou dost accept, that Thou art within, and that Thou wilt fill us with Thyself.