By Norman P. Grubb
THE life in the Spirit is bound to have one hall-mark that the nature of God is reproduced in the personality handed over to Him; for such a handing-over implies total immersion in and possession by the Spirit of God, to be made like Himself, and He is God. God's nature has one essential characteristic. He is totally self-giving. He pours Himself out in an everlasting stream of blessing on all His creation. He is "the eternal will to all goodness". He finds Himself in losing Himself.
Now, if that Spirit indwells me, He must of necessity turn me in a like direction. The Spirit that took the Savior to Calvary for the world and "drove" Him to offer Himself without spot unto God, must drive me out of self-pleasing into self-giving, out of indulgence into sacrifice, out of security into service, out of care of myself into concern for others.
This "drive" incidentally, is the glory of the Gospel. It means that we do not tell the unwilling, the fearful, the self-pleasing, the soft, which we all are by nature, to be this or that for God; to deny themselves, to give up things, to endure hardship, which they cannot and don't want to do; but we bid them only to do one thing, acknowledging frankly all weakness and unwillingness to commit themselves to the control of God's Spirit. That is all. They need not even necessarily be willing to do this. But let them just do it. For, if they do, a Person comes in...an Almighty Person...the Third Person of the Trinity. He is mightier than our wills. His nature is the nature of God. And if once we give Him honest possession, He sets to work to change us. He changes our wills, melts down our opposition, sets them on a new bearing, to will the will of God and to love to will it, till it becomes a consuming passion with us, till we will literally die rather than disobey God.
He changes our outlook, having ourselves at last found a bottom to life, a heart satisfaction, a light to the mind, a way for the feet, we find ourselves joining the ranks of those who have a contribution to make to the world, not merely a merchandise to make of it. We pass from the number of the getters to the givers, and it is by the inner redirection of the Spirit that this change takes place.
Aglow ourselves with the joy of the Lord, our own needs met in Jesus, it dawns on us somehow, as on the starving lepers who found the good things in the deserted camp of the Syrians: "We do not well; thus day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: ... Let us go and tell..."
Moreover, a sense of responsibility comes upon us. We have been in great danger and knew it not, we were slaves and had given up hope of liberation. Now freedom, food and clothing, and a welcome home is ours. And not only ours but the world's, if they but believed it. Some know it and mock. Thousands about us do not know, through a false idea of what the good news is. Millions have yet never had a chance to hear. We are debtors. We owe it to our next-door neighbor as well as to the most distant of our brother men. By increasing stages a new passion inflames us. The glory of it dawns upon us. That such as we can be, not merely inheritors of eternal life, but transmitters of it. These lips can bring heaven to a hell-bound soul. We are captured by a new commission. Surely indeed we are changed.
But to carry this out means a price to be paid. In a world that shows its true nature by baring its teeth if brought into too close quarters with God, it is never an easy thing to speak of Christ. It is abnormal, fanatical. Ice has to be broken, commonplaces bypassed, the circumference of vague religious comment pierced till the center of personal challenge is reached. Time has to be used which normally is frittered away in gossip or hobby. Concentration is necessary when it is customary to relax. The Spirit has begun to lead out along the way to Calvary.
Burdens grow heavier. What can be done for the souls around in business or neighborhood, in the town and in the district where our church is located? Time must be given for prayer, for concerted action with fellow Christians. Evenings become occupied, meetings attended.
Missionary visitors give yet a wider vision. There is a world in need. How can the Gospel be taken to every creature? Can I go myself, leave home and daydreams and loved ones, risk life and health and security? To the few, the call comes plain and the great step is taken into a life set apart for all time to be lived amongst strange people, to wrestle with ignorance, disease, superstition. To the many, not that actual call comes, but a sense of a necessary share in it; money must be given, loved ones painfully yet gladly offered, and the very simplest things of everyday life become touched by the marks of the Cross-the wardrobe, the meal table, the expenditure on pleasure and luxuries-that more may be given to the spread of the kingdom. The home itself becomes more threadbare, maybe, as parlor or drawing room, once kept like a new pin for special occasions, is constantly used for "squashes" and prayer meetings.
By this way or that, the self-giving nature of God takes up its abode in our nature and produces these radical changes. They become our very nature, derived from, as C. T. Studd once wrote, "The Holy Spirit of God, one of Whose chief characteristics is a pluck, a bravery, a lust for sacrifice for God, and a joy in it which crucifies all human weaknesses and natural desires of the flesh."
So let us get this clear. The evidence that the third Person of the Trinity is dwelling in me is certainly not just ecstasies and exalted feelings; it is not merely the gentler graces of love, joy, peace; it is also the sterner characteristics of God's soldier, a passion to sacrifice for a world's salvation, a courage to witness, a steadfastness in afliction, an actual doing of soldier's deeds.
