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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Cross of Calvary # 23

The Cross of Calvary # 23

The Depth of the Cross, continued

The margin of the R.V. gives the word "soul" for life, in every passage we have referred to, and Paul in his letter to the Corinthians throws light upon this, when he writes, "The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit."  "The first man is of the earth, earthy. The second Man is the Lord from heaven."

The life we are called to renounce, or hate, is that life which we receive from the first Adam. We may call it the soulish life, to distinguish it from the heavenly life, which is given to us in union with the Lord from heaven. In another place the Lord describes it as a man's "own life", therefore he loves it, for it is part of himself. We also love the soulish life because it works in the realm of the senses, or consciousness, and has more affinity with the things of earth. The emotional sensuous life is largely mingled with the true life from God in the early days of the child of God, hence the changing moods and "up and down" experiences of many, even when not convicted of definite disobedience, or of yielding to any known sin; but to live in the Spirit; walk in the Spirit; and depend alone upon Him Who is a life-giving Spirit, brings us into a realm of changeless peace, infinity beyond the pleasant emotions of the senses, and the changing joys of earth.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to wield the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and divide within us all that is soulish, from all that is true spirit. As the Word dwells in us richly, and the dividing takes place, it is for us to hate the soul-life revealed and "lose" it, by yielding it to the Cross.

If we would follow the Lamb, and have His life manifested through us, so that we truly walk in His steps in the midst of men, we must know the "depth" of the Cross, and if we would enter into all the benefits of His death, we must on our part deny, or renounce, or hate, all our "own" to take of His.

How far and how deep the renouncing goes determines how far and deep we know the power of His resurrection. We renounce our sins that we may die with Christ to the world; we renounce "I myself" and thereby give way to Christ Himself to reign within, and in like manner we renounce the soulish life, whence springs all the activities of the life on earth, and "always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus," learn to draw upon the life of Jesus, that it may be manifested in our mortal flesh,and through us quicken souls around.

The Cross and Ties of Earth

"He that loveth father or mother ... son or daughter, more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that doth not take his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me. He that findeth his life shall lose it" (Matthew 10:37, 38, 39).

Here we have a glimpse into one of the many aspects of what taking the Cross involves, and what renouncing the soul-life means.

The soulish life may be bound up in strong earth ties, lawful ties, yet held so tenaciously that they need the death of the Cross, and the deep working of the Holy Spirit to bring them to their right place "in the Lord". The keenest sword-work God has to do is the separating of soul and spirit in the relationships of earth, for the path of following the Lamb is scarcely possible without a point, some time or other, where the claims of the crucified One clash with ties of love. Then it is that "a man's foes" are "they of his own household", and loved hands are the ones that nail us to the Cross. Then it is that the Master whispers, "He that loveth" loved ones "more than Me, is not worthy of Me", and the obedient heart, with many tears, consents to follow the Lord, laying at His feet that wherein its life was bound; and losing all for His dear sake, find all given back transfigured by the joy of heaven.

Was it no suffering to the Lord Himself, when His kinsmen said He was beside Himself, and when they did not understand the necessity laid upon Him to fulfill His heavenly Father's will? He could do nought but obey the heavenly vision, although it meant a path contrary to the hopes of His friends.

Thus, oh thus, must it be with every follower of the Lamb. But also with every step - if assuredly and only, in obedience to God - will it be as with the Pattern; for the day did come when His brethren believed on Him, and His word was fulfilled in His own case, "He that loseth ...findeth".

The Cross and Confession of Christ

"Take up his Cross ...whosoever shall lose his life (soul) for My sake,and the gospel's, shall save it." (Mark 8:34, 35).

The context of these words indicates that the soul-life may be strongly centered in a love of popularity and fear of men, which would make the believer ashamed of Christ and of His words, in a time when the sinful generation around oppose Him, and the truth He spake from the Father.

"Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me, and of My words... the Son of Man also shall be ashamed of him, when He cometh in the glory of His Father" said the Lord in connection with His call to the Cross as recorded by Mark, when He spoke of losing the life for His sake and the gospel; and nought but taking the Cross of Christ, renouncing "I myself", and the soulish life of earth, can so sever us from the world, that we are not ashamed to be outside the camp, bearing His reproach.

The Lord knew beforehand the "offence of the Cross", and the offence of the message of the Cross, for the gospel as revealed to Paul is the "Word of the Cross". To preach the Christ as a pattern Man is no Cross, for His sermon on the Mount is admitted by the natural man to be unsurpassed by the words of any teacher ever known on earth. The arch-deceiver of men will even encourage men to copy the life described by the sermon on the Mount, if they will but leave out the Cross, and the Christ, as the enabling power; yea, even  more, the devil can give the power to outwardly, and seemingly, obey the laws of the kingdom, if thereby he can delude the soul into accepting a gospel that omits the Atoning Cross of Jesus Christ.

To preach a gospel of the Christ and His Cross, with peace alone through the blood of the Cross, and a Cross that speaks of separation from  the world, and claims an absolute entire surrender to the Man of Calvary, will mean in truth a losing, or renouncing, of the soul-life, for in preaching such a gospel as this, the soulish life with its love of the glory of men, is lost for the sake of the Christ and His gospel.

The Cross Daily

"Let him deny himself and take up his cross daily ... for whosoever would save his life (soul) shall lose it" (Luke 9:23, 24).

Just as the Apostle Paul said "always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus",so the Lord said, "Daily!"

We have seen in the writings of Paul that there is a union with Christ's death which admits us into a new sphere of life, whence we look back upon the Cross as a gulf fixed between us and the past; and we have seen also a continuous conformity to the death of Christ, which is a necessary condition for the ever increasing manifestation of the power of the resurrection reality.

