"Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Cor. xiii. 5).
"Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. i. 27).
Dear brother, do not think you can make holiness popular. It cannot be done. There is no such thing as holiness separate from "Christ in you," and it is an impossibility to make Christ Jesus popular in this world. To sinners and carnal professors, the real Christ Jesus has always been and always will be "as a root out of a dry ground, despised and rejected of men." "Christ in you" is "the same yesterday, today, and for ever" -- hated, reviled, persecuted, crucified.
"Christ in you" came not to send peace on earth, but a sword; came "to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt. x. 35, 36).
"Christ in you "will not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed of penitence and humility; but He will pronounce the most terrible, yet tearful, maledictions against the hypocritical formalist and the lukewarm professor who are the friends of the world and, consequently, the enemies of God. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jas. iv. 4). "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (I John ii. 15).
In the homes of the poor and the haunts of the outcast, "Christ in you" will seek and save the lost, and will sweetly, tenderly whisper, "Come unto Me, I will give you rest"; but in stately church and cathedral, where pomp and pride and conformity to the world mock God, He will cry out with weeping and holy indignation, "The publicans and harlots shall go into the Kingdom of Heaven before you."
Christ in you is not a gorgeously robed aristocrat, arrayed in purple and fine linen and gold and pearls, but is a lowly, peasant Carpenter, horny-handed, truth-telling, a Servant of servants, seeking always the lowest seats in the synagogues and feasts, condescending to wash the disciples" feet. He "respecteth not the proud" (Ps. xl. 4), nor is He of those who "flatter with their tongue" (Ps. v. 9); but His "words are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" (Ps. xii. 6); words "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Seek to know and follow in the footsteps of the true, real Jesus; the humble, holy Peasant of Galilee; for, truly, many "false Christs" as well as "false prophets" have gone out into the world.
There are dreamy, poetical Christs, the words of whose mouths are "smoother than butter, but in whose hearts is war; whose words are softer than oil, yet are they drawn swords" (Ps. lv. 21). There are gay, fashionable Christs, "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God having forms of godliness, but denying the power (holiness of heart) thereof; which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. iii. 4-7).
There are mercantile Christs, who make God's house a den of thieves (Matt. xxi. 13).
There are feeding Christs, who would catch men by feeding the stomach rather than the heart and head (Rom. xvi. 18).
There are learned, philosophical Christs, who "spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world" (Col. ii. 8).
There are political-reform Christs, who forget their Father's business in an all-absorbing effort to be elected, or elect, a ruler over this world; who travel half-way across the continent to deliver a speech on prohibition or women's rights, while a hundred thousand sinners are going to Hell at home; who vainly endeavor to club the fruit off the branches rather than to lay the axe at the root of the tree, that the tree may be good (Matt. iii. 10).
They wanted to make the "Christ in you" a king one day, but He wouldn't be a king, save of men's hearts. They wanted to make Him a judge one day for about five minutes, but He wouldn't be a judge. He made Himself of no reputation (Phil. ii. 7). He might have stopped on the throne of imperial Rome, or among the upper classes of society, or the middle classes, but He went from His Father's bosom, down past the thrones and the upper, middle and lower classes of society to the lowest place on earth, and became a Servant of all, that He might lift us to the bosom of the Father, and make us partakers of the Divine nature and of His holiness (2 Pet. i. 4; Heb. xii. 10).
"Christ in you" gets under men and lifts them from the bottom up. If He had stopped on the throne He never would have reached the poor fishermen of Galilee; but, going down among the fishermen, He soon shook the throne.
It will not be popular, but "Christ in you" will go down. He will not seek the honor that cometh from men, but the honor that cometh from God only (John v.44; xii. 42, 43).
One day a rich young man -- a ruler -- came to Jesus and said, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" (Mark x. 17). No doubt, this young man reasoned somewhat thus with himself: "The Master is poor, I am rich. He will welcome me, for I can give Him financial prestige. The Master is without influence in the state -- I am a ruler; I can give Him political power. The Master is under a social ban, associating with those poor, ignorant fishermen; I, a wealthy young ruler, can give Him social influence."
