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Christ Formed in You

By J.B. Stoney


      I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. - Galatians 2:20.

      THE subject I desire to bring before you this evening is CHRIST FORMED IN YOU, of which the apostle speaks in this epistle, when he writes; "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you," Galatians 4:19. You must first know justification. You will not receive this great grace, "Christ formed in you," until you enjoy justification. Many here may think that they know justification. Justification is more than assurance through faith in the blood. You are justified when you believe that God has raised up Christ from the dead; He "was delivered for our offences, and was raised for our justification." Let me exercise your hearts a little as to the acceptance with God which you have found because of the resurrection of Christ. Have you learned that you are not only sheltered from the Judge by the blood of Christ, but that the man who was under the judgement of God has gone in death? If you believe this, it must be plain to you that the man under the judgement of God has been judicially ended in the cross of Christ. Hence the believer is not before God as the man who was under His judgement, but you, a believer, are before Him as Christ is -- the Man who bore the judgement and has been raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. Christ glorified God in bearing the judgement. There is a Man in glory at the right hand of God. If you study the latter part of Romans 5, you will see the difference between Adam and Christ. Adam was a figure of Him that was to come, and "If by one man's offence death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." It becomes of the deepest importance whether you are accounted by God as Christ, the Man who has risen from the dead, or as the man under the judgement of God. If you have accepted in faith that Christ has risen from the dead, you must see that the man ended in the cross of Christ cannot appear before God. You must admit that our old man is crucified with Christ:you cannot make anything of a dead man. After the Lord appeared unto Saul of Tarsus, for three days he neither ate nor drank. What was he doing? He had heard the voice of the Lord; he had seen the light; there was no question as to the divine work in him; but what was he doing those three days? He was appropriating Christ's death. And that is where the great lack in souls is. Saul found that the only way to get clear of the man under judgement was through the death of Christ. And mind you, it was not that Saul was a wicked man, for he said, "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day"; but he had found the death of Christ the only way out of the man who could not stand in the light of God. The type of this was when Israel walked through the Red Sea. They did not make the way, they did not even find the way themselves; it was God's light that showed them the way, and it was God's hand that made the way, but they walked through it. I lay great stress upon that. I am speaking now of justification; I have not touched yet on the subject before me; because if you are not clear about justification, you will never understand what it is to have Christ formed in you; and unless Christ is formed in you you will never progress, you will never understand the things of Christ. It is necessary that you should have Christ formed in you before you can be in the order of things in which Christ is. You must first be established in grace.

      But to proceed with justification. God has now a Man before Him who has risen from among the dead; and righteousness is imputed unto us "if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead." The youngest here can understand that if you speak of resurrection you imply that one had died. But you must first see how God reveals the scope, the nature of His grace to you; that is, that He has sent His own Son, and His own Son has borne the judgement upon man, hence that man is judicially terminated in the cross in the eye of God for every one believing in Christ. Adam sinned and fell; but God has a Man before Him now who not only did all His pleasure, but glorified Him in the most distant spot in bearing the judgement upon man; and according to that Man He now deals with the believer. It is an immense thing to see how God was so glorified by Man that there was nothing to prevent His heart going out in all its own fullness, and delighting itself in receiving a returning prodigal; that is your acceptance. I want you to apprehend your acceptance. If you do, it must be upon this footing and no other, that the man under judgement has gone from the eye of God in judgement, and that you are as Christ is; if you believe that, you must see that you cannot improve the man who is gone from the eye of God; he cannot be dealt with. Saul could say that he had lived in all good conscience before God until this day. What did he find? He found he could not stand in the light of God's presence, he fell to the ground. And. what does he learn then? That through the death of Christ he is clear of himself; he learned "that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwelleth no good thing." As afterwards he could say, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." It was not the bad things that he did that he counted loss, but the good things, what we call the naturally good qualities. Like the young man in the gospels; Luke 18. It is quite possible for a man to keep the five commandments that the Lord asked him had he kept. The Lord did not ask him his duty towards God at all; He asked him as to five commandments ; and he says, "All these have I kept from my youth up." Saul found that he could not stand in the presence of God though he had lived in all good conscience, because he was under the judgement of God. " If there had been a law which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law." Now he found that there was no recognition of that man before God ; that man could not be maintained in the presence of God ; he finds he is clear of him in the death of Christ ; and after three days he prays ; he is dependent on God ; and then comes Ananias to tell him, Receive thy sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