In harmony with this after-revealed gospel to Paul, the Lord Christ bids His followers take the Cross daily. Daily we must definitely account that we are crucified with Christ, and arm ourselves with the mind of the crucified Jesus - becoming obedient unto death. Daily must there be the deliberate losing of the soulish life, that we may exchange it for the life of the Lord Himself. Daily we must be willing to be led into fuller conformity to His death, not making for ourselves a cross, but quickly yielding to the "Cross in the way."

Daily! Daily! Daily! the Lord calls to the Cross, if His children are truly to be His crucified messengers to a needy world.

The Cross and Its Claims

"If any man cometh unto Me, and hateth not his own father ... mother... wife... children... brethren... sisters, yea, and his own life, also he cannot be My disciple ... Whosoever doth not bear his own cross ... cannot be My disciple ... Whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26, 27, 33).

Unconditional surrender is the keynote of this entire passage, for the absolute claim of God, as Creator and Redeemer, upon all that we are, and have, is graphically put forth by the Creator-Redeemer Himself.

Every word is significant and unqualified. Father, mother, wife, children, brethren and sisters, must each and all be yielded to the Redeemer, henceforth to be held in the Lord, and for the Lord alone; and not only so, but the Redeemer claims the very life of the one He redeems, for the believer owes his life unto his Lord - he is not his own.

Neither may he leave the Cross to the Christ, and think that he can escape it. He must bear his own cross - i.e., the Cross of Jesus as it affects his own life - and follow the Lord in His path of the Cross all the way. Moreover, the taking of the Cross will without doubt lead him into places where he will learn that he has no resources in himself, and he will be compelled to "renounce all that he hath" as of no avail to meet the forces brought against him by the terrible foe.

"Renounces all that he hath," seems to be the summing up of the claims of the Cross, where the Christ purchased His redeemed with His own precious blood, but let us not forget that the believer "renounces" all only to be given "a hundredfold, now in this time", and "in the age to come eternal life".

In brief, we deny - or renounce - ourselves, or else deny the Lord who bought us, but if we have had the Cross of Jesus unveiled to us in the power of the Spirit, our "our own Cross" will be lost sight of in His, and we shall joyfully reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us by and by.

The call to the Cross is imperative; the claims of the Cross are unqualified; the glory of the Cross unspeakable. Shall we not heed the call?

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 24)

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Cross of Calvary # 22

The Cross of Calvary # 22

The Call to the Cross

"He that doth not take His cross, and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:38).

In the way to the Cross the Saviour cried, "Take up your cross, and follow Me", but He did not explain what taking the cross meant until He Himself had passed through death into the life beyond the tomb, and ascended to His place on the right hand of the Majesty on high. From there, through His chosen vessel the Apostle Paul, He interprets His Cross, and its claims upon all who desire to follow Him.

It is significant that Paul never says "take" your cross, but proclaims the Cross of Christ as a Cross which has already triumphed, and bids the believer enter into the triumph of his Lord.

The words of Paul interpret the call to the Cross given by the Lamb on the way to the Cross, and the words of the Christ interpret again the message of Paul. Although the Cross has already triumphed, and the work of deliverance and victory over the powers of hell is already accomplished, yet believers must individually accept the Cross in its experimental aspect, and deliberately choose to follow the Lamb in His path of the Cross on earth.

The call to the Cross from the lips of Him Who endured the Cross still comes to each of His redeemed, and foreshadows the only possible path in the present world for every follower of the Lamb.

Five times in the Gospels is the Lord's call to the Cross recorded, and each time is shown a different aspect of the Cross in the believer's life, when the call is truly obeyed.

Let us note first from the Master's words that - 

The Path of the Cross is Inevitable

"Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple" (Luke 16:27).

The path of the Cross was inevitable for the Christ. To Nicodemus He said that "as Moses lifted up the serpent ... even so must the Son of Man be lifted up", and to the disciples, that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer and be killed. The "must" was imperative. "Thus it must be," He said at another time. He must lay down His life for the sheep, and must bring them back to His Father.

But the path is the same for the Lamb and His followers. The "must" is as imperative for them as for Him, for did He not say that he who refuses to follow Him to the Cross, cannot be His disciple? Since the Christ took the Cross in the sinner's place to redeem him, he who would learn of Christ must take the Cross of Christ, or he cannot be taught of Him.

Until the time when the Lord Jesus began to show unto His disciples the path that lay before Him, they did not know what following Him would involve. They had heard His first call, and had left all to follow Him, believing that he was the Christ - as Peter had said one day - for they knew in their hearts that He spoke the words of eternal life and they had seen His mighty works and marveled at His grace. But a Cross! Suffering and death? No such thought had come to them, although "while all were marveling at the things which He did, He said unto His disciples, "Let these words sink into your ears, for the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understand not."

It is thus with many children of God today, but with the difference that they know that the Christ has borne the Cross, and they have life through His death, but that He bore a Cross which must be their cross also, has not been thought of by them. They have not realized that the crucified Lord must have crucified followers, and a true following of the Lamb can only be through death, for the Lamb can only go one way on earth - the way of being led to the slaughter. It is only in heaven that a throne is given to a slain Lamb.

The Meaning of the Cross

"If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).

Let him deny himself! Not deny pleasant things to himself; nor even deny the sins of himself, but deny himself, and all that is bound up in himself. Himself as the central source, or cause of action: himself as the central object of all things which come to him from without!

Himself! Any other word would have narrowed the Lord's meaning of the Cross, for it covers the whole of the deliverance of Calvary, as afterwards revealed by the Risen Lord to the Apostle Paul.

