We need more Devoted Christians

Our conclusion, then, is simple undivided devotedness to Christ. Christ is to be the only object, as we do those things that faithfulness and nonconformity to the world entail. We have a bright, heavenly hope connected with Christ crucified, and Christ in glory. He is coming and will receive us to Himself and make us like Him. Hence we should be as those who wait for their Lord.

lay-preachingChristian devotedness is something different from human kindness and philanthropy, born out of a sense of obligation. It is motivated by love for our self-sacrificing Redeemer and a desire to be pleasurable to Him.

A simplified précis of John Nelson Darby’s paper ‘Christian Devotedness’ by Sosthenes

To be truly in the testimony of God, Christians must be devoted. Devotion must be founded on the truth and sound doctrine and exercised in the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians need to be clear as to redemption, and have the peace that a Christian has through divine righteousness. He must know the living power of the heavenly Comforter, and be sure of the blessed hope of the glorified Christ’s coming again. Held in the power of the Holy Ghost he is should be separate from the world.

Christianity has had a great influence in the world. Humanitarian activities such as caring for the sick and poor, have become recognised duties of society, even where infidelity prevails. But there are higher motives than these – true devotedness.

 

Christ’s Devotion to His Father

Normally, Christians should abide in the calling wherein they are called. (1 Cor 7:20). Christ is to be our life and the object or motive of our lives. There are two aspects to that life. One is devotedness; the other is submission to the will of God. We see this in Christ. His communion with His Father was perfect, as was His desire to glorify Him. His walk was that of undivided obedience to His Father’s will.

Christ loved His Father and was obedient to Him gave form and character to His love to us. As He becomes our immediate object, we become followers and imitators of God. We walk in love as Christ loved us. “Be ye imitators of God as dear children, and walk in love even as Christ hath loved us and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” (Eph 5:2). Love descending from God, and working in man, rises up towards God as its object – it can be nothing lower. “Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16).

 

Devotion – out of Love, not Merit or Reward

Devotedness is devotedness to Christ. The spring and source of true devotedness is divine love filling and operating in our hearts. We learn divine love in redemption. This sets us in divine righteousness before God. God’s perfect love towards us has given us eternal life in Christ when we were dead in sins, and forgiveness and divine righteousness when we were guilty. Now we enjoy divine love, to enjoy God by His Spirit dwelling in us: even at the judgment seat, Christ, the judge, will be our Saviour. So are we to be in this world.

Of course there were those things Christ did, which we can. He stood alone in self-sacrificial love. But we are able to display Self-sacrificial love too, as having His life, Himself, in us.

Any question of merit or self-righteousness is shut out, and our self-seeking labour is set aside. “Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:21). The thought of reward or merit, destroys the whole truth of devotedness, because love is no longer the motive. It is self, like James and John, looking for a good place in the kingdom. There is reward in Scripture, but it is used to encourage us in the difficulties and dangers which higher and truer motives bring us into. Christ Himself, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb 2:2).

Christ’s motive was love. Moses’ motive was caring for his brethren. Such reward is as great mercy: every man receives his reward according to his own labour.

The first effect of devotedness is to adore God, delighting in Jesus, consciously united to Christ by the Holy Spirit. Divine love flows, as it did in Christ, into and through our hearts – we become animated through our enjoyment of it. The love of God is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord; not the less God, but God in Christ.

A creature must have an object, and for us that object must be God, – God revealed in Christ as the Father; for in that way God possesses our souls. Christ becomes our first and governing object, then our fellow Christians and then our fellow men. Hence, all true devotedness is the action of divine love in the redeemed, through the Holy Spirit.

So we have a new life which enjoys His love, delighting in Him, and displaying love towards others. Its genuineness is tested, because Christ has to have the first place. Paul says, “Not as we hoped,” (it was more than he hoped), speaking of active love; “but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us by the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:5). It is more than a new nature. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and God’s love is shed abroad in the heart.