      Now I come to my subject. Saul received the Holy Spirit. Every one justified has received the Holy Spirit ; but I press first that God has removed everything to His own satisfaction and glory in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that He accepts the believer now according to Christ ; and therefore, "As he is, so are we in this world." That is the acceptance ; no fuller, no greater, could be ; it could not be altered nor improved. But now comes our side. God gives the Holy Spirit to you believing in Christ, that you may be in practical correspondence with all that He has effected for you.

      But before speaking of this, I must diverge a little, because I must look at the present state of many souls. I speak from my own experience. I long knew that everything had gone from the eye of God in the cross, and that to look up to Him was unspeakable satisfaction ; but when I looked at myself I did not see it gone ; and many a sorrowful day was I trying to correct it. Still God's side remained perfectly true ; all had gone from the eye of God in the cross, God had perfectly relieved His own heart about the returning prodigal, but I, like the prodigal, was not in moral correspondence with Him. I have said to myself in those days, ' Well, I believe that flesh is stronger than grace.' I dare not say it now ; I am only giving you my experience in order to show you what one is liable to ; for often we are enabled to help others by the way we have been helped ourselves. But the great thing to believe is, that God has not only removed all from His own eye in the cross, but He has given us the Holy Spirit that we might be in moral consistency with Himself. Otherwise it would be like the prodigal thinking-You are all happy about me, but I am not in keeping with you. But the father puts him in keeping with himself ; he says : " Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him ; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet." That figuratively was Romans 8, because there you are in Christ, and there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ ; and " the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." My mistake, and the mistake of many others, was in trying to improve myself. How often I have tested people since, by asking them, Are you ever disappointed with yourself? Oh! they say in the most contrite way, Indeed I am. That shows they have not done with themselves, or they would not be trying to improve themselves. I shall have to show you presently that the very best quality of man does not like Christ " They that are in the flesh cannot please God."

      Now we have come to a great point ; that is, that the Spirit of God is given to every one justified. In Romans 5 we are justified by faith ; that is, I believe, that God has set me before His own eye according to His pleasure in Christ Jesus, and " therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this favour [grace] wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." I need not tell you that the first eleven verses of that chapter describe the terms on which God is with you ; chapter 8 describes the state in which you are before Him : that is the difference. In Romans 8 it is not faith. Many have a loose way of looking at deliverance through substituting faith for the Spirit. Faith is for Gods side. Why? Because God never alters; His satisfaction in the work of Christ remains for ever. He has expressed His love, and that love is co-existent with Himself; it never alters. He never revives what has been set aside in the cross, and He can now cover with kisses the returning prodigal.

      But now I come to our side. If you read Romans 8:2, you will see, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death"; that is what I would insist upon. What was the mistake I made? I was trying to improve myself, instead of seeing that the Spirit of God has set me free. The first thirteen verses of Romans 8 show you that you are free from the flesh. In that chapter you learn what Christ is to you. You first learn the work of Christ, and you are attached to Him because of the work He has done for you; every believer knows that. But believe me, there is a much deeper affection than that; it comes out in the end of Romans 8, that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Why? Because Christ is your life.