The crucial message of Calvary to man is salvation from "himself!" If he will take for himself the Cross and, accepting the spirit of the Cross as manifested in the Christ Who died for him, and "deny" - or renounce - himself as crucified on the Cross with his Lord, he will in so doing be delivered from the bondage of his sins, the terror of the law, and the spirit of the world, as well as the power of the devil.

Oh blessed gospel of Calvary! How simple, how deep, how effective, how wise, for "himself" is the center and cure of all the trouble, rebellion,selfish, pride and sin! Let a man look at himself as nailed to the Cross; day by day deny - refuse to know - himself, and calmly, quietly, take the path of the Cross, and he will follow the Lamb not only to Calvary, but right to the center of heaven, and share His Throne.

The Depth of the Cross

"Deny himself, and take up his cross ... For whosoever would save his life (soul) shall lose it" (Matthew 16:24, 25).

Three times the Lord follows His call to the Cross with mysterious words, unintelligible to the natural man, and to the believer who walks "according to men". "Whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life ... shall save it." Again when speaking - not of the Cross, but of the grain of wheat falling into the ground to die - the Lord uses almost the same mysterious words, this time saying, "He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."

We have been content with renouncing our sins, and keeping ourselves! We have failed to see that "himself" in a man may stand as completely in the way of the Holy Spirit as his sins, and still more we have failed to see that the life which flows in us from the source of the first Adam, may hinder the manifestation of the life of Jesus in our mortal flesh.

But what is this life which a man may seek to save,and in so doing "lose"? What life is this which we are disposed to love instead of hate, and suffer eternal loss?

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 23)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Cross of Calvary # 21

The Cross of Calvary # 21

The Crucifixion

"Forasmuch then as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves also with the same mind" (1 Peter 4:1).

The adversary may be a conquered foe; the power of the blood may be ready for us to wield in the hour of conflict; but unless we seek to know in ever deeper measure the inner Spirit of the crucified Jesus, we shall still be powerless in the fight with the forces of evil attacking us.

"Christ suffered in the flesh" writes the Apostle Peter, "arm ye yourselves with the same mind". The Lord Jesus deliberately chose the path of suffering in this present evil world. He deliberately took the form of a servant, although He was Lord of all; deliberately took the place of weakness, "becoming in the likeness of men", although He was Almighty; deliberately humbled Himself as a Man, by going to the lowest point of humiliation earth could find for Him, although in heaven He was on an equality with God; deliberately followed the path of obedience to God's will, even until it led Him to a Cross of agony and shame. Step by step, lower and lower He went. The Cross was no theory to Him! He suffered in the flesh.

Oh child of God, arm yourself with the same mind. Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus. If you will choose that the spirit of His death on the Cross shall be imparted to you, you will "cease unto sins", and no longer live according to the usual desires of the natural man, but according to the contrary standpoint of the "will of God". It is true that others will "think it strange", and may "speak evil of you", but "if ye be reproached for ... Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory, and of God resteth upon you; on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified".

We must be armed within by the inbreathed crucifixion Spirit of Jesus, if we are to triumph without; wield with certain victory the weapon of the "blood of the Lamb"; and prove experimentally that on Calvary the devil became a conquered foe.

The Whole Armor of God

"Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil ... having overcome all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:11,13).

Paul here most vividly describes the enemy, and the conflict into which we emerge on the resurrection side of Calvary.

"Be made powerful in the Lord," writes Paul, "and in the strength of His might". This pre-supposes that the believer has come to an end of his own might,for it is to those who have been "quickened with Christ", and "raised" up with Him, and made to "sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" - thus putting on "the new man" - that the Apostle writes.

How are they to act in the hour of fierce temptation? is the question in their hearts. They have been "crucified with Christ", and now moment by moment living by His life, are they to fight? or what are they to do?

They are to be "powerful in the Lord", and strengthened by His might in them, they are just to stand their ground! Stand against all the "wiles of the devil" to get them away from Calvary, and their place in the Lord.

"For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood" writes Paul. Wrestling - yes, the spiritual enemy attacks the spiritual man in a spiritual way, and the believer is conscious of a hand-to-hand conflict with some unseen foe, who, so to speak, winds himself around the inner man, and "wrestles" in very truth. To "fight" is hopeless, the believer can only "stand firm", and refuse at all costs to surrender his position in Christ, or yield to the wiles of the devil.

The reference to "flesh and blood" suggests that these "wiles" often come in human guise! But the soul strongly entrenched in the Lord is given acute vision to see "the spirit that now worketh", not only in the "sons of disobedience", but ofttimes by means of servants of God, as we have seen he did through Peter to tempt the Son of God, and when satan moved David to act without the commands of God.

Strengthened with power by the Holy Spirit in the inward man, the believer becomes a true warrior of God, increasingly able to recognize the principalities and powers as the "world rulers of this darkness", and learns that the "prince of the power of the air" has resources in the forces of the air to attack the child of God as he attacked Job, and is able to move men as tools to fulfill his will, even without their knowledge.

"Wherefore, take up with you to the battle the whole armor of God", cries the warrior Paul. The Christ has led these spiritual hosts of wickedness in triumph to His Cross, but you who are joined to Him most actively and ceaselessly, "take up" the armor thus provided for you.

Christ has not triumphed at the cost of His life to give thee nought to do, oh child of God. Thou hast thy part in the conflict, thou must overcome as He overcame, if thou art to share His Throne.

When thou dost learn the victory of Calvary,and hasten out of thyself into Christ, host after host will come up against thee,and seek to draw thee out from thy Lord. That thou mayest "withstand them in the evil day" thou must see to it that thou hast taken by the hand of faith every part of the armor of God.

