Spiritual Strength: Something That Has Waned

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
No one will deny, and very many will sorrowfully own, that Christian vitality is at a low ebb. On the one hand, there are numbers of true Christians scattered over the land; on the other, Christian life expresses itself but feebly. The doctrines of grace are widely known; great and glorious truths are on the lips of multitudes, but the practical exposition of the truth is but little manifested. A few years ago the truth of the coming of the Lord was, comparatively speaking, strange to evangelical Christendom; here and there one rejoiced in it; now thousands accept this truth. The believer's standing in a risen and ascended Christ, not so long ago, was almost unknown language to multitudes of God's people who at this present day accept the fact of this as their position. We might enumerate other truths, now generally received, which a few years ago were only recognized by a handful of God's people. In the presence of unquestionable evidence we have the acknowledged fact of knowledge widely distributed, and also of spiritual vigor feebly existing.
Perhaps the solution to this anxious question may be indicated by the way in which truth is laid hold of. The few gained it by prayerful search, and by digging into the treasures of God's Word for themselves; the many gain it by the means of availing themselves of the labor of the few. The number of Bible students is not large. That is but little valued which costs but little to acquire. Again, there is a vast difference between laying hold of the truth, and being laid hold of by it. The truth makes free those whom it actually holds. The truth is strong, and strengthens our spirits.
There is, however, beyond these things a grave reality to which we now desire to call our reader's attention; that is, the little spiritual power one finds in himself, and also around him. It is the fact that truth is frequently taken up into the soul apart from Christ—not that any Christian is without Christ, for he is in Christ and Christ is in him, but in the sense that "without Me ye can do nothing," truth may be acquired.
There are saints of God knowing their position in Christ, who are like men brought into a palace and told that the palace and its glories are theirs, and who rove from, room to room astonished at its wonders. There are others who, upon being brought into the palace, fix their affectionate longings upon the one who is its joy. We shall not value less the glories of the place into which we are brought, because we value more and more the Person of the Lord, who is the glory of the place.
Now it must ever be to the law and to the testimony, in the Word and by the Word, that the remedy shall be seen and administered by the Holy Spirit. We would then inquire whether the moral beauties and excellencies of the life of Jesus are sufficiently engaging our attention. Surely we are set in the palace of heavenly blessings in Christ, that we may better know and appreciate Himself. It is easier to comprehend doctrine about Christ, than to be filled with the loveliness of His ways. We need, beloved, to have the evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) more in our hearts, and not their histories as unfoldings of God's dispensational ways merely, but as life-words, bringing to our souls the Person of Jesus.
"The life... of Jesus"! How great is the moral glory of His silence when He answered His accusers never one word. Even Pilate, the Gentile governor, "marveled greatly." Herod hoped to see some miracle wrought by the meek and lowly One; he hoped to witness a mark of external power, but the silence of Jesus before him was power more wonderful still. Herod was blind to the glory, and he and his men of war set the lowly One at naught and robed Him in gorgeous mockery, and then sent Him back to Pilate. But this silence of Jesus commands our adoring worship. And do we not read, "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." 2 Cor. 4:1010Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10). Were His death truly reckoned on ourselves, His life would express itself, though feebly, we own, in our bodies.
Behold Him at the grave which He came to empty of the beloved brother of Martha and Mary. See the tears flow down His face, and note His groans. Thus do our hearts learn by the life of Jesus to weep with those who weep. There do we obtain from Himself the treasure of His sympathy. Brethren, how softened would our spirits become if we held more company with the Lord. The Jews said, "Behold how He loved Him!" The Master's tears and sighs touched even their hearts. 0 for bowels of Christ—His who fills the palace of God's glory with everlasting luster, and who fills broken hearts below with peace. It is only as in company with Him, and as bearing about in our bodies His death, that the life of Jesus shall be manifested in us.
Yet, without this manifestation, what is our Christianity? The religious world has its Christless Christianity; may not we be in a like danger? It is really futile to have knowledge at our fingers' ends if Christ be not flowing out in our lives. The perfect Man knew no jealous feelings, and this bane of God's servants will be abolished from their souls so long as they bear about in their bodies "the dying of the Lord Jesus." The simple reason why Christian vitality is at so low an ebb, is because there is so little of personal dealing with Christ Himself.
We must get back to the gospels, beloved, if we would walk as Christ walked. It is in the evangelists that we trace His steps. God grant us to study Him in His thoughts, His words, and His ways; to consider Him in His sighs and His tears, in His peace and His joy; to engage our whole souls with Him in His relationship to His God and Father, and in His ministry below. Our ambition should be that the life of Jesus should be manifested in our mortal bodies. To attain to this we must know what the life of Jesus is; and to do this, we must get into the very atmosphere of the four gospels.
The epistles teach us what it is to bear, about in our bodies His dying. Perhaps we are familiar with this doctrine. We know that He has died, and that we have died with Him; such is our liberty—marvelous and most wonderful liberty-freedom from self—self gone in the grave of Christ. Yes, beloved, but how shall we deal with this liberty in relation to our state? Ah! then the question is personal and practical. How, indeed? How shall we bear about in our body His dying, when the flesh would not keep silence? Try it; yes, try it, and see how much you know practically of a crucified Jesus. Bring this to bear upon the worries of daily life, on life's cares and follies, and see how much Christian vitality you possess. It is in proportion to the extent of your manifestation of the life of Jesus.
Heat, clamor, evil-speaking, uncharitableness, an overbearing spirit, all witness to the little Christian vigor that exists. Many, who have physical strength sufficient to roll away the stone of Lazarus' grave, lack the spiritual ability to weep with broken hearts. We need a humbler and more Christ-like Christianity. We need to go to the four gospels, brethren, for Christ. It would be a happy thing, indeed, if having by grace been brought into the glorious place of our heavenly privilege in Christ, our enjoyed privilege was to be solely engaged with Christ Himself, and "so to walk, even as He walked."