 

False Devotion

We may have a prejudicial zeal, compassing sea and land, but that is the work of Satan. If so, we act out of a sense of natural benevolence or obligation, and get irritated if our work is not accepted. This is not love. The activity of love does not destroy the sense of obligation saints have a sense of obligation too, but of a different character. Because of grace, they are motivated freely by love. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor 3:17). it has the divine character – love. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of adoption, and he fixes our hearts on God’s love.

Paul says, “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” (Gal 2:20) This is a divine life, a life of faith, a life living wholly by an object, Christ – the Son of God loving and giving Himself. Here we get the practical character and motive of Christian devotedness – living to Christ. Because of that, “We are not our own, but bought with a price,” and have to “glorify God in our bodies” (1 Cor 6:20). The perfection of the offering and the absoluteness and perfectness with which it was offered, has power over our souls. All the incense of the meat-offering was burnt on the altar.

 

The Hindrance of the Flesh

So we are to yield ourselves to the love of the blessed Son of God. The flesh may seek to hinder us, for its objects are not those of the new man and the Holy Spirit. We love the brethren and all the saints, bearing and forbearing, for Christ does, seeing the saints grow up to Him who is the Head in all things, and walk worthily of the Lord. Like Paul, we seek to see the church presented as a chaste virgin unto Christ. We continue love, though the more abundantly we loves, the less we are loved. And we are ready to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

Self likes to be served; love delights to serve. A man of pleasure flings away money; so does an ambitious man. They judge the value of things by pleasure and power. The covetous man judges everything by its potential to enrich. The Christian judges of everything by Christ. If anything gets in the way of His glory he casts it away. He does not regard it as a sacrifice, but a hindrance – to him it is dross. Christ gave Himself: now we have the privilege of forgetting self and living to Christ. On earth Christ girded Himself and served His own. Now we have the privilege of serving Him. Living to God inwardly is the only possible means of living to Him outwardly.

All outward activity, not governed by devotedness to Christ, is fleshly and even a danger to the soul. It tends to make us do without Christ and brings in self. I dread great activity without great communion.

Devotedness is a humble, holy thing, doing our Master’s will – it is the true part for every Christian. We want wisdom – God gives it liberally; Christ is our true wisdom. We want power – we learn it in dependence through Him who strengthens us. Devotedness is dependent, it leans on divine strength in Christ for He can do all things, and all that He does is good. So we have the Lord’s help despite the trials and difficulties – we are “more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom 8:37). Nothing separates us from that love.

There is something else that we have to look at. Dedicated service in love is a joy and blessing. But we are in a world where such service will be opposed and rejected, and our flesh has a tendency to self-preservation. Peter presented this thought to the Lord, and He said “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matt 16:23). In point of fact, the flesh is a continual hindrance: it instinctively shrinks from devotedness to Christ, because it means giving up self, bringing reproach, neglect, and opposition on us. We have to take up our cross to follow Christ. If not, we shall at best be “John Marks” in the work. And we will be those who say, “suffer me first“. There should be no self-seeking, no self-sparing, and no self-indulgence! If we are to live to Christ, we must hold ourselves dead, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. He is our life.

 

Our own Hearts

Now we come to the management of our own hearts. “Always bearing about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus” is the great difficulty and tests our state of soul. But we have power in our sense of grace. Christ died and gave Himself for us, so by grace we hold ourselves as dead to all but Him. That would be comparatively easy, were self and Satan’s power not opposing us. But to have Christ’s dying always above self, necessitates Christ, by God’s Spirit, dominating all our affections. This is the only way of devotedness in God’s sight. All else belongs to the first Adam and to the scene he moves, and perishes with our last breath. It is only the life which we live by Christ which remains.

As devoted, we have to please Christ in everything. Worldly dress and manners, indeed worldliness in every guise, disappear. These things are not be agreeable to Him whom the world rejected, because He testified to it that its works were evil. The place of the Christian is to be the epistle of Christ. The world’s motives, thoughts, relationships do not enter into his heart.