We think it essential to emphasize this, for in countries where Christianity is at least the nominally accepted faith, it is easy to miss it. It was the natural accompaniment of conversion in the early church. Only "through much tribulation", they were plainly told, could they enter into the kingdom of God. The model converts of those days were born in the midst of "much affliction with joy of the Holy Ghost". The companies of believers who adhered to God's Word in its purity through the centuries ever had the marks of the martyr upon them.
In a remarkable book by E. H. Broadbent,  a well documented account is given of the numerous bodies of faithful believers who have never ceased to maintain the faith from Apostolic days up to the present. Sometimes we get the idea that in the "Dark Ages", when Rome appeared to dominate the religious scene, the light had almost gone out. Not so indeed. This book shews that thousands upon thousands resisted the claims of the false church unto blood, and that the faithful followers of Christ today are not, as Rome would have it, schismatics from the so called "mother church", but can trace their descent in a straight line through great bodies of believing Christians who, cost what it might, never acknowledged any authority but that of the Scriptures, nor any Head of the church but Christ.
Of the early days of the Roman Empire up to A.D. 300 we all know, when "a conflict ensued in which all the resources of that mighty power were exhausted in a vain endeavor to vanquish those who never resisted or retaliated, but bore all for love of their Lord. All their possessions were confiscated, they were imprisoned, and not only put to death in countless numbers, but every imaginable torture was added to their punishment, and every portion of the Scriptures that could be found was destroyed. Yet in the end the Roman Empire was overcome by the devotion to the Lord Jesus of those who knew Him."
But of the centuries that followed, which "unfolded the growth in worldliness and ambition of the clergy both of the Eastern and Western Catholic Churches, until they claimed entire dominion over the possessions and conscience of mankind", we realize much less what "countless saints there were who suffered all things at the hands of the dominant world-church rather than deny Christ or be turned back from following Him". The true histories of these were obliterated by their enemies as far as possible, and their writings, sharing the fate of the writers, have been destroyed. Yet movements of revival never ceased to be repeated.
In the earlier of these centuries, from A.D. 300 onwards, Asia Minor and Armenia were frequently the scene of such revivings, the churches being called Paulicians. Persecution of them reached its greatest height under the Empress Theodora, who was responsible in the ninth century for the death of about 1,000,000 persons; and their elders in those perilous days were asked this question before hands of consecration were laid on them: "Art thou then able to drink the cup which I am about to drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am about to be baptized?" To which they answered: "I take on myself scourgings, imprisonment, tortures, reproaches, crosses, blows, tribulation and all temptations of the world which our Lord and Intercessor and the Universal and Apostolic Holy Church took upon themselves."
Likewise the Bogomils, the "Friends of God", from about A.D. 800 onward; scattered through Eastern Europe from Hungary to Bulgaria, "through their heroic stand for four centuries against overwhelming adversity must have yielded examples of faith and courage second to none in the world's history". With them were linked in common faith, practice and endurance, such better known bodies of believers as the Albigenses in France, Waldenses in Italy, and Hussites in Bohemia.
Through the Reformation period and later, the sufferings of the churches are better known, and we only have to instance such a conference at Augsburg in 1529 which was called "The Martyr's Conference", because so many who took part in it were later put to death. Many others in those days were branded with a cross on their foreheads. In Austria the accounts of the numbers put to death and of their sufferings are terrible, yet the spread of the churches was marvelous. "There never failed to be men willing to take up the dangerous work of evangelists and elders. They went full of joy to their death. They found that God helped them to bear the cross and to overcome the bitterness of death. The fire of God burned in them."
Converts in many mission fields still have these same experiences, especially in Moslem and Roman Catholic lands; and believers in several of the modern totalitarian states have had to choose between denial of Christ and the concentration camp.
But we Christians in our more "fortunate" circumstances do not get conditions of suffering like this forced upon us, and equally we are obviously not called upon to look for trouble and seek martyrdom, but rather to thank God that our lives are fallen in more pleasant places. But this is the point. To us also the inescapable pressure of the Spirit comes, if we are really His to the limit, which will not allow us to live our lives on the comfortable level of such a word as "God has given us richly all things to enjoy"; but rather on those others which say: "All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient"; "Though I be free from all, yet have I made myself servant to all, that I might gain the more"; "I endure all things for the elect's sake." Enjoyments there will be, many and continual, for all life has joy and zest in it when it is mediated through Christ; but a conscious binding sense of dedication will be upon us, a voluntarily accepted yoke of holy servitude. We are prisoners of the Lord, bound in spirit, even as Paul deliberately renounced certain of life's normal privileges that he might better preach the Gospel, a kind of voluntary extremism. So will we, in this way or that, according to the measure of our faith and light, gladly give up some of the lesser good to gain the greater. We shall be a people with a purpose, even as for temporal ends the athlete denies himself, the scientist devotes himself, the soldier risks himself.