If thou wilt put on the whole armor, thou shalt "withstand", and "having overthrown them all" - all the spirits of evil that will swarm around thee with innumerable wiles - thou shalt stand unshaken, victorious through the blood of the Lamb.

The "whole armor" is the Lord Christ Himself. Thou dwellest "in the Lord", and "in Him" thou must "be made powerful" to meet all the hosts of hell.

If thou wilt abide in Him thou must take heed to be "girt with the belt of truth", for one shade of aught in thy life that is contrary to truth, as before the eyes of Him Who is the truth, will bring complete defeat at the hands of the foe.

The breastplate of righteousness will be thine whilst thou dost truly abide in Him Who is thy righteousness, and dost not allow anything in thy life contrary to the righteousness of Him, the scepter of Whose kingdom is a scepter of uprightness indeed.

"In the Lord" thou must be a ready messenger of the glad tidings of peace, for thou art" saved to serve", and thou must with alacrity obey the promptings of the Spirit as thou dost walk the earth, of thou wilt give occasion to thy watchful foe.

Thou must quickly take,and hide behind, the "shield of faith" from the "fiery darts of the evil one", and especially keep the "helmet of salvation" upon thy head, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, thy "thoughts" should be corrupted from the "simplicity that is in Christ". Above all, for defense and attack, thou wilt ceaselessly need the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, which is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword.

In intimate converse with thy Lord, speaking to Him at "all seasons in the Spirit", thou shalt be equipped to meet the foe, and be more than conqueror through Him Who loveth thee.

Knowing also the fierceness of the fight, and that when one member of the Body of Christ suffers, all suffer too; thou wilt with "all perseverance" be pleading for "all saints", especially on the behalf of those who, like the warrior Paul, are in the front of the battle of the Lord.

Then thou shalt be taught by Him how to "stand in the battle in the day of the Lord", and wilt be sent forth as an armed warrior, clothed in shining armor, in aggressive warfare to win the trophies of the Cross, seeing signs and wonders done in the Name of the crucified and Risen Lord.

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 22)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Cross of Calvary # 20

The Cross of Calvary # 20

The Hour of Triumph

"Having put off from Himself the principalities and the powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Colossians 2:15).

This is the tragedy of Calvary described from the divine standpoint.

At the moment when, before the eyes of the world, the prince of the world succeeded in putting to open shame and humiliation the Christ of God, triumphing over His body even unto death;at the same moment before God and the hosts of heaven, principalities and powers were themselves put to shame, and triumphed over by the Christ they crucified.

Paul says they were "displayed", "as a victor displays his captives or trophies in a triumphal procession." The Conqueror, so to speak, "leading them in triumph" before the hosts of heaven. The metaphor used is the same as in 2 Corinthians 2:14, where Christ leads in triumph those who are conquered by His love, and gladly become the trophies of His death.

What a picture is here before us of the victory of Calvary! What a contrast to the scene is now presented!  The mocking multitude around the Cross little know of the triumphal procession in the unseen realm, when all the hosts of evil were put to open shame by their Conqueror.

The Apostle, in such a picture, places "the paradox of the crucifixion in the strongest light ... The convict's gibbet (gallows) is the Victor's Car."

The testimony of the Holy Spirit

"The Comforter ... will convict ... of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged" (John 16:7-11).

On the eve of His Cross and passion, the Lord told His disciples of the coming of the Spirit of truth to dwell in them, to bear witness to Him, and glorify Him.

Before the Cross, the Lord had said, "now is the prince of this world cast out", but after His death and resurrection, the testimony of the Spirit would be, "the prince of this world hath been judged."

The Son of God accomplished the victory over the powers of hell upon the Cross of Calvary, and the Holy Spirit is given to convince the world of the victory, and bear witness to the work of the Son of God.

Yet how few of the children of God realize that, through the death on Calvary, the adversary of their souls is a conquered foe! How few know how to meet the wiles of the evil one, and yet fewer how to attack him in aggressive warfare, and participate in the triumphs of the Cross!

The Blood of the Lamb

"They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death" (Revelation 12:11).

In this chapter of the Apocalypse, the veil is drawn aside for a moment to show the conflict in the unseen world.

Whether prophetically it speaks of some special time in the future, is immaterial for us now to consider. It is at least clear, that just as there was a final conflict on the Cross between the Prince of life and the prince of darkness, when the latter was cast down from his place of authority over all who would trust in the crucified One, so there will be a final conflict in the heavens, when the hosts of the Lord will come forth to cast the dragon and his angels down to the earth, whence they will finally go into the pit, and then into the lake of fire.

But the dragon and his angels are still at large. Though the principalities and powers were conquered on the Cross of Calvary, there is an interval between that glorious triumph,and the time of their final casting down - an interval during which each redeemed soul must appropriate the victory of Calvary,and individually overcome the conquered foe, and thus win the crown with those overcomers who will share the Victor's Throne.

In this unveiling of the final conflict in the heavens, we are shown the threefold secret of victory, and the way in which each overcomer triumphs over the foe.

"They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb." This takes us back to Calvary and the sufferings of the Christ. These overcomers had manifestly been taught by the Holy Spirit the victory of the Cross; the blood - or death - of the Lamb was, therefore, the one weapon they used against the foe.

This was accompanied by "the word of their testimony" - a fearless confession of Christ, and "they loved not their life even unto death." They not only wielded the power of the Cross for victory over the evil one, but they had drunk in the spirit of Him Who died, and consequently lived the crucified life, triumphing over the prince of darkness through the Spirit of their Lord.