There is another point which we may do well to notice. This makes plain the difference between devotedness and natural kindness. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Our profession of Christ is to be so distinct that people will know to Whom our good works should be attributed, and glorify our Father which is in heaven.

 

Conclusion

Our conclusion, then, is simple undivided devotedness to Christ. Christ is to be the only object, as we do those things that faithfulness and nonconformity to the world entail. We have a bright, heavenly hope connected with Christ crucified, and Christ in glory. He is coming and will receive us to Himself and make us like Him. Hence we should be as those who wait for their Lord.

More devoted Christians are needed, – devoted in all their ways, in heart and soul, to Him who loved them and gave Himself for them.

Sosthenes – April 2015

J N Darby – French Letter No. 127 – Having begun in Spirit, to be perfect in the Flesh

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

no date

To Mr X

… As for the unleavened bread about which you spoke to me, I confess that I am surprised that Christians can be concerned about it, as though what entered the body could defile or cleanse us. It is a proof that the soul has completely lost the leading of the Holy Spirit. There is not any direction in the Word to make us imitate Judaism in this respect, or to plunge us into sterile Judaism – and having begun in Spirit, to make us go on to be perfect in the flesh, for it is not so. But in this particular case, this idea is the more unhappy, because the Spirit of God has given an application expressly, the spiritual application of this figure: Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, this is why we celebrate the feast, not with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth[21]. That is to say, in Christianity, this figure signifies sincerity and truth. As to the letter of the law, the unleavened bread is an ordinance of the law. The letter kills but the Spirit quickens[22]. Those who seek to make themselves important will seek it in useless comparisons. For one who is led by the Spirit, this is impossible: to subject the whole meeting to the letter which kills to satisfy the mind of the one who is led astray is an intolerable thing. For every spiritual man, these words: “the letter kills” are enough to deliver him from such thoughts.

 

[21] 1 Cor 5: 7, 8

[22] 2 Cor 3: 6

 
Letter originally written in French, translated by Sosthenes, 2013
Click here for original – If you have any comments on the translation, feel free to let me know.

Darby Simplified – Freedom from Guilt and Freedom from Sin

Not only as believers are we to be free of guilt, but we are to know deliverance from the law of sin and death. We still have the flesh, its will and lusts, and in our own strength there is nothing we can do. But Christ’s death terminated that man. As a result we can be in newness of life, in the liberty of sonship. I am at liberty, because the sin I have discovered in my flesh has been condemned in the cross of Christ. Now by faith I am crucified with Him, and have a new place before God, after the cross, beyond Satan’s power, death and judgment. That place is liberty.

Fundamental Truth  – a Summary by Sosthenes on John Nelson Darby’s Article ‘Deliverance from the Law of Sin’.

To view the complete paper, click here.

 To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 32 Miscellaneous 1 – p323) – click here 

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby
. Not only as believers are we to be free of guilt, but we are to know deliverance from the law of sin and death. We still have the flesh, its will and lusts, and in our own strength there is nothing we can do. As a result of Christ’s death, the Christian can say, ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death’ (Rom 8:2). As a result we can know newness of life and the liberty of sonship. I am free, because the sin I have discovered in my flesh has been condemned in the cross of Christ. By faith I am crucified with Him; I have a new place before God, beyond death, judgment and Satan’s power. That place is liberty.
 

Peace with God but not delivered from the Law of Sin

Some believers do not experience deliverance from the law of sin, even though they have peace with God. Deliverance from the law of sin and death cannot remain a theory.

Such persons are sure that they have been sealed; they are conscious of the Spirit’s dwelling in them, but are not delivered from that law of evil that works in the flesh. Of course there will always be conflict between the flesh. That will remain to the end, though perhaps in a more subtle form. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8). If the truth of Christ is in the heart, we are aware that there is that which is not of Christ, and have sensibilities and moral feelings as to what is contrary to Him. He is the life of the new man; His grace is sufficient for us and His strength is made perfect in weakness.