      The first trouble that a believer finds is innate sin. This Romans 7 sets forth; "When I would do good evil is present with me." In Romans 7 there is a divine work in the soul but justification is not known; the power of the Spirit is not known. The defect with myself was, that I did not see that the Spirit of God would set me free. If you read on in Romans 8, you find, "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body " -- why the deeds? Because we are first occupied with what we do; conscience is at work, and a man's conscience does not go beyond his light. But first I want to show you that you judge of your conduct by your conscience. You will hear people say, I did not do so -- and -- so because it is contrary to my conscience. That is according to the light, and that is the first exercise. Hence we find, "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." But then it is by the Spirit one mortifies, that is the point; and I hope you will lay hold of this fact tonight. First that the man under judgement has gone from the eye of God. I see little papers about self-culture and self-control. Self-control! It is the Spirit of God that is to control you, not yourself. You may fit yourself, in a sense, for man; but you will find, if you really get hold of the first part of this verse, "I am crucified with Christ," your individual experience, that it is not simply that man has gone in the cross in the eye of God -- our old man crucified with Him, as in Romans 6:6 -- but I am crucified; how could you improve a thing that is crucified? If I had not gone through the experience myself, I should be puzzled about it; but I see it now very plainly, that as that man has gone from the eye of God, with that man I cannot deal. On the contrary, though here in the flesh, I do not walk after the flesh. I hope we may look into that another evening; but now I desire to set forth how Christ is formed in you. I believe it is most wonderful to know that Christ liveth in you. But it is with Him you have to do, not yourself. If it be yourself you are thinking about how you behave, and if you are seeking to improve, you doubtless think, Well, if I get another opportunity, I hope I shall behave better. If you knew yourself, you would not think so. Why? Because you would fear that you would behave worse. But if you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. I press this, that faith lays hold of this great fact, that God accepts me on the ground of Christ, and that He never loses His own feeling about me, because of the work which has been effected by the Son of His love. But besides this, He has given me the Holy Spirit that I might be in practical keeping with Him; and as I walk in the Spirit I do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh; I have in me a power superior to the flesh. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye may not do " -- it is not 'ye cannot'; our translators could not see the greatness of it -- " that ye may not do the things that ye would." The position of the believer is wonderful; that God has in the cross removed from His own eye the man under judgment. I lay hold of that by faith; but besides, He has given me the Holy Spirit, so that I may be free; "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of flesh of sin, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh:that the righteous claim of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." (I have altered the translation a little in order to give the correct idea.) To the eye of God you are not looked upon as in the flesh, but in the Spirit. A person may say to me, How am I to get on in daily life? That is the latter part of the verse, and I have not come to that yet; I hope to refer to it another time. But if you have not the first part -- Christ formed in you -- you certainly will not know how to act as Christ in His path among men.

      I turn now to the latter part of Galatians 4; "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." I can understand an exercised soul asking, and it is a very interesting question -- But when does that happy moment occur when Christ really gets His place in my heart? Well, up to this I have only asked you to accept that this is His place; that the man born after the flesh must go out, must not be tolerated. The Corinthians and the Galatians were both defective:the one, the Corinthians, in giving place to the mind of man; and many like them think there is no harm in the pleasures of the mind who would think that there is a great deal of harm in the pleasures of the flesh; the Galatians, on the other hand, were trying to improve or check the flesh by the law. Both had received the Holy Spirit. The Galatians had received the Holy Spirit, but they were trying to correct the flesh. It is very interesting to note that the way the apostle corrects both the Corinthians and the Galatians is by putting Christ in His place. To the Corinthians the Lord's glory is presented (and there is no place for their own wisdom there) to bring them into moral correspondence with Him, and the effect is, as in 2 Corinthians 4, to be "always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." That was the effect on the apostle. With the Galatians the apostle uses the type of the weaning of Isaac to illustrate what he is setting forth. You remember that in Genesis 21 Ishmael was about fourteen years of age when Isaac was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast for him; it was a festive moment when Isaac was to be acknowledged in his rightful place in the house. And I say, and I thank God for it, that there is a moment in the history of the soul when you are so drawn to Christ, not merely because of His work, but you have tasted the truth of the passage I have read -- "Christ liveth in me." He is with you personally; it is this which really attaches you to Him. I get in Romans 6 the way it begins "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin; but alive unto God in Christ Jesus." You are severed from Adam (the man who brought you under death) by Christ's death, and you have found life in Christ Himself, and there you have wonderful and unspeakable rest. You "reign in life by one, Jesus Christ," Romans 5. You were under death 'by one man, Adam; you get life in Christ; you have passed "out of death into life," as we read in John 5:24. Our translators put "from death" instead of "out of death," because they could not catch the importance of having passed "out of death"; for if you say "out of death," you admit that you were in death. And that is exactly what is true; you are in death by nature. In Adam all die; but Christ is our life. It is here many are puzzled. "This do and thou shalt live" was law; it was addressed to the old man; but in order to get life you must pass out of Adam and find it in. Christ; and here all the difficulty lies.