The Cross is the way of victory for all the children of God. United to the Lord in His death, they share His risen life, and are seated with Him in the heavenlies, "far above all" the principalities and powers of hell.

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 21)

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Cross of Calvary # 19

The Cross of Calvary # 19

The Cross and the Powers of Darkness

Another aspect of the work of Christ upon the Cross of Calvary comes before us here. By His death He "spoiled principalities and powers", and "made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in Himself", writes Paul to the Colossians.

These principalities and powers are described in Ephesians 6:12, as the "world-rulers of this darkness", wicked spirits or spiritual hosts of wickedness" in high, or heavenly places.

The victory of the Cross was especially mentioned by Isaiah, when he foretold that the Man of sorrows would "divide the spoil with the strong"; and now Paul the Apostle proclaims that on the Cross the Lord Christ spoiled the principalities and powers, and triumphed over them.

Christ again we notice the clear vision of all that was accomplished at Calvary, given to souls on the resurrection side of the Cross. It is not until the believer apprehends his death with Christ, as well as Christ's death for him, that he actually passes in to the sphere which Paul describes as the "heavenlies", where he lives "in the Spirit", and walks "after the Spirit."

In this sphere he realizes the actual existence of the forces of darkness described by the Apostle, for they are "spiritual" hosts, unknown by those who walk "after the flesh", who are "yet carnal", and live "according to men."

It is therefore to the interest of the "world-rulers of this darkness", that the children of God should not apprehend the two-fold message of Calvary, through which they enter the sphere where their eyes are opened to the wiles of the devil, and where they see that their "wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the ... spiritual hosts of wickedness.

It is true that the adversary of souls resists the message of the Cross in every aspect, but all the powers of hell are aroused to prevent the believer's knowledge of the victory of Calvary over the prince of darkness and his evil hosts,for on the earthward side of the Cross, the subtle foe often persuades even true children of God that he does not exist at all; or else he magnifies his power, and holds them in thraldom (in bondage and slavery) to habits of sin, deluding them into belief that there is no deliverance on this side of the grave.

In service for God, also, many Christians are wielding carnal weapons, of no avail against the real foe. Others are filled with earnest plans, and labor with heart and soul to win the masses to their Lord; but behind and around is the evil one, and the real but unseen hosts of wickedness, who laugh at every weapon of the flesh, and fear not but the power of the finished work of Christ, when manifested by the Holy Spirit, through men and women who have become in very truth crucified messengers of a crucified Lord.

Since this is so, we do not marvel that the prince of darkness hates the Cross; spares no effort to nullify its message; hides its full meaning from the children of God, and hesitates at nothing to keep them from knowing its power.

Fully aware of the prophecy of Isaiah that the Man of Calvary would take "the prey from the terrible", and "divide the spoil with the strong", by pouring out His soul unto death, the "terrible one" himself came to the Christ of God when He walked on earth, and tried his utmost to keep Him from the Cross. In the wilderness he offered Him all the kingdoms of this world, without the necessity of going to the Cross, if He would but bow down to him. But with His face set as a flint to accomplish His Father's will, Christ answers "It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God", and turns from the tempter toward the Cross of shame.

The temptation was renewed later through the lips of His disciple Peter when he prays the Master to "pity Himself", as he hears from Him of His prospective sufferings and death. "Get thee behind Me, satan," said the Lord. "Thou art a stumbling-block unto Me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men."

satan is baffled once more, and leaves the Son of God "but for a season", before renewing his attack again and again. He raged against Him through the demons who possessed the bodies of men, for all "wicked spirits" knew that this Holy One of God would end their authority and power over men.

At last the final conflict is at hand. The adversary has failed to turn the Christ from the Cross, and now becomes the bitter instigator of it.

The words of the Son of God as He drew close to the time of His sufferings show that He clearly knew the purpose of His death. It was to be not only "a ransom for all", but a final and complete triumph over the powers of hell. "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up out of the earth, will draw all men unto Myself," said the Lord to His disciples, foretelling the power that would be centered in Calvary to draw souls unto Himself, out of the death of sin, and the captivity of the devil.

As the supper table again the Lord said, "The prince of this world cometh, but he hath nothing in Me", for He loved the Father, and as He gave Him commandment to go to the Cross, even so He would do. He would lay down His life, of His own free choice, to save the sheep from the wolf who had snatched them from their God.

Failing utterly in his attempt to keep the Son of God from the Cross, the prince of darkness enters into one of the Master's own disciples, to lead Him to the Cross.

At the supper table the devil "put into the heart of Judas" the awful thought of betraying Him; and after he had taken bread from the very hand of Christ, "then entered satan into him",and he hastens away to fulfill the wishes of the archenemy of his Lord.

Oh solemn fact that the spirit of evil must find human beings to carry out his plans, even as the Holy Spirit of God seeks yielded hearts and lives to fulfill the counsels of God.

"This is your hour, and the power of darkness", said the Christ later, when, in the garden of Gethsemane, after His agony even unto blood, they seized Him, and led Him to the judgment hall. From this moment He was given over to the world-rulers of this darkness, who were permitted to exercise their power upon Him to the full, and by the hands of wicked men, through whom they worked their will they "killed the Prince of life."

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with# 20)

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Cross of Calvary # 18

The Cross of Calvary # 18

Crucified to the World - continued

The Elements of the World in the Christian Life

"If ye died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as though living in the world ...?" (Galatians 2:20).

The Galatian believers were in danger of going back to reliance upon works of law for growth in their Christian experience, but the Colossians were being drawn aside from Christ in another way - through "philosophy" and "tradition of men" - which Paul plainly said was "after the elements of the world, and not after Christ."