But the Master struck at the heart of his worldly wisdom and self-conceit, by saying unto him, "Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor; and come, follow Me." Come, you can serve Me only in poverty, in reproach, in humility, in social obscurity; for My kingdom is not of this world, and the weapons of this warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. You must deny yourself, for if you have not My spirit you are none of me (Rom. viii. 9), and My spirit is one of self-sacrifice. You must give up your elegant Jerusalem home, and come with Me; but, remember, the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head. You will be considered little better than a common tramp. You must sacrifice your ease. You must give up your riches, for "hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom"? (Jas. ii. 5). And it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter that kingdom. Remember, when you do this, you will lose your reputation. The bankers and belles of Jerusalem will say you are beside yourself, and your old friends will not acknowledge you when they meet you on the street. My heart is drawn to you; yea, I love you (Mark x. 21), but I tell you plainly that if you will not take up the cross and follow Me, you cannot be My disciple; yea, "if any man come to Me, and hate not *[That is, to love the human in a lesser degree than the Divine.] father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke xiv. 26). If you will do this, you shall have treasure in Heaven (Matt. xix. 21).
Do you not see the impossibility of making such a radical Gospel as this popular? This spirit and the spirit of the world are as fully opposed to each other as two locomotives on the same track running toward each other at the rate of sixty miles an hour. Fire and water will consort together as quickly as the "Christ in you" and the spirit of the world.
Do not waste your time trying to fix up a popular holiness. Just be holy because the Lord God is holy. Seek to please Him without regard to the likes or dislikes of men, and those who are disposed to be saved will soon see "Christ in you," and will cry out with Isaiah: Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts"; and, falling at His feet, they will say with the leper, "Lord, if Thou wilt Thou canst make me clean." And Jesus, having compassion on them, will say, "I will, be thou clean."
Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. Paul.
To do God's work we must have God's power. Therefore Jesus said: "Tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:49.) And again He said: "Ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you." (Acts 1:8.)
The soul-winner receives this power when he is sanctified wholly and filled with the Spirit, and he need never lose it. But while the Holy Spirit abides with the believer, there yet seems to be need for frequent renewals of the power He bestows. And, thank God, He he made ample provision to meet this need. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength," said Isaiah. "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord," cries David.
Years ago President Asa Mahan wrote as follows of his old friend: "The extraordinary power which attended the preaching of President Finney during the early years of his ministry was chiefly owing to a special baptism of the Spirit which he received not long after his conversion; hence it was that when through him the 'violated law spake out its thunders,' it did seem as if we had in truth 'come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, and unto blackness and darkness and tempest and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words.' But when he spoke of Christ, then indeed did his 'doctrine drop as the rain, and his speech distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb and as the showers upon the mown grass.' The reason also why he is bringing forth such wondrous fruit in his old age is that while his whole ministry has been under the power of the Spirit, his former baptisms have been renewed with increasing power and frequency during a few years past."
The need for these frequent renewings and anointings does not necessarily arise from backsliding. Sometimes the soul feels the need of a renewal of its power when confronted by great opposition, danger and powerful foes. The apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost, and had not only won their great Pentecostal victory, but many others as well, when suddenly a stubborn wall of opposition arose before them. They were arrested by the rulers, thrust into prison, brought before the high priest, sharply questioned by what power and name they were working their miracles, and then when no ground for punishment could be found, they were threatened and commanded to preach no more in the name of Jesus.
When they were let go they went to their own people, told them what had happened, and began a sweet, childlike, heaven storming prayer meeting, told the Lord the story, too, and cried to Him to show forth His power, and then a wonderful thing happened; Pentecost was repeated; "the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness, and with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great peace was upon them all."
They waited before the Lord and their strength was renewed, their power reinforced from heaven. their past victories put into the shade and "a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."
