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Monday, February 27, 2006
The Self Life and the Christ Life by A. B. Simpson, Chapter 2
Chapter 2 --RESURRECTED NOT RAISED
THERE is a great difference between risen and resurrected. One may rise from one level to another; but when one is resurrected he is brought from nothing into existence, from death to life, and the transition is simply infinite. A true Christian is not raised, but resurrected. The great objection to all the teachings of mere natural religion and human ethics is that we are taught to rise to higher planes. The glory of the Gospel is that it does not teach us to rise, but shows our inability to do anything good of ourselves, and lays us at once in the grave in utter helplessness and nothingness, and then raises us up into new life, born entirely from above and sustained alone from heavenly sources.
The Christian life is not self-improving, but it is wholly supernatural and Divine. Now, the resurrection cannot come until there has been the death. This is presupposed, and just as real as the death has been, will be the measure of the resurrection life and power. Let us not fear, therefore, to die and to die to all that we would leave behind us and detach ourselves from, nay, to die to ourselves and really cease to be. We lose nothing by letting go and we cannot enter in 'till we come out. If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.
But the passage Col. 3: 1 expresses the fact that we have already died and risen, and that we are now to take the attitude of those for whom this is an accomplished fact. Paul does not tell them here to die with Christ and rise with Him, but rather he calls upon Christians to take their places as having died and risen with Christ and to live accordingly. He tells them later in verse 3, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
In the sixth chapter of Romans this thought is much more fully worked out. "So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ," the Apostle says, "were baptized into his death. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." To emphasize more forcibly the finality of this fact, he says, "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." Therefore, and in like manner, the Apostle bids us to "reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ," and to "yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."
Now, much of the teaching of the day would bid us yield ourselves unto God to be crucified and to die afresh, or more fully, but the Apostle says nothing of the kind here. On the contrary, we are to yield ourselves unto God as those who have already died and are alive from the dead, recognizing the cross as behind us; and for this very reason presenting ourselves to God, to be used for His service and glory. Have you never seen soaring in mid-heaven some glorious bird with its mighty pinions spread upon the bosom of the air and floating in the clear sky without a fluttering feather or apparently the movement of a muscle? It is poised in mid-air; floating yonder, far above the earth below; it does not need to rise, it has risen and is resting in its high and glorious altitude. Very different is the movement of the little lark that springs from the ground and, beating its wings in successive efforts, mounts up to the same aerial heights to sing its morning song, and then returning again to earth. One is the attitude of rising and the other is the attitude of risen.
Perhaps, you say, "How can I reckon myself dead when I find so many evidences that I am still alive, and how can I reckon myself risen when I find so many things that pull me back again to my lower plane? It is your failure to reckon and abide that drags you back. It is the recognizing of the old life as still alive that makes it real and keeps you from overcoming it. This is the principle which underlies the whole Gospel system, that we receive according to the reckoning of our faith. The magic wand of faith will lay all the ghosts that can rise in the cemetery of your soul; and the spirit of doubt will bring them up from the grave to haunt you as long as you continue to question. The only way you can ever die, is by surrendering yourself to Christ and then reckoning yourself dead with Him.
It is a portentous fact that spiritualism has power, apparently, to bring to life and to rehabilitate in the forms of flesh and blood the spirits of the dead. It is not an uncommon thing for a deceased father to appear to his child, and even speak to her in the old familiar tone, and tell of things that nobody could know but he, until the credulous mind is compelled to believe it is the same person, and that her buried father is truly alive. But it is not true. It is a lie. He is as dead as when you laid him in the tomb; his body is still there, corrupting in the ground, and his spirit is in the eternal world, although he seems to be alive. What does it mean? Why, it is one of the devil's lies. Satan has impersonated that father. He has supernatural power to paint upon the air the forms of those that have passed away, and to speak from those lips until they seem to be real. This is one of the mysteries and yet realities of the present day, and no wise or well informed man will attempt to dispute it. But the explanation is this: It is simply a creation of Satan before your senses to deceive you? What is the remedy? Refuse to recognize it. Reckon it dead. Tell it to its face, it is not your father, but one of the devil's brood, and it will immediately disappear. There is one thing Satan cannot stand and that is to be ignored and slighted. He lives on attention and dies of neglect. And so if you will refuse to recognize that manifestation of spiritualism, you will always find it disappears and has no power to continue its movements. It is wholly dependent on the consent of your will.