To both Galatians and Colossians Paul had the same message - the message of Calvary.

He would not add one more voice to the clamour in Colosse, for the Colossians were already perplexed enough with "precepts and doctrines of men"; one and the other judging them in respect of "meat" and "drink" and feast days. All external things which, under the old law, were a "shadow of the things to come" in Christ, and are now of little importance. The Apostle takes them back to Calvary, and says "If ye died with Christ", "why" are you acting as if you were still "living in the world"?

Why do you go back to the "childish lessons of outward things", and submit yourselves to the rule of others, who are "taking [their] stand upon the things ... men, vainly puffed up by [the] fleshly mind", and not holding fast to Christ, Who is the Head of His body, the Church, and is the life of His members, so that His body increases from within, by a spontaneous life which is the very "increase of God"?

But if you have died with Christ, so that now you are joined to Him as your life, why go back to the ground of "Touch not" this or that? All these exterior things "perish with the using". "Meat will not commend us to God: neither if we eat not are we the worse; nor if we eat are we the better."

Paul owns that all ascetism has a "show of wisdom", but it is, as far as commands from God go, a "self-chosen worship". It has the appearance of "humility", and wise "severity to the body", but none of these things are "of any case against the indulgence of the flesh."

The Colossians had died with Christ from all these elements of the world - elements which were "after the tradition of men" - the outcome of "vain deceit" in men's minds, imagining that thus they could conquer themselves, but this was not following Christ. In Him was the true circumcision - the circumcision of the heart; they were buried with Him in His grave, and quickened with Him to a new life; therefore they were not to act as if they were now "living in the world".

Crucified with Christ, they were "raised together with Christ", and a heart belief of this would bring in a supernatural power - the power of Christ's resurrection. Instead of being occupied therefore with cutting off exterior things, and questioning whether they should do this or that, they should have been seeking the things above, and setting their mind on the heavenly fullness which was theirs in Christ.

"For ye died," repeats the Apostle, "and your life is hid with Christ in God." They were severed from the old life to share the life of Christ; and through this life from God they could "make dead" their "members", and learn the secret of deliverance from the indulgence of  the flesh.

The dangers that assailed the Colossian believers are ours today, oftimes under the name of holiness, or consecration.

Worldly Christians (what a contradiction of terms!) are not so liable to these special snares, but those who long to follow the Lord, are quickly influenced by the "precepts of men", especially those of men whom they esteem very highly in love for their work's sake.

The Cross of Christ is the message, and the remedy for all. Let us truly consent with all our hearts to be crucified with Him, and it will not be long before we find that the world is crucified to us; it will have lost its power to attract; or in its religious aspect to influence us in our walk before the Lord.

All that is "in the world; the lust of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the vainglory of life" all that is "not of the Father, but is of the world", will be crucified to us, and we shall overcome the world; because greater is He that is in us, than "he that is in the world."

The Cross as the Basis of Unity

"Made nigh in the blood of Christ."

"He is our peace, Who made both one ... and ... reconcile them both in body unto God through the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (Ephesians 2:13, 14, 16).

If the Cross of Calvary is the severing power between the child of God and the world, it is equally the uniting power between all who draw nigh to God through the precious blood.

It is on the life-side of the Cross that the blood-bought children of God most clearly realize the oneness of all who are "in Christ Jesus". The message of Calvary is preached to the sinner as the ground of reconciliation with God, but emphatically should it be proclaimed as the ground of unity between man and man, even between the professing followers of Christ.

How sorely we need to see that all divisions between true children of God are of those "elements of the world" to which they have died with the crucified Lord; and so far as we tolerate aught in our lives from which Christ died to deliver us, so far is there a "practical denial of the efficacy of Christ's death."

Paul the Apostle, who had once been of the most exclusive caste of the Hebrews, clearly saw that the death of Christ had broken down all walls of partition between men who sought to worship the same Lord. And so with the same intensity that he once sought to stamp out the followers of the despised Nazarene, he abandoned himself to the claims of the crucified One, and with no uncertain sound preached "the faith which he once destroyed."

The word of the Cross revolutionized his life; swept away his pre-conceived ideas: his national prejudices; his pride of race; his exclusive caste.

The Cross as the gateway into a new life is Paul's constant theme, and writing to the Colossians he impresses upon them that they have died with Him Who died, henceforth to live in a new sphere where the distinction and divisions of earth have no place; where there "cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman: but Christ is all and in all."

"In one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free" he writes again to the Corinthians.

The Jews called the Gentiles the "uncircumcision", and the barrier between them consisted of an outward rite, as well as the Mosaic law, and the Levitical sacrifices; all ordained by God until Christ Himself should come as fulfillment of all, and as the one complete and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the people.

Paul says that Christ "abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances", and Himself became the peace,for out of Jew and Gentile He would create of the twain "one new man", for Jew and Gentile, as Jew and Gentile, died with Him. If they drew nigh to God through Him, Jew and Gentile were reconciled unto God in the body of Christ, therefore through the Cross He slew the enmity between them.

Oh glorious message of Calvary, out of which the Christian Church has sprung, and all the blessings of freedom which we enjoy; for through the Cross of Calvary, so marvelously illumined to Paul the Apostle by the Risen Lord Himself, and Paul's own faithful preaching of the Cross, we "Gentiles" have become "fellow-heirs", "fellow-members", "fellow-partakers", of the promise in Jesus Christ through the gospel.

And yet in the professing Christian Church, called by the name of Christ, is to be seen the same barriers between worshipers of God, as stood between Jew and Gentile in the days of Paul!

