Life out of death —
Dear Master, is it spoken
Of the life here, or in the better land?
Nay, wherefore wait? the vessel marred and broken,
Shall now be molded by the Potter’s hand.
Life out of death —
Oh, wondrous resurrection!
Seed sown in conscious weakness, raised in power;
Thy life lived out in days of toil and friction,
“Not I, but Christ “ in me — from hour to hour.
Life out of death —
A pilgrim path and lonely,
Trodden by those who glory in the Cross;
They live in fellowship with “Jesus only,”
And for His sake count earthly gain but loss.
Life out of death —
Blest mission to be ever
Bearing the living water, brimming o’er,
With Life abundant from that clear, pure river,
Telling that thirsty souls need thirst no more. — M. C.
He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal” (John xii. 25). The word “life” here is expressed by two Greek terms having quite a different meaning. The one, as the margin of the Revised Bible suggests, might be translated “soul”; it is the Greek psyche, and stands for our lower, our soulish, or self-life; the second word refers to the higher, the divine life. If we love the lower life, if we listen to the philosophy of the world, which is “Spare thyself: the cross be far from thee,” we lose, of necessity, the higher, the abundant life; for we cannot have, at one and the same time, what the world calls “life” and what Christ calls “life.”
Mr. Spurgeon tells of a raw countryman, who brought his gun to the gunsmith for repairs. The latter is reported to have examined it, and ﬁnding it to be almost too far gone for repairing, said, “Your gun is in a very worn-out, ruinous, good-for-nothing condition, what sort of repairing do you want for it ?” “Well,” said the countryman, “I don’t see as I can do with anything short of a new stock, lock and barrel; that ought to set it up again.” “Why,” said the smith, “you had better have a new gun altogether.” “Ah,” was the reply, “I never thought of that: and it strikes me that’s just what I do want, a new stock, lock, and barrel; why that’s about equal to a new gun altogether, and that’s what I’ll have.” That is just the sort of repairing that man’s nature requires. The old nature must be cast aside as a complete wreck, and good for nothing, and the man made a new creation in Christ Jesus. But willing as we may be to admit this truth, few lessons are harder to learn.
Christ’s sacriﬁce utterly condemned me in my natural state. It was as if he said: “O Righteous Father, I offer up and renounce this man’s impure soul, that it may die; and that My life may live and grow in him.” Have I yet learned to hate, renounce, deny, and deliver over to death, in the unity of my Lord’s sacriﬁce, my condemned selfhood? Until I have, I shall never know the meaning of the words “If any man serve Me, let Him follow Me,” for we only follow Him by sharing in the spirit of His self-sacriﬁce.
That may mean for us a way of humiliation and seeming defeat; but not in service that arrests widespread notice, or excites the admiration of the multitude, do we always best serve Christ. Ours may be a baptism of sorrow and pain, for strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth to this life, and few there be that ﬁnd it.
The soulish life longs for ease, for indulgence, for display, for wealth, for position, for popularity, and it is recorded as one of the marks of the grievous times that characterize the last days, that “men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, . . . without self-control, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof” (2 Tim. iii. 2-5, R.V.).
It has been remarked that all things thrive in proportion as they relate themselves to the world around them; in proportion as they surrender themselves to their environment. While the branches surrender their independence and lose themselves in the tree, they grow beautiful with leaf, and ﬂower, and fruit; but as soon as they detach themselves from the general life, they begin to wither and rot, and men gather them into bundles and burn them. While the members surrender their individual life to the one life of the body, the rich blood courses through them, and they become strong and vigorous, but a severed member soon becomes a withered and shapeless thing. So the selﬁsh man ethically destroys himself by selﬁshness. In proportion as we give we shall receive, and the power of perfect sacriﬁce is also the power of perfect life.
The exclamation of Jesus, in John xii. 27, reminds us of the pain and anguish which accompanied the sacriﬁce of Himself. “Now is my soul troubled, yet what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy Name.” Here is a picture of the conﬂict which goes on in many lives between the higher and the lower natures, when God’s call comes, to account ourselves dead, and “to be united together with Christ by the likeness of His death” (Rom. vi. 5, R.V.).
How many agencies God employs to bring to an end the power of our self-life! “Think of the seed cast into the earth exposed to wintry winds; trodden under the feet of those who drive the rake and harrow over it; buried out of sight and left alone, as if cast out by God and man to endure the slow process of a daily dissolution, then melted by rains and heats until its form is marred, and it seems useless to either God or man.” So in a variety of unexpected and unwelcome ways does God bring to death that which He has condemned. How strikingly this is illustrated in the case of Job! Yet all the despoiling forces, men and devils, friends and foes, were held in leash by the strong hand of Love, who, when His purposes were accomplished, said, “Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.”