Now, here is a fine illustration of the principle of the Gospel. You surrender yourself unto Christ to be crucified with Him, and to have all your old life pass out, and henceforth to live as one born from heaven and animated by Him alone. Suddenly, some of your old traits of evil reappear, old thoughts, evil tendencies assert themselves and say loudly and clamorously, "We are not dead." Now if you recognize these things, fear them and obey them, you are sure to give them life and they will control you and drag you back into your former state. But if you refuse to recognize them, and say, "These are Satan's lies, I am dead indeed unto sin; these do not belong unto me, but are the children of the devil, I therefore repudiate them and rise above them," God will detach you from them and make them utterly dead. You will find they were no part of you, but simply temptations which Satan tried to throw over you, and to weave around you that which seemed part of yourself.
This is the true remedy for all the workings of temptation and sin. It is an awful fact that when one counts himself wicked he will become wicked. Let that pure girl be but made to believe that she is degraded and lost to virtue and she will have no heart to be pure, and she will recklessly sink to all the depths of sin! Let the child of God but begin to doubt his acceptance and expect to look upon his Father's face with a frown, and he will have no heart to be holy, he will sink into disobedience, discouragement and sin.
There is a strange story written by a gifted mind, describing a man who was two men alternately. When he believed himself to be a noble character, he was noble and true, and lived accordingly; but when the other ideal took possession of him and made him feel degraded, he went down accordingly. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Our reckonings reflect themselves in our realities; therefore, God has made this principle of faith to be the mainspring of personal righteousness and holiness, and the subtle, yet sublime, power that can lead men out of themselves into the very life of God.
Beloved, shall we let the Master teach us not so much to rise as to remember we are risen; that we have been raised with Christ from the dead, resurrected from the grave of our nothingness, and worse than nothingness, and that we are sitting with Him in heavenly places, recognized by the Father and permitted to reckon ourselves as being "even as he."
Our attitude will influence our aim. People live according to their standing. The high-born child of nobility carries in his bearing and his mien the consciousness of his noble descent, and so those who have their title to be on high, and are conscious of their high and heavenly rank, walk as children of the kingdom. The remainder of this chapter is devoted to working out this most practical idea, because we have risen with Christ, therefore let us live accordingly.
The argument against lying is: we have put off the old man and put on the new man. We have ceased to be paupers and become princes. Therefore, we are to put off the rags of the beggar and wear the epaulette of the prince. We have put on the new man, therefore, let us put on the kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, and over all that charity, which is a perfect girdle that binds all the garments together. The best of all our robes is Christ Himself; and we are to put on Christ. This resurrection life is intensely practical. The Apostle brings it into touch with the nearest relationships of life, with the family circle, with the position of masters and servants, and with all the secular obligations of life. It is to affect our whole conduct and aims and lead us to walk wherever we are called.
This leads us to notice the practical power there is in this glorious fact, that we have been raised up together with Christ. It has power, in the first place, to confirm our hope and assurance of salvation because the resurrection of Jesus was the finishing work and a guarantee to men and angels that the ransom price was paid and the work of atonement complete. When Jesus came forth triumphant from the tomb, it was evident to the universe that the purpose for which He went there was fulfilled, the work He undertook satisfactorily done, and the Father satisfied with His finished atonement. Therefore, faith can rest upon His resurrection, as an everlasting foundation, and says: "Who is he that condemneth, It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again."
Again, the resurrection of Christ is the power that sanctifies us. It enables us to count our old life, our former self, annihilated, so that we are no longer the same person in the eyes of God, or of ourselves; and we may with confidence repudiate ourselves and refuse either to obey or fear our former evil nature. Indeed, it is the risen Christ Himself who comes to dwell within us, and becomes in us the power of this new life and victorious obedience. It is not merely the fact of the resurrection, but the fellowship of the Risen One that brings us our victory and our power. We have learned the meaning of the sublime paradox, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." This is the only true and lasting sanctification, the indwelling life of Christ, the Risen One, in the believing and obedient soul.