"He came and preached good tidings of peace", writes Paul to the Ephesians. The Risen One, with the marks of His passion in His hands; He Who died to create out of all the races of men "one new man", comes Himself with the message of peace. Oh that He may come again to His people today with the same glad tidings, showing to us His hands, and His side, and saying: "Peace be unto you", uniting all the sections of the living members of His Church, "Through the Cross!"

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 19)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Cross of Calvary # 17

The Cross of Calvary # 17

Crucified To The World

"Far be it from me to glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14).

On the resurrection side of Calvary, the Apostle looks out upon the world, and sees the Cross once more in its separating power standing between him and the world. With the light of God streaming upon Calvary, he cries, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross".

The Apostle is driven to this outburst by the memory of some who were shirking persecution for the Cross. The Cross was an "offence" in a special way in the days of Paul. It offered salvation full and free to all men, Jew or Gentile, apart from the external rite of circumcision. This meant the end of Judaism with its exclusiveness, and its carnal commandments. He Who is a Spirit, henceforth sought worshipers to worship Him in spirit, and in truth; who would offer Him spiritual sacrifices of praise in the spiritual temple of the heart (John 4:23, 24).

To preach such a gospel needs must mean offence, and the pleasing of Christ rather than men.

Nay more, "I have been crucified with Christ" even to the religious world, cries Paul, and if I preach the Cross as the Lord Christ has unveiled it tome, I see that His Cross will be the "instrument of my crucifixion as of His!" In truth I have already suffered the loss of all things, but God forbid that I should think aught of my sufferings for Christ, rather let me glory "in His sufferings for me". In the light of all that Calvary meant to Him" the offence of the Cross is my proudest boast". God forbid that I should glory in anything save in the Cross of Christ. On that Cross I have been crucified to the world, and the world has been crucified to me. Henceforth we are dead each to the other. In Christ Jesus old things have passed away. Circumcision is out, and uncircumcision is not. All external distinctions have vanished. The new spiritual creation is all in all.

Such a view of Calvary as this is only to be known on the life-side of the Cross, when in the light of God, is stands out in all its glory, as the wisdom and power of God.

In early days we shrink from the demands of the Cross, and it only seems to speak of separation and death, but as the soul walks in intimate fellowship with the Loving One, His death on Calvary becomes illuminated with heavenly light, and the vision grows more and more acute to see into the depths of the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that shall follow, "which things angels desire to look into."

To Paul the Cross is, as it were, a great gulf fixed between him and every phase of this present evil world. Crucified with Christ he is not only delivered from the tyranny of sin, and the claims of the law, but from the world itself, in all its aspects.

The Lord Christ died "that He might deliver us out of this present evil age"; on the Cross delivering us "out of the power of darkness" - the world-rulers of this darkness" - and translating us "into the kingdom of the Son". We are therefore crucified to the world, not simply "worldly" things, or ways, but to the world itself; and, crucified with Christ, we must expect the world to look upon us as it looked upon Him, when He hung upon the tree. Nailed there with Him, we too must look at the world from the Cross, and with the spirit of the crucified Jesus pray for those who mail us to the Cross.

That we may view the world in the light of the Cross, let us once more go to the place called Calvary, and see arrayed against the Holy One of God all the elements that go to make up this present evil world, and know what all who are united to Christ must expect, if so be they suffer with Him, that they may be also glorified together.

"The soldiers when they had crucified Jesus took His garments... Let us... cast lots" (John 6:23, 24).

In the four soldiers gambling at the foot of the Cross, we see that side of human nature which is callous to the sufferings of others, and takes advantage of all who are in its power.

Alas, what multitudes today are represented by the executioners of the Christ. They cry "let us eat and drink,for tomorrow we die", and have no thought beyond the physical needs of the moment.

To souls who are responsive to the crucifixion, and capable of feeling sensitively for others, what suffering it is to meet this element in this evil world. Alas for all who are in its power!

"The chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders,said ... let Him now come down from the Cross, and we will believe." (Matthew 27:41, 42).

There is also a "religious" world which rejects the Cross of Jesus. They who are not prepared to follow a crucified Lord; who "love the chief place", and the "chief seats", and the salutations of the market-places, and to be called of men, "Rabbi". They who "say and do not", and "all their works they do for to be seen of men". This religious world loves not the Cross, although in the twentieth century it bears the name of Him Who died upon the Cross. Love of power, and the praise of men, is contrary to the spirit of the Cross.

"They that passed by railed on Him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ha! Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself, and come down from the Cross." (Mark 15:29).

The mixed multitude pass by the Cross, and join in the general cry. They are but sheep led as a flock by the leaders of men. They see the mind of the leaders, and are quickly swayed by the spirit of the hour. They pass by the Cross, and rail on the crucified One, casting words that He had spoken in His teeth.

Soldiers and thieves, rulers, chief priests, elders, and scribes, with all the multitude, were of one mind that awful day. Religious men, rough soldiers, criminals, and men of the world, all forgot the barriers that separated them, and joined together at Calvary. One united cry came from their lips, "If" He was the Christ, "let Him save Himself." The Cross appeared to them the proof that He was not the Son of God. Let him give supernatural signs, and they would believe. It was not too late to prove Himself the Messiah, "let Him come down" - that was all!

So it is today. All the elements of this present evil world become united at Calvary. The fleshly element; the wise of the world; the criminal classes; the traditional religionists; join with the special forces of the evil one in the great revolt against the Cross. And once again they who stand by the Cross of Jesus are a little band, the very preaching of the Cross marking them out as "crucified to the world". The Cross becomes the instrument of their crucifixion as of His. The Cross once again manifests its severing power. There is no neutral ground at Calvary.

