All the dealings God has with the soul of the believer are to bring it into oneness with Himself, that the prayer of our Lord may be fulfilled: "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us....I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me" (John 17:21,23).
This divine union was the glorious purpose in the heart of God for His people before the foundation of the world. It was the mystery hidden from ages and generations. It was accomplished in the death of Christ. It has been made known by the Scriptures. It is realized as an actual experience by many of God's dear children.
However, it is not experienced by all. God has not hidden this union or made it hard, but the eyes of many are too dim and their hearts too unbelieving for them to grasp it. It is for the purpose of bringing His people into the personal and actual realization of this that the Lord calls upon them so earnestly and so repeatedly to abandon themselves to Him. Thus He may work in them all the good pleasure of His will.
All the previous steps in the Christian life lead up to this. The Lord has made us for it, and, until we have understood it, and, have voluntarily consented to embrace it, the "travail of His soul" (Isaiah 53: 11 ) for us is not satisfied, nor have our hearts found their destined and real rest.
The Reality Of The Christlife
The usual course of Christian experience is pictured in the history of the disciples. First, they were awakened to see their condition and their need and came to Christ and gave their allegiance to Him. Then they followed Him, worked for Him, believed in Him, yet how unlike Him they were seeking to be set up one above the other. They were running away from the cross, misunderstanding His mission and His words. They were forsaking their Lord in time of danger. But still they were sent out to preach, recognized by Him as His disciples, possessing power to work for Him. They knew Christ as their Lord and Master, but did not yet know Him as their life.
Then came Pentecost and these same disciples came to know Him as one with them in actual union, their very indwelling life. From then on they knew what He was within them, working in them to will and to do of His good pleasure, delivering them, by the law of the Spirit of His life, from the bondage to the law of sin and death under which they had been held. No longer did their wills and interests war with Him. His will alone motivated them. His interest alone was dear to them. They were made one with Him.
Surely all can recognize this picture, though perhaps the final stage of it has not yet been fully reached. You may have given up much to follow Christ. You may have believed on Him and worked for Him and loved Him, and yet may not be like Him. Allegiance you know, and confidence you know, but you do not yet know union. There are two wills, two interests, two lives. You have not yet lost your own life that you may live only in His. Once it was "I and not Christ." Next it was "I and Christ." Perhaps now it is even "Christ and I." But has it yet come to be Christ only, and not I at all?
If you have followed me through all the previous chapters in this book, you will surely now be ready to take the definite step of faith which will lead your soul out of self and into Christ. You will then be prepared to abide in Him forever and to know no life but His.
You only need to understand what the Scriptures teach about this marvellous union and see that it is intended for you.
Read 1 Corinthians 3 : 16 , " Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you," and then look at the opening of the chapter to see who these wonderful words are spoken to: even to "babes in Christ" who were "yet carnal" and walked according to men. You will then see that this soulunion of which I speak, this unspeakably glorious mystery of an indwelling God, is the possession of even the weakest and most failing believer in Christ. It is true that every believer's "body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God" (1 Corinthians 6:19).
But although this is true, it is also equally true that the believer has to know it and live in the power of it. Like the treasures under a man's field which existed there before they were known or used by him, so does the life of Christ dwell in each believer before he knows it and lives in it. Its power is not manifested until, intelligently and voluntarily, the believer ceases from his own life and accepts Christ's life in its place.
But it is very important not to make any mistakes here. This union with Christ is not a matter of emotions, but of character. It is not something we are to feel, but something we are to be. The vital thing is not the feeling, but the reality.
Living In Our Emotions
No one can be one with Christ who is not Christlike. This is a manifest truth. Yet, it is often overlooked. Often very strong emotions of love and joy are taken as signs and proofs of divine union in cases where essential proofs of a Christlike life and character are lacking. This is completely contrary to the Scripture declaration that "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also to walk, even as He walked" (1 John 2:6). There is no escape from this, for it is not only a divine declaration but is in the very nature of things as well.
We speak of being one with a friend and we mean that we have a union of purposes and thoughts and desires. No matter how enthusiastic our friends may be in their expressions of love and unity, there can be no real oneness between us unless there are, at least in some degree, the same likes. dislikes, thoughts, purposes, and ideals. Oneness with Christ means being made a "partaker of (His) nature" (2 Peter 1:4) as well as of His life, for nature and life are, of course, one.
If we are really one with Christ, it will not be contrary to our nature to be Christlike and to walk as He walked, but it will be in accordance with our nature. Sweetness, gentleness, meekness, patience, longsuffering, charity, and kindness will all be natural to the Christian who is a partaker of the nature of Christ. It could not be otherwise.
But people who live in their emotions do not always see this. They feel so at one with Christ that they look no farther than this feeling. They often delude themselves by thinking they have come into the divine union, when all the while their nature and dispositions are still under the sway of selflove.
Our emotions are most untrustworthy and are largely the result of our physical condition or our natural temperaments. lt is a fatal mistake, therefore, to make them the test of our oneness with Christ. This mistake works both ways. If I have very joyous emotions, I may be deluded by thinking I have entered into the divine union when I have not. If I have no emotions, I may grieve over my failure to enter into the divine union when I really have entered.
Character is the only real test. God is holy and those who are one with Him will be holy also. Our Lord Himself expressed His oneness with the Father in such words as these: "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" John 5:19). "If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not. But if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him " (John 10:3738) .