To cry out, “Save me from this hour!” to shrink and murmur, is only to disappoint God, to aggravate the evil, and to frustrate His purposes of grace. It is through the valley of the shadow of death, through the ﬁery way of trial, that we are brought into the wealthy place. It is God who directs the movements of the Sabeans and Chaldeans; it is He who permits the whirlwind to devastate and death to destroy, and our deliverance is not in ﬂeeing from the marauding bands, but in saying, as Jesus did, “Father, glorify Thy name!” Whatever this means of severance and suffering, “Father, glorify Thy name!” and like our Master we shall hear a voice which assures us, “I have both gloriﬁed it, and will glorify it again.”
We shall do well to be on our guard against attempting to conquer self by any active resistance we can make to it by the powers of nature, for “nature can no more overcome or suppress itself, than wrath can heal wrath.” Our very efforts to overcome it, seem to give it new strength; self-love ﬁnds something to admire, even in the very attempts we make to conquer it. It will even take pride in what we mean to be acts of self-humiliation. There is no deliverance for us from this dread tyrant but in God. We are not skillful, or brave, or disinterested enough to wage this war alone. We must set ourselves against this foe which is His as well as ours, and while we strive in all things to work together with Him, we must trust Him to work for us and in us, till self shall die slain by God’s own breath. As living, intelligent beings, we must yield to the inspiration of the power that kills and makes alive, for God does not work irresistibly as upon dead matter, but intellectually and spiritually as upon honest mind. Self being reckoned dead, its gross affections may be put to death; so that instead of the works of the ﬂesh will appear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. v.19-24). “Instead of the thorn shall come up the ﬁr tree, and instead of the brier the myrtle tree” (Isa. lv. 13). Instead of the repulsive I life, shall appear the beautiful Christ-life. No longer I, but Christ.”
Let us get these three truths ﬁrmly ﬁxed in our mind. First, the death of self with Christ is the one only way to life in God. This is the one condition of the promised blessing, and he that is not willing to die to things sinful, yea, and to things lawful, if they come between the spirit and God, cannot enter that world of light and joy and peace, provided on this side of heaven’s gates, where thoughts and wishes, words and works, delivered from the perverting power of self-revolve round Jesus Christ, as the planets revolve around the central sun.
Secondly, the only cure for self is condemnation unto death with Christ. It is unreformable in its character, and immutable in its workings. It can no more change from evil to good than darkness can work itself into light, and therefore death to self is the one only way to life in God.
Thirdly, the only conqueror of self is Christ. It is the law of the Spirit of life in. Christ Jesus, that sets us free from the law of sin and of death (Rom. viii. 2). The ruling monarch will never dethrone himself, but if we welcome the Christ of God into the temple where self has been enshrined, the hideous idol will fall before His word as Dagon fell before the ark.
As Andrew Murray says: “Self can never cast out self, even in the regenerate man. Praise God! the work has been done. The death of Jesus, once and for ever, is our death to self. And the gift of the Holy Spirit makes our very own the power of the death-life.”
A word of warning is perhaps necessary, lest, actuated by some selﬁsh aim, our self-sacriﬁce only becomes deeper self-seeking. It is not a bartering of a bad self for a better self, but a foregoing and utter renunciation of self for ever. “Whosoever will lose his life for My sake,” said Jesus, “shall ﬁnd it.”
Self-sacriﬁce for the sake of self-discipline is a delusion indeed; it is nothing but self-culture; the very life we profess to be seeking to overcome is actually being fed and strengthened by, what we think to be, blows struck at its very existence. Our self-sacriﬁce is utterly valueless unless it bears this stamp upon it, “For My sake.”
As to the recompense of this self-renouncing life. What words can describe it! For a season everything may seem to be dark and dreary; there may be a desertion and a loneliness which are hard to the ﬂesh, but as suffering was the pathway which the Saviour trod in order to enter into His glory, so through this same experience is every son of man gloriﬁed, and God is gloriﬁed in him. As one has beautifully said: “Those who die with Christ are safe with Him.” For His own life-guard of angels is about them, to watch and roll away the stone, that the dead may, in due time, rise again.”
In all true sacriﬁce there is more of joy than sorrow. The whole life of God is just the outﬂowing of His love, and the sacriﬁce of Christ is simply the full revelation of that wondrous love. It is no pain, surely, to a lover to give himself and all he has to his beloved. Nay, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” and the richest, truest, and most lasting of all blessedness is the blessedness of self-giving. The stairway of self-oblation leads men ever upwards and onwards, from the life of Christ to the likeness of Christ, the fellowship of Christ, the throne of Christ, and the glory of Christ: “For to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father on His throne.”
“Measure thy life by loss instead of gain,
Not by the wine drunk but by the wine poured forth;
For love’s strength standeth in life’s sacriﬁce;
And whoso suffers most hath most to give.”