Had we stood by the Cross of Jesus that awful day, would we have cried "The offence of the Cross shall be my proudest boast!" Shall we consent to take the Cross, and to be ostracized by the world? The worldly world; the world with its aims, its interests, its spirit of self-seeking, self-glorifying and self-love; yea, even the religious world, in so far as the "elements of the world" are in it, and it seeks to come between us and our Lord. "Jesus ... suffered without the gate. Let us therefore go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 18)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Cross of Calvary # 16

The Cross of Calvary # 16

The Severing Power of the Cross

"Wherefore we henceforth know no man after the flesh" (v. 16).

In the light of the Cross, Paul looks out at the world of men, from a different standpoint to that he held, when as a Pharisee he walked in the streets of Jerusalem.

Then he was a "Hebrew of Hebrews". He would have no dealing with Samaritans". But all his exclusive caste has passed away in the light of Calvary, and in the life in union with the Risen Lord. "Henceforth I know no man after the flesh," cries Paul - for I live now in the sphere where all distinctions are done away, where there "can be neither Jew nor Greek ... but all are one in Christ Jesus."

Separated still from men, "stand by thyself, I am holier than thou," but separated unto God by the indwelling Presence of the Holy One Himself. Yet living unto God he is nearer to men, for he sees them as souls for whom Christ died," and knows that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek" in His sight, for "the same Lord is Lord of all", and is rich unto all that call upon Him." He is separated by the Cross from earth-born exclusive pride, to be toward all men in Christ's stead, and, as his Lord, the servant of all.

Paul sees, too, as possible a knowledge of Christ "after the flesh," from which the Cross severs by the power of the Holy Spirit. A knowledge of Christ which is, so to speak, an exterior knowledge, even as the disciples knew Him before Calvary; knowing Him, and yet not knowing Him, as He really was within the veil of His human body.

Even so today is it possible to know the historical Christ. His life, His death, His resurrection, and ascension, all may be exterior facts, known to the mind, but exercising no real power in the life. Participation with Christ's death changes all this, for on the life-side of the Cross, the Holy Spirit reveals the Risen Lord, and He is known "after the Spirit," as the living One.

The New Life in Christ

"wherefore if any man is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new" (v. 17).

The "wherefore" in verses 16 and 17 both point back to verse 14. If any man is in Christ - baptized into His death - through the gateway of the Cross he enters the sphere where Christ becomes his environment, as well as his new source of life. Joined to the living Christ, old things pass away, for in Christ there is a new creation, not an improving, or culture of the old.

On the life side of the Cross, the soul united to the Living Christ is said to put on the "new man."

By the daily supply of the Spirit of Jesus the "new man" grows continually to a more perfect knowledge and likeness of His Creator and grows up "after the image of Him that created him," in the sphere where "Christ is all, and in all." The child naturally grows up in the likeness of his father, and the new life communicated to the redeemed grows up in the likeness of Him Who is the Creator of the new creation, if so be that the death with Christ is unflinchingly recognized, and "old things" are truly allowed to pass away to make room for the growth of the new man "which is after God ... created in righteousness and holiness of truth.

The New Service for Others

"All things are of God..."
"Having placed in us the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors ... on behalf of Christ" (verses 18, 19, 20).

It is to the new man in Christ, who clearly knows his separation unto God, and meets no man any longer on earthly ground, but in the name of Him Who died for all, that God commits the "ministry of reconciliation." 

It is written upon their hearts, wrought into their very beings, even as Ezekiel did "eat the roll", ere he spake with the very words of God to Israel. Even so are Christ's ambassadors prepared that they may truly speak on behalf of Christ, and "in God's stead."

Through them the "word of the Cross" is manifestly the power of God, for they are "working together with Him," Who through them entreats the souls for whom He died, that they will not "receive the grace of God in vain," but give heed to His call in this day of salvation.

The Outward Life Depicted

"Giving no occasion of stumbling ... but in everything commending ourselves" (2 Corinthians 6:3, 4).

From the basis of the Cross in chapter 5:14 we have seen depicted, in steady progression, the characteristics of the life which springs from Calvary, and is lived in union with Him Who died, and rose again. 

"No longer unto self" is the fixed decision; "unto Him who for my sake died" the unvarying aim; "I see all souls as those for whom He died" the principle of action toward others; "old things have passed away" the continual attitude to the past; "He has placed in me the word of reconciliation," the constant responsibility to others; I must work together with Him, the restraining and watching attitude day by day.

"No longer unto self" is shown in vivid object lesson in the brief sketch of the Apostle's own life which follows. His outward circumstances meant afflictions, watchings, distresses, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watchings, fastings, but the new life was manifested in much patience, pureness, knowledge of God, long-suffering and kindness. A life truly lived "in the Holy Spirit," in genuine love, speaking the word of truth in the manifested power of God.

Protected by the armor of righteousness on every side, Paul had lived this life through glory and dishonor; through evil report and good report. He had been counted as a deceiver, and yet he was true; he was unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and yet behold he lived, by the daily renewed power of the life within him.

As chastened with keenest suffering, yet not killed, for the enemy could not touch his life; as sorrowful over all the need of the dying world, yet always rejoicing in Him Whom he had learned to know; poor in every way, but making many rich with eternal treasure; having nothing in, or for himself, yet possessing all things in Christ, in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

There is no room for living unto self in this pattern, oh, child of God, and so far as thou art truly united to thy Lord, and made conformable to His death, shalt thou know in thy measure, this life which springs from Calvary, and walk even as He walked, to the glory and praise of God.

Measure thy life by loss instead of gain;
Not by the wine drunk, but the wine poured forth,
For love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice -
And whoso suffers most hath most to give.

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 17)