Again, there is power in the resurrection to heal us. He that came forth from the tomb on that Easter morning was the physical Christ, and that body of His is the Head of our bodies, and the foundation of our physical strength, as well as our spiritual life. If we will receive and trust Him, He will do as much for our bodies as our spirits, and we shall find a new and supernatural strength in our mortal frame and the pulses of the future resurrection in our physical being.
Christ's resurrection has also a mighty power to energize our faith and encourage us to claim God's answers to our prayers, and ask difficult things from God. What can be too difficult or impossible after the open grave and the stone rolled away? God is trying to teach us the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward "who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand." This is the measure of what God is able and willing to do in the name of Jesus under a Christian dispensation. Christ's resurrection is a pledge of all we can ask for, and if we fully believed in the power of that resurrection we would take much more than we have ever done.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the power for true service. The testimony of His resurrection is always peculiarly used by the Holy Spirit as the power of God unto the salvation of men. It was the chief theme of the ministry of the early apostles. They were always preaching of Jesus and the resurrection. It gives a peculiar brightness and attractiveness to Christian life and Christian work. Many Christians look as gloomy as if they were going to their own funeral. We heard not long ago of a little girl who met some sad looking people on the road and she said, "Mother, those are Christians, aren't they?" And when the mother asked her why she thought so, she said, "They look so unhappy."
This is the type of Christianity that comes from the cloister and the cross. This is not the Easter type, and certainly it is not the higher type. The religion of Jesus should be as bright as the blossoms of the spring, the songs of the warbling birds and the springing pulses of reviving nature. Our Lord met the women on that bright morning with the cheering message, "All hail," and so He would meet each one of us on the threshold of the year and the morning of a new Christian life and bid us go forth with the joy of our Lord as our strength.
This joy must spring from the resurrection and be maintained in a life beyond the grave, in the Heavenlies with its ascended Lord. This is the message that a sad and sinful world needs today. Its motto must not be the "Ecce homo" of the judgment hall, but the glad "All hail!" of the Easter dawn. The more of the indwelling Christ and the resurrection life in Christian work the more will be its living power to attract, sanctify and save the world.
Again, Christ's resurrection will enable us to meet the hardest places in life and endure its bitterest trials. And so we read in Philippians that the power of His resurrection is to bring us into the fellowship of His sufferings, and make us conformable unto His death. We go into the resurrection life that we may be strong enough to suffer with Him and for Him.
Now, let there be no misunderstanding here. It does not mean that we are to suffer for ourselves through sickness or the struggles of our spiritual life. These sufferings ought to belong to the earlier period of our experiences. Our Lord had no conflicts about His sanctification and no physical disease to contend with during His life. So, in bearing these, we are not bearing the sufferings of Christ. Nay, His sufferings are for others and the power of His resurrection will bring us to share His high and holy sorrows for His suffering church and a dying world. It is a fact that the harder our place and the lower our sphere of toil and suffering the more do we need the elevation of His grace and glory to meet it. From the heights we must reach the depths. And, therefore, we find these epistles, which lift us into heavenly places, bring us back in every instance to the most commonplace duties, the most ordinary relationships and the most severe trials. These letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians which speak about the highest altitudes of faith and power, speak also more than any others of the temptations common to men, and the duties of husbands and wives, and the need of truthfulness, sobriety, honesty and righteousness, and all the most unromantic, practical experiences of human life.
There is a very remarkable passage in Isaiah which we have quoted above and which seems to be parallel with the thought in Philippians. It tells us of those that mount up with wings as eagles; but immediately afterward we find the same persons coming down to the ordinary walks of life, to run and not be weary, to walk and not faint. It would seem as if the mounting up was just intended to fit them for the running and walking, and that the higher experiences of grace and glory were just designed to enable them to tread the lower levels of toil and trial. It is in keeping with this that the apostle speaks of glorying in tribulation. "Glory" expresses the highest attitude of the soul, and "tribulation" the deepest degree of suffering. And so it would teach us that when we come to the deepest and lowest place we must meet it in the highest and most heavenly spirit. This is going down from the Mount of Transfiguration to meet the demoniac in the plain below, and cast out the power of Satan from a suffering world. Yes, these are the sufferings of Christ. The power of His resurrection is designed to prepare, enable us and help us to rise into all the heights of His glorious life, that like Him we may go forth to reflect it in blessing upon the lives of others, and find even sweeter joy in the ministrations of holy love than we have in the ecstasies of Divine communion.