25. Like Christ: Giving His Life For Men.
"Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your slave: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."—Matt. 20:26, 27, 28.
"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.
In speaking of the likeness of Christ’s death, and of being made conformable to it, of bearing the cross and being crucified with Him, there is one danger to which even the earnest believer is exposed, and that is of seeking after these blessings for his own sake, or, as he thinks, for the glory of God in His own personal perfection. The error would be a fatal one; he would never attain the close conformity to Jesus’ death he hoped for; for he would be leaving out just that which is the essential element in the death of Jesus, and in the self-sacrifice it inculcates; that characteristic is its absolute unselfishness, its reference to others. To be made conformable to Christ’s death implies a dying to self, a losing sight of self altogether in giving up and laying down our life for others. To the question, how far we are to go in living for, in loving, in serving, in saving men, the Scriptures do not hesitate to give the unequivocal answer: We are to go as far as Jesus’ even to the laying down of our life. We are to consider this so entirely as the object for which we are redeemed, and are left in the world, the one object for which we live, that the laying down of the life in death follows as a matter of course. Like Christ, the only thing that keeps us in this world is to be the glory of God in the salvation of sinners. Scripture does not hesitate to say that it is in His path of suffering, as He goes to work out atonement and redemption, that we are to follow Him.
How clearly this comes out in the words of the Master Himself: "Whoever will be chief among, you, let him be your bond-servant, As the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." The highest in glory will be he who was lowest in service, and likest to the Master in His giving His life a ransom. And so again, a few days later, after having spoken of His own death in the words: "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit;" He at once applied to His disciples what He had said by repeating what they had already heard spoken to themselves, "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." The corn of wheat dying to rise again, losing its life to regain it multiplied manifold, is clearly set forth as the emblem not only of the Master but of each one of His followers. Loving life, refusing to die, means remaining alone in selfishness: losing life to bring forth much fruit in others is the only way to keep it for ourselves. There is no way to find our life but as Jesus did, in giving it up for the salvation of others. Herein is the Father, herein shall we be glorified. The deepest underlying thought of conformity to Christ’s death is, giving our life to God for saving others. Without this, the longing, for conformity to that death is in danger of being a refined selfishness.
How remarkable the exhibition we have in the Apostle Paul of this spirit, and how instructive the words in which the Holy Spirit in him expressed to us its meaning! To the Corinthians he says: "Always bearing about the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you." "Though -Ye was crucified through weakness, YET HE LIVETH by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall LIVE WITH HIM BY THE POWER OF GOD TOWARD YOU" (2 Cor. 4:10–12; 13:4). "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the Church" (Col. 1:24). These passages teach us how the vicarious element of the suffering that Christ bore in His body on the tree, to a certain extent still characterizes the sufferings of His body the Church. Believers who give themselves up to bear the burden of the sins of men before the Lord, who suffer reproach and shame, weariness and pain, in the effort to win souls, are filling up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in their flesh. The power and the fellowship of His suffering and death work in them, the power of Christ’s life through them in those for whom they labour in love. There is no doubt that in the fellowship of His sufferings, and the conformity to His death in Phil. 3. Paul had in view not only the inner spiritual, but also the external bodily participations in the suffering of Christ.
And so it must be with each of us in some measure. Self-sacrifice not merely for the sake of our own sanctification, but for the salvation of our fellow-men, is what brings us into true fellowship with the Christ who gave Himself for us.
The practical application of these thoughts is very simple. Let us first of all try and see the truth the Holy Spirit seeks to teach us. As the most essential thing in likeness to Christ is likeness to His death, so the most essential thing in likeness to His death is the giving up our life to win others to God. It is a death in which all thought of saving self is lost in that of saving others. Let us pray for the light of the Holy Ghost to show us this, until we learn to feel that we are in the world just as Christ was, to give up self, to love and serve, to live and die, "EVEN AS the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." Oh that God would give His people to know their calling; that they do not belong to themselves, but to God and to their fellow-men; that, even as Christ, they are only to live to be a blessing to the world.
Then let us believe in the grace that is waiting to make our experience of this truth a reality. Let us believe that God accepts of our giving up of our whole life for His glory in the saving of others. Let us believe that conformity to the death of Jesus in this, its very life-principle, is what the Holy Ghost will work out in us. Let us above all believe in Jesus: it is He Himself who will take up every soul that in full surrender yields itself to Him, into the full fellowship of His death, of His dying, in love to bring forth much fruit. Yes, let us believe, and believing seek from above, as the work end the gift of Jesus, likeness to Jesus in this too.
And let us at once begin and act this faith. let us put it into practice. Looking upon ourselves now as wholly given up, just like Christ, to live and die for God in our fellow-men, let us with new zeal exercise the ministry of love in winning souls. As we wait for Christ to work out His likeness, as we trust the Holy Spirit to give His mind in us more perfectly, let us, in faith begin at once to act as followers of Him who only lived and died to be a blessing to others. Let our love open the way to the work it has to do by the kindness, and gentleness, and helpfulness, with which it shines out on all whom we meet in daily life. Let it give itself to the work of intercession, and look up to God to use us as one of His instruments in the answering of those prayers. Let us speak and work for Jesus as those who have a mission and a power from on high which make us sure of a blessing. Let us make soul-winning our object. Let us band ourselves with the great army of reapers the Lord is sending out into His harvest. And ere we thought of it, we shall find that giving our life to win others for God is the most blessed way of dying to self, of being even as the Son of man was, a servant and a Saviour of the lost.
O most wonderful and inconceivably blessed likeness to Christ! He gave Himself to men, but could not really reach them, until, giving Himself a sacrifice to God for them, the seed-corn died, the life was poured out; then the blessing flowed forth in mighty power. I may seek to love and serve men; I can only really influence and bless them as I yield myself unto God and give up my life into His hands for them; as I lose myself as an offering on the altar, I become in His spirit and power in very deed a blessing. My spirit given into His hands, He can use and bless me.
O most blessed God! dost Thou in very deed ask me to come and give myself, my very life, wholly, even unto the death, to Thee for my fellowmen? If I have heard the words of the Master aright, Thou dost indeed seek nothing less.
O God I wilt Thou indeed have me? Wilt Thou in very deed in Christ permit me, like Him, as a member of His body, to live and die for those around me? to lay myself, I say it in deep reverence, beside Him on the altar of death, crucified with Him, and be a living sacrifice to Thee for men I Lord! I do praise Thee for this most wonderful grace. And now I come, Lord God! and give myself. Oh for the grace of Thy Holy Spirit to make the transaction definite and real! Lord! here I am, given up to Thee, to live only for those whom Thou art seeking to save.
Blessed Jesus! come Thyself, and breathe Thine own mind and love within me. Take possession of me, my thoughts to think, my heart to feel, my powers to work, my life to live, as given away to God for men. Write it in my heart: it is done, I am given away to God, He has taken me. Keep Thou me each day as in His hands, expecting and assured that He will use me. On Thy giving up Thyself followed the life in power, the outbreaking of the blessing in fulness and power. It will be so in Thy people too. Glory be to Thy name. Amen.