      Now you find from this verse that there is a moment when Christ gets His right place. We sing sometimes

      "...Thou art enough
      The mind and heart to fill."

      Did you ever know that moment? It is a very simple question to ask. I am not asking you to do anything, to arrive at any perfection in yourself, or anything of that kind; but simply to acknowledge Christ's right. It is His right; but do you acknowledge tonight that He has the right to live in you? That like Isaac, He is the rightful heir, and the One only to be acknowledged. In Oriental fashion ail in the house acknowledged Isaac except Ishmael, who was the son of Abraham, about fourteen years of age, brought up in all the culture and elevation that Abraham knew, and he mocked, "He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit." That is man; the cultivated man does not like Christ. I know well the painful exercise of Romans 7; even to find that you are incompetent to keep the law. But believe me, Galatians 4 is a much more painful experience, even to find that the best quality in your nature does not like Christ; it is a terrible experience that the amiable and most commendable quality in your nature does not like Christ. But when was this discovered? When Christ was given His right place, when His right is acknowledged; right to the office, right to the study, right to the nursery, right to everything in your heart. He has redeemed you; He has the right to you. Hence the apostle says, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Another Person -- Christ, liveth in me. I do not ask you if you are attached to Him; but I do ask, Do you acknowledge Him? I believe, as I said, there is a moment when you are so entranced with the blessedness of Christ, that you can truly say to Him, This is Your rightful place; I acknowledge it. And that is the moment when there is no toleration for Ishmael. There is the acknowledgement of the One and no toleration of the other; Ishmael is cast out.

      Now I have to show you that your practical course will then be quite different. It is not your conscience merely which is the arbiter of everything, but it is Christ Himself and all that suits Him. You may say, This or that is not contrary to my conscience. A man of great integrity may say so, but he has not come to the inexpressible moment -- I call it the coronation day -- when Christ is acknowledged in His right place in his heart. The throne shall be established in righteousness; and the moment you have done rightly, you know you are right; you are confirmed in it. Consider the greatness of the moment when Christ has in you His right place! See how thoroughly you can now enjoy the "great supper," the celebration of grace; you are now fit for it, and you make merry.

      I hope it is so simple that the youngest believer here will follow it. You acknowledge that Christ has the right to all, and that Ishmael, the son of Abraham, the cultivated man, the man brought up under the law, must be cast out. "Cast out the bondwoman and her son." Now, in Galatians 5:1 we read, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." You are on a new footing now; Christ is the arbiter of everything.

      In John 13 the Lord says, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." Who is to be judge of a soil? A great many walk with a good conscience who are not near enough to Christ to have their feet washed. When you are in intimacy with Christ, He is the judge of the soil. He knows the causes of the cloud between Him and you. These two states are clearly expressed in the type of the cleansing of the leper; Leviticus 14. After the first washing the leper came into the camp; that is, his own conscience was relieved. But on the eighth day after this he had to go through all the offerings and the anointing, then typically he was brought to God. It is not merely your conscience now, but you look at everything as Christ does. Hence the apostle Paul can say in the last chapter of this epistle, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." I remember once being in a company, and they seemed quite astonished because I said, There is nothing about your sins in that passage, but about yourself. "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Both are gone; that is, "crucified," judicially ended. "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." You are a new creation.