Sometimes the need for this renewal of strength arises after great victories. For victory is usually secured as the result of great spiritual and mental activity, and often physical activity as well, and it is but natural that there should be a reaction; the pendulum, if left alone, swings to the other extreme. Depression may follow, the powers of soul and mind relax, joyful emotions subside, and the inexperienced soul-winner may at this point get into great perplexity, and suffer from fierce temptation; and strain himself to keep up his accustomed spiritual activity, crying out with David, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me?" And again. "My flesh and my heart faileth," and imagine himself to be backsliding. But what is needed now is not so much anxious wrestling with God as quiet waiting upon God for a renewal of power, saying to his soul, "Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance, and my God," and though heart and flesh do fail, "yet God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." At such times the strength of the soul is to sit still in quietness and confidence. (Is. 30:7, 15.)
I once heard a wise old evangelist, one of the mightiest this country has produced, say that while at home after a season of rest, the Spirit of God would come upon him, leading him to earnest prayer and travail for the salvation of men. This was God's way of preparing him for a campaign, and for victory, and away he would go for battle and siege, to rescue the souls of men, and never did he fail to win. But after a while there seemed to be an abatement of power, when he would return home for another season of rest and quiet, waiting upon God for the renewal of his strength. And thus he continued till he was past eighty, still bringing forth fruit in old age.
Again, there is sometimes need of a renewal of power owing to weakness and infirmity of the flesh. Paul must have received a great addition of power when, instead of removing his "thorn," Jesus said to him, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." And such was the uplift that Paul got at that time that ever afterward he took "pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake," glorying in them, since through them the power of Christ rested upon him, and in weakness he was made strong. Spiritual power is not necessarily dependent upon physical energy, and however much he may be afflicted with infirmities there are mighty enduements of power for the soul-winner if he intelligently and with quiet and persistent faith seeks them from on high.
There will be times of loneliness and spiritual agony such as Jesus suffered in the Garden, or Elijah when he felt that all the prophets were slain, and there was none true to God in Israel but himself. Or again, when there is widespread barrenness and desolation, when revivals have ceased, and worldliness sweeps in like a flood, and there is apparently no vision, and God seems silent, and the devil mocks and taunts, then the soul-winner will need to have his spiritual strength renewed. And he may fully expect such a renewal. The angels are all round about him, and the heavens are bending over him, and Jesus has lost none of His tender interest and sympathy for him. An angel came and strengthened Jesus in His agony (Luke 22:43), and an angel strengthened Elijah for his long and lonely journey, and an angel came to Daniel and said, "O man, greatly beloved, fear not; peace be unto thee; be strong, yea, be strong." And not only an angel, but the Lord Himself will surely empower His trusting workers. It was Jesus that cheered Paul in the chief captain's castle (Acts 23:11), and John on the lonely Isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:17), and so He still cheers and strengthens His servants and warriors. Bless His name!
These renewals of power are not always necessarily of an extraordinary character. There are sometimes great uplifts of physical strength without any apparent cause, but ordinarily a man's physical strength is renewed by rest and the timely eating of proper food. And so there may be times when the Spirit of God falls upon the soul-winner, giving him great uplifts and visions and courage. But ordinarily power comes by the use of the simple means of much regular prayer and patient, diligent searching of God's Word and a daily listening to God's voice It is renewed like fire, not by the fall of lightning from Heaven, but by the addition of new fuel; like physical strength, not by some hypodermic injection of fresh blood, but by proper food. David calls upon his soul to bless God "who satisfieth thy mouth with good things so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." (Ps. 103:5.)
This will require time and attention on our part, but it will be time well spent. It is by appropriate food, then, that the soul is strengthened. Jesus told us what that food was when He said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matt 4:4.) And does not this correspond to Paul's statement that though the outward man was perishing, yet "the inward man is renewed day by day"? and with that passage that says, "The Lord revealed Himself unto Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord"? It is the Lord that renews our strength, but He does it not in some mysterious way, but by means of His Word, which we read and meditate upon and appropriate by faith. Through it we see Jesus and come to know our Lord. Bless His name!
My own strength is usually renewed by the opening up of some new truth, or the powerful application of some promises, or portion of the Word of God to my soul, which I am enabled to make my own by a definite and bold, affectionate and daredevil act of faith in secret prayer.