The test Christ gave, by which the reality of His oneness with the Father was to be known, was the fact that He did the works of the Father. I know of no other test for us now.
It is forever true in the nature of things that a tree is to be known by its fruits. If we have entered into the divine union we will bear the divine fruits of a Christlike life and conversation: for "He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him" ( 1 John 2:45) .
Pay no regard to your feelings in this matter of oneness with Christ, but see to it that you have the really vital fruits of a oneness in character and walk and mind. Your emotions may be very delightful, or they may be very depressing. In neither case are they any real indication of your spiritual state. Very undeveloped Christians often have very powerful emotional experiences. I knew one who was kept awake often by the "waves of salvation," as she expressed it, which swept over her all night long. But she did not yet tell the truth in her conversation with others, and was very far from honest in her business dealings. No one could possibly believe that she knew anything about a real, divine union, in spite of all her fervent emotions in regard to it.
Your joy in the Lord is to be a far deeper thing than a mere emotion. It is to be the joy of knowledge, of perception, of actual existence. It is a far better thing to be a bird, with all the actual realities of flying, than only to feel as if you were a bird, with no actual power of flying at all. Reality is always the vital thing.
Awareness Of Christ's Presence
But now, having guarded against this danger of an emotional experience of divine union, let us consider how the reality is to be reached. First I would say that it is not a new attitude to be taken by God, but only a new attitude to be taken by us. If I am really a child of God, then my heart is already the temple of God and Christ is already within me. What is needed, therefore, is only that I recognize His presence and yield fully to His control.
It is as though Christ were living in a house, shut up in a faroff closet, unknown and unnoticed by the dwellers in the house, longing to make Himself known to them and to be one with them in all their daily lives and share in all their interests. But He is unwilling to force Himself upon their notice because nothing but a voluntary companionship could meet or satisfy the needs of His love. The days pass by and those of the household remain ignorant about their marvellous privilege. They go about all their daily affairs with no thought of their wonderful Guest. Their plans are laid without reference to Him. His wisdom to guide and His strength to protect are all lost to them. Lonely days and weeks are spent in sadness which might have been full of the sweetness of His presence.
But suddenly the announcement is made, "The Lord is in the house!" How will its owner receive the knowledge? Will he call out an eager thanksgiving and throw every door wide open for the entrance of his glorious Guest? Or will he withdraw and hesitate, afraid of His presence, and seek some private corner for a refuge from His allseeing eye?
Dear friend, I tell you the Lord is in your heart. Since the day of your conversion He has been dwelling there, but you have lived in ignorance of it. During all that time, every moment might have been passed in the sunshine of His sweet presence and every step taken under His advice. But because you did not know it and did not look for Him there, your life has been lonely and full of failure. But now that I make you aware of this, how are you going to receive it? Are you glad to have Him? Will you throw every door wide open to welcome Him in? Will you joyfully and thankfully give up your life to Him? Will you consult Him about everything and let Him decide each step and mark out every path? Will you invite Him into your innermost chambers and share your most hidden life with Him? Will you say "Yes'' to His longing for union with you? Will you, with a glad and eager surrender, hand yourself and all that concerns you over into His hands? If you will do this your soul will begin to know something of the joy of union with Christ.
A Voluntary Invitation
But words fail me here! All that I can say cannot describe the blessed reality. It is far more glorious to be brought into a real and actual union with Him and be one with Him one will, purpose, interest, life than it would be to have Christ as a dweller in the house or in the heart. Human words cannot express such a glory as this. And yet it ought to be expressed and our souls ought to be made so hungry for it, that day or night we should not be able to rest without it. Do you understand what it means to be one with Christ? Do you catch the slightest glimpse of the meaning? Does your whole soul begin to exult over such a wondrous destiny? It seems too wonderful to be true that such poor, weak, foolish beings like us should be created for such an end as this. Yet it is a blessed reality. We are even commanded to enter into it. We are exhorted to lay down our lives so that His life may be lived in us. We are asked to have no interests but His interests, to share His riches, to enter into His joys, to partake of His sorrows, to have the same mind as He had, and to think and feel and act and walk as He did.
Will we agree to all this? The Lord will not force it on us because He wants us as His companions and His friends, and a forced union would be incompatible with this. It must be voluntary on our part. The bride must say a willing "Yes" to the bridegroom, or the joy of their union is in question. Can we say a willing "Yes" to our Lord?
It is a very simple transaction and yet very real. There are three steps. First, we must be convinced that the Scriptures teach this glorious indwelling of God. Then we must surrender our whole selves to Him to be possessed by Him. And finally, we must believe that He has taken possession and is dwelling in us. We must begin to consider ourselves dead and to consider Christ as our only life. We must maintain this attitude of soul unwaveringly. It will help us to say, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not 1, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20) over and over, day and night, until it becomes the habitual breathing of our souls. We must continually deny self and put on the life of Christ.
We must do this, not only by faith, but practically as well. We must continually put self to death in all the details of daily life and must let Christ live and work in us instead. We must never do the selfish thing, but always the Christlike thing. We must let this become, by its constant repetition, the attitude of our whole being. And as we do this we will understand at last something of what it means to be made one with Christ as He and the Father are one. Christ left all to be joined to us. We must also leave everything to be joined to Him in this divine union which words cannot express, but for which our Lord prayed when He said, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word: that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us."
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