In a special sense it appears that the Holy Spirit sets men apart, when they allow Him to, for special ends, and lays on them the burden that has to be borne, the price to be paid, the travail to be endured, and even the death to be died, to bring that special end about. It is what the Scripture calls God finding an intercessor. They are rare, for God in a past emergency wondered that there was no intercessor. It is costly to be an intercessor, reaching far beyond the ordinary prayer-life of request and supplication, for there is expenditure of heart's blood and agony of soul in it. "He poured out His soul unto death," we read, "and was numbered with the transgressors, and bare the sin of many"; and so, it says, "He made intercession for the transgressors."
The reward of the intercessor is as great as his travail. He fulfils the law of the harvest. He goes through the processes of death, accepts them voluntarily, has them laid on him by the travailing Spirit who groans within him with groanings which cannot be uttered; and by so doing the upspringing of the harvest, resurrection life for the world, is as sure as that spring and summer follow winter.
And here he is no longer in the school of faith, but the life of faith; for this death and resurrection process is not now for his own sanctification, but for a world's need. God has at last found His servant on whom He can lay the kind of burdens the Savior carried, not for himself and for his own growth in grace, but for others. It is a share in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. It is the third and final meaning of the Cross in the individual life; the Cross first borne by Christ alone for our sins, then shared by us with Christ for our sanctification, and now borne in turn by us for our neighbor's salvation. It is the outworking of the Cross referred to by Paul when he said, "So death worketh in us, but life in you."
In this life of an intercessor there are positions that are gained by faith, and once gained need not be lost unless we foolishly let them go. The same truth can be seen in the elementary stages of faith: once a person is saved, for instance, he knows it, glories in it, and it is in no sense hard to abide in the certainty of salvation, if the ordinary precautions for daily abiding are observed. The position of saving faith has been gained. In sanctification the same. There is the travail, the complete surrender, the battle of faith, and then the full assurance of faith. Once again a new position of faith has been reached, and the believer can abide at ease in his "Beulah land", in union and communion with his Lord, unless he deliberately forfeits his inheritance. And so in more advanced experiences, in the Christian harvest field, for which the gaining of these personal positions are but the preparation; for their real meaning has been to "teach our hands to war and our fingers to fight"; not to give us some static experience of imparted grace, but some dynamic knowledge of how to wield the weapons of faith by which God can now do through us for others what He previously did in us for ourselves. We have learned in the school of faith how to wage a good warfare on the battlefields of the Spirit, and now we can use our knowledge in the life of faith.
Christ the Intercessor, after His early years of personal training; went out to do His intercessory work at the command of the anointing Spirit, and gained His position of faith, the right to be Savior, after three years of obedience unto death. Again and again He referred to the pressure on His spirit during those years; "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished." To His disciples, in His early ministry, He said: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work." To His Father, just before Calvary: "I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do." To the world, with His last breath: "It is finished." It was said twice over by the writer to the Hebrews that it was through His sufferings that He was perfected as pioneer of our salvation and author of eternal life to all who obey Him. And now we see Him still the Intercessor, not in the heat of battle, but enthroned in triumph. Then He was pouring out His soul unto death, but now dispensing the fruits of His victory: "able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." On the basis of that battle once fought, that life once poured out utterly for our transgressions, He can now lead captivity captive and give the constant gift of His Holy Spirit to men.
We also, in our lesser spheres, can gain positions of faith and do the full work of an intercessor. At the roots of every golden harvest field of souls reaped by the Spirit of God, there lies a life or lives which have been intercessors, lives lived under a deep and enduring sense of urgency, clear direction, absolute dedication to the task. They have had to carry this specific burden in prayer night and day. They have had to go and live long years amongst that strange tribe. They have had to give and give and give again out of their sometimes dwindling resources. They have had to stick to their tract distributing, open-air meetings, sick visitation, or whatever it may be, large or small; for the intensity of the devotion, not the size of the commission, is what matters to God.
And then comes a time in such a single-hearted ministry when the break occurs, sometimes in the lifetime of the intercessors, sometimes after, and it seems as if heaven's windows are open and God's storehouses unlocked, and the blessing just flows. It is the Pentecost after Calvary. Such a truth can be seen in the lives of the great intercessors. Abraham's whole life as stranger and pilgrim, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, was such an intercession, and God's covenant to him has never failed through the centuries; Israel was always able to ask for God's intervention on the ground of His oath to Abraham. Moses paid the price for Israel's redemption, and Joshua enjoyed the success. David had the same covenant blessing for a successor on his throne. And, supremely, of course, the Savior and the church He bought with His blood.