The forgiven soul has liberty before God, peace and a purged conscience. In Rom. 5:2 the redeemed soul has a favour which is better than life (this grace wherein we stand).

Effect of Deliverance

Because of deliverance we have: –

  1. new relationships, and
  2. power over sin in the flesh.

Redemption brings us into a place of favour under grace, and delivered us, so we do not have to meet God in our own righteousness. This more than forgiveness and justification from guilt. It is the position of the new man. Many mix up the old man and the new. They have a true but sense of the riches of God’s grace; they enjoy forgiveness and eternal blessings. But that is not conscious sonship: in Christ, and Christ in them.

Why do we fail in practical deliverance from the law of sin? We enjoy liberty through grace, but we do not find sufficient power to resist evil. Now, the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection has closed all association with the first Adam’s place.   Law can no longer bind us: through God’s grace, we have new place and standing before God, based on redemption and divine righteousness – a place in sonship. Hence the Lord said, ‘My Father, and your Father; my God, and your God’ (John 17:20). We are in Christ before God, and, by the Holy Spirit, we know it. We know acceptance. Blessed be His name!

We are therefore in a new relationship. Death has put us out of relationship with all a living man is connected with – sin, the world, and all that is in it. That is what has happened to us if Christ is in us.

  • I look up. Christ (and I am in Him) is the very object and perfection of God’s delight, so I lack nothing; I am acceptable according to God Himself; I have nothing unacceptable.
  • I look Is all perfect? Though I earnestly love Christ, I find what displeases me, and even more so God. What is more, there is no excuse, for Christ is power as well as life.

Our responsibility as Christians is to walk here as Christ walked, manifesting the life of Jesus in our mortal flesh. The question is not acceptance, but holiness, or acceptableness. As partakers of the divine nature, His judgment is ours.

The Flesh is still there

But this leads us to the very point in question. We hate the evil, yet the flesh is still there. How far we are free from it, or how far it has still power in us? We may writhe under the cords that bind us, and yet not be able to break them and be free. We are so weak. But, being renewed, as born of God, we hate the evil, and strive to live free from it. We do not succeed. We learn that there is no good in us. We hate the evil, but it is too strong for us.

Now comes deliverance, through the working and power of the Holy Spirit, in the faith of what our blessed Lord has wrought. He not only bore our sins, redeeming us and clearing us from guilt, but He died unto sin. When Christ was made a sacrifice for sin, God condemned sin in the flesh. ‘He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Cor. 5:21)

The hateful sin in me has been condemned in Christ’s death. So I reckon myself dead. The old man has been crucified with Christ. Of course I am not actually dead, but in faith I acknowledge this truth. The full result will be the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness, but the work has been done already.

The Old ‘I’ Gone

Up to this point, though I have been a quickened soul. as a child of Adam, I have been practically under the law. Now I have died with Christ, so as no longer to be a child of Adam. The old “I” of my corrupt and sinful nature, has died with Christ. I am delivered from the law, so that I reckon myself dead. There is no condemnation either – that was borne on the cross by the sinless One. We have not overcome ourselves: He overcame so that we might be delivered. So God pronounces, ‘Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God’ (Col. 3:3). Christ died and rose again; the Spirit now gives us the power of deliverance down here.

‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (2 Cor.3:17). This liberty has a double aspect – liberty before God as a son and in Christ, and liberty from the law of sin in the flesh. I have a new place in Christ, in that I have died to the old Adam – and am now alive in Christ. Instead of dying physically, I have found a Deliverer, and I reckon myself dead, because Christ (who died) is in me as my life. The Holy Spirit gives me adoption, and the consciousness of being a son. The flesh may be still there, but I am not a debtor to it, but I am no longer a captive to the law of sin. On the contrary, Christ’s grace is sufficient for me, strength being made perfect in weakness. I am at liberty, because the sin I have discovered in my flesh has been condemned in the cross of Christ. Now by faith I am crucified with Him, and have a new place before God, after the cross, beyond Satan’s power, death and judgment. That place is liberty – liberty before God and from the law of sin. I am dead to sin, having died with Christ.