      Now when you come to this, you see that to give Christ His place is simply the only right thing. Many are trying to improve this world; but if you think of righteousness, there cannot be righteousness in the full sense in this world, or in myself, till Christ gets His right place. I do not ask you to do any great work or to do any particular service; but I am asking each of you to avow, "I am crucified with Christ" (judicially terminated), "nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me"; and now I judge of everything in relation to Him.

      I need not dwell further on it, but I trust many here will see what a blessed moment it is when Christ gets His right place in the heart. I have often said to myself, Ishmael knows the house well, and will try to regain his place. Yes, but I have got a' power to keep him out, I have received the Holy Spirit, I must walk in the Spirit. You may say, What do you mean by walking in the Spirit? That is a very good question to be exercised about. I will give you a simple illustration to show you what I understand by it. A sailor, when asked, 'How do you get on in bad weather? 'replied, ' I do not mind the weather so long as I can see the sun.' When I am walking in the Spirit I see Christ only. If I am going to do my business, who is before me? Christ. If I am going out to visit, who is before me? Christ. If I am going to write a letter, be it one of business or otherwise, who is before me? Christ. This refers to the wilderness; that is the latter part of the verse, "The life which I now live in the flesh." But you must begin above. Nothing has done more mischief than trying to work up from man to God, instead of working down from God to man. All the infidelity in Christendom has arisen simply from working upward from man, instead of working downwards from God.

      Now for another deeply interesting point. As soon as Christ has His right place in you, His things become yours. And now you can understand that word, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." How cheering that saying must have been to the disciples, because they were personally attached to Him. It is not a question of any work, or any effort, but that you are personally attached to Him; He is your life, He liveth in you. You may say, Oh, that is very great. Yes, but surely everything of grace is great.

      Necessarily now everything which is interesting to Christ becomes interesting to you. I do not believe that any one truly finds his way to the assembly who has not found Christ as the object of his heart. If Christ is not formed in you, He is not the object of your heart; and if Christ is the object of your heart, you come to this "living stone, disallowed indeed of men"; you leave the ship to walk on the water to go to Jesus. And until Christ is formed in you, you will never progress; you are not intimately acquainted with Christ till then. Many a believer has not yet acknowledged Christ in His own rightful place in his heart, and until you do you cannot be occupied with the things which are interesting to Christ here on earth. He could not confide in you if you have not given Him His place. And consequently you have not found your own true enjoyment, you are not in keeping with all God has done for you. Would it not be a delight to you to retire to your own room tonight, and be able to say, Well, God has removed everything of the man under His Judgement from His own eye in the cross, and has given me the Holy Spirit, and I am before Him in the One who has glorified Him in the cross, and that One is my life. All this is for your own unspeakable comfort. At another time, if the Lord will, when we come to the Christian circle and the Head, you will find how He ministers to you.

      I conclude with one remark. If you do not know Christ living in you for yourself, you cannot really enter on the wilderness path. I do not dwell on that now, but I trust, if the Lord permit, another evening to bring it before you, in order that we may understand how the grace of God enables us to be here.

      I trust the Lord, in His own gracious care for us all, will lead you to accept the two things I have brought before you, which are not beyond the compass of the youngest Christian in this room. First, to acknowledge Christ in His right place, and then not to tolerate His rival. How is the rival to be kept out? By the Spirit of God. You must walk in the Spirit. If you do, you will not be thinking of yourself, or of what you are; you will be occupied with Christ; you will learn all that the Spirit of God is for you in Romans 8. In fine, He is your Friend, He "makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." May we all look more for the help of that great Friend, and the power of that Friend, for Christ's sake.

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