It is good to understand this spiritual law of the harvest. It helps us to fulfill our ministry strategically, intelligently. We see where we are going, not just faithfully but rather hopelessly witnessing a good confession in a difficult place, but understanding that if we pay the full price of our calling and realize that our labors and lonelinesses, our setbacks and disheartenments, our heart agonies and pleadings with God and man, are that price, that necessary dying process of the seed; then we shall go on and go through, and faith may flicker but will not fail. We are fulfilling certain unchangeable laws of the Spirit under the guidance and by the inspiration of the Spirit.
We believe that in many a work of God-in our own missionary society, for instance, through the price paid by our founder C. T. Studd; in the China Inland Mission, likewise, through Dr. Hudson Taylor; in the Salvation Army, through General Booth; in the Orphan Homes, through Dr. Barnado and George Muller, the succeeding generations, enjoy the abundant fruits of the intercession made by these great men of God, an intercession in which we, of course, in measure are also partners; and there indeed also lies the danger of a second and third generation work; that so much comes easily to them which others have paid the price to obtain, and the battle spirit, the fire, the zeal, the sacrifice of the founders dies away.
We can never get beyond the Cross. There certainly is a sense in which even the Cross can be given a wrongful prominence. It is not meant to be in the foreground, but background, of the scene; not the superstructure, but foundation, of the building. To parade the Cross, whether in its outward form, as do the Roman Catholics with their crucifixes, or in its inward dynamic by over display of, or overemphasis on, the cost of discipleship, is to draw wrongful attention to it. It is life, not death, that is our message, a living and returning, not a crucified, Christ. C. T. Studd put it rightly when he wrote on a postcard, when leaving for the heart of Africa:
Take my life and let it be
A hidden Cross revealing Thee.
But, at the same time, just because the world lies in darkness and error, and because we Christians ourselves can so easily be turned out of the narrow way, there has to be constant attention called to our foundations, and constant emphasis laid upon the fact there is no other foundation to the kingdom of God than the Cross of Christ.
We know this very well as our entry into life. We have learned it as our way of deliverance from inner bondage. We see it now and finally as the law of harvest. We never get beyond the Cross, neither in time nor eternity, for we have learned that release of life and power on the spiritual level can only come about through death on the natural level. "Self-control," which is the Cross in action, "releases energy on a new level." This remains true in the tiniest as in the biggest things of life, and it takes us back to the essential message of this book, and, much more important, of The Book. Grasp it and one has grasped "the secret of the Lord". That "way" is, to repeat once more, that every battle of life concerning ourselves, our circumstances, or our neighbors, is first fought and won within. The battleground is ourselves, and the victory is Christ's Cross in its inner operation. If we turn our attention away from our reactions, resentments, proposed activities, with reference to a situation, and die to them, die till we are inwardly free from the motions of self, then God's voice can be heard, His way seen and His outlook accepted; and then we can receive, believe and act on it. Resurrection life has begun within ourselves, and will forthwith express itself through look and word and deed. What is won within is won without, what is lost within is lost without, and the secret is the Cross.
Paul wrote a triumphant letter on the secret of the Cross applied to daily life, in his second epistle to the Corinthians. It glows with glory. It rings with triumph. Yet almost every chapter has reference to the intensity of his sufferings, his endless trials, his "fightings without and fears within." Paul is seen in his human weakness in that letter, and he describes right through, from first chapter to last, how he learned by experience the great secret. Almost his first words were that he had the sentence of death in himself that he should not trust in himself but in God who raises the dead; in the middle he has a whole passage on bearing about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in his body; and at the end he tells how he gloried in the revelation that when he was weak then was he strong; gloried to the point that in future he would actually take pleasure in anything which weakened or frustrated or brought to nothing his life on the natural level. It was a well-learned lesson, for he was able to say, in this same letter, that though he walked in the flesh (felt all the limitations of an ordinary man), yet he warred not after the flesh; the weapons of his warfare were not fleshly, but mighty through God. He had learned how to live by dying, how to fight by yielding; and he summed it all up by saying that he knew and desired to know no other way than his Master's, who "though He was crucified through weakness, yet liveth by the power of God;" adding that "we also are weak, sharing His weakness, but with Him we shall be full of life to deal with (this or that thing) through the power of God."
1. The Pilgrim Church, Pickering & Inglis, 8s
2. Isa. 59:16
3. This is the special teaching of the book of Hebrews with reference to the high priesthood of Christ. See 2:9-18; 4:14-16; 5:1-10; 7:22-28; 9:11-15; 10:5-14; 12:1-3.
4. See Chapters 3 and 4.