Romans does not go further than death, and Christ being our life. In Colossians, we are raised with Him, and are also dead to the world.

Christ’s work is so perfect, that we could, like the thief on the cross, go straight to paradise. But we are left here in the world, and have to do with the old man – the flesh, with Satan and with the world around. But we are free, redeemed out of the state and standing that we were in. As believers sealed with the Spirit, we are consciously sons in true liberty. But there is more still: when we have learned what it is to have died with Christ, the soul is set ‘free from the law of sin and death’ (Rom 8:2). As dead, we justified from sin – not sins.

A dead man no longer has a perverse will or evil lusts. But having the flesh we still have them. So unless we mortify the deeds of the body, an evil power is at work, giving us a bad state and weakened spiritual judgment. The flesh has does not answer to deliverance, and though we might have not lost the sense of our standing with God, and have liberty in one sense, our flesh works as if we had no spiritual power in Christ.

The Conflict

Now, in such cases, the remedy is not to deny our deliverance; Entangling our souls again in the yoke of bondage does not give us power. Slaves are not combatants, the yoke has to be broken. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (2 Cor 3:17). Where there is liberty and spiritual power, there is also conflict. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Gal 5:17). Hence in Rom, 6:11, we are free, dead to sin, and alive in Christ to God.   Are we going to give ourselves to sin, or to God, to righteousness, the fruit being holiness, and the end everlasting life? (See v. 20-23). Our standing is perfect; our state no way so. How far do we live up to the life which is ours in Christ, through Christ in us? In 2 Cor. 4:10 we have, “Always bearing about in the body the dying [not the death] of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body.”

Our normal condition is to be ‘with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord’ (2 Cor. 3:18). We are changed into the same image; by faith we feed on Him in His humiliation as the bread come down from heaven; we live by Him; we abide in Him, and we grow up unto Him, who is the Head, in all things. Though the flesh is still here, the heart is elsewhere, so the flesh is inactive, it being suppressed by the dying of Jesus. A living body has its own will and acts according to it, but ‘If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.’ (Rom 8:10). Alas, we do not maintain this normal condition and God disciplines us, sometimes with a thorn in the flesh. We pass through temptations and snares, and pray constantly not to fail. But if we fail, we have an Advocate with the Father. Power is there in Christ for us; we are spiritually free. There is no excuse for failure – but we do.

Sonship

A son is always a son and knows it, even though he may be a naughty, rebellious son. He can never be a slave, He is not under the law of sin, but he may be practically governed by it in his ways, because he is not profiting by the grace and power of Christ. The standard of his Christianity becomes frightfully low; he sees “no harm” in things which, in earlier times, he would have shrunk from – not because they were prohibited, but because the life and Spirit of Christ in him found no food or attraction in them. This is a sad state. The remedy, however, is not making him doubt of his adoption, but presenting the claim of Christ’s love to walk worthy of the calling wherewith he is called.

It is important to understand that deliverance in the sense of known relationship with God, is different from deliverance as having died and having been risen with Christ. In the first it is the place we are in, in the latter it is the experience of walking in power as belonging to that place. Though the flesh is in us, we seek grace and strength from Christ. We can do nothing without Him.

Deliverance from the law of sin is the normal Christian state. We know the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and the power of the Spirit of God. We have true liberty: that is based on Christ’s once dying to sin, and for sin. See Romans 6 and 8. Grace is sufficient for us; our strength made perfect in weakness (we know that); so that there is no excuse for us to sin, even though the flesh is still in us.

Until we have learned that, we do not get freedom. Freedom is the portion of every Christian taught of God. We have strength for it in looking to Christ.   The Lord is so gracious!