[There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest… “ Heb. 4:10-12a]
Often the stress today is upon our putting things right, our efforts to live closer to the Lord, our re-consecration [rededication]. It is not these things in themselves that make for holy living. Sanctification is just as much of faith, by grace, as justification [Col. 2:6].
The great battle cry of the Reformation, “The just shall live by faith,” is not merely a pointer to show how we may enter into life. It is a God-given means by which Christians live the new life imparted to them in Christ, day by day. We must beware of making salvation an end in itself when it is but the gateway into newness of life which must be lived out day by day until we see our Lord face to face and are finally transformed into His likeness (1 John 3:2). Everything from beginning to end of the Christian life depends upon a proper understanding of what God has bestowed upon us with and in His own Son (Romans 8:32).
Perhaps the most alarming symptom to be seen among believers today is that so many, having accepted the fact that they cannot be justified before God except by the sacrifice for sin made once for all upon Calvary, proceed to build up a new legal code by which to live, and seek to be sanctified by their own efforts. The Cross is the touchstone of faith, and the principles of God’s dealings with us through the Cross need to be emphasized again and again as the only antidote for human effort and our self assertion.
Few Christians seem to realize that the Cross is God’s decree of destruction against the whole world system, which is rooted in the fall of Adam. “Now”, declares the Lord Jesus Christ on the eve of Calvary, ”is the time for judgment on this world” (John 12:31). The Scripture never teaches anywhere that God intends to patch up or improve human nature, but it does teach with persistent emphasis His grand design to create, to bring into being or form out of nothing, a new race fashioned in the image of His Son, the first-born from the dead (Col. 1:18).
Early in His ministry the Lord Jesus Christ stated this in His parable of the new patch and the old garment, and the new wine poured into old wineskins. In Luke 5:39 the parable concludes with the striking comment, “No-one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’” This is true to life. We are unwilling to accept God’s verdict in this matter until we have learned, sometimes through bitter experience, the complete failure of the old nature to accomplish anything worthwhile in the spiritual realm. It is impossible for anyone to go far in the Christian life until they are prepared to accept this aspect of the Cross of Christ. The modern teaching of consecration, which is the consecration of the old nature, seeks to bypass this death sentence and therefore only leads to frustration and failure. When we are humbly prepared to make the fact of our death with Christ our daily basis of life and service, there is nothing that can prevent the uprising and outﬂow of new life, which will make our living radiant, and meet the need of thirsty souls around us.
Dying with Christ is not something we can do. Our crucifixion with Him is an accomplished fact which took place when He hung on Calvary. Our part is merely to count upon this fact by faith [Rom. 6:6,11]. This is perhaps best illustrated by answering a question. Where do I look if I am to know that my sins are forgiven? ‘Why’, you reply, ‘Christ died for all. When I look to Calvary I see Him dying for me, wounded for my transgressions. The Holy Spirit Himself showed me this wonderful pardon given because of the death of Another’. If we are to know our union with Christ in His death as a real experience we must once again come to Calvary, because “If One died for all, then were all dead” (2 Cor. 5:14).
It is as we look at the Cross, and say, ‘Lord, I accept from my heart not only the fact of your death for me, but also of my death with you’, that the Holy Spirit will take the veil off, showing us the truth and leading us into the possession of its power. It is not a question of our dying, but of God having planted us into the death of His Son. Self-effort is so subtle in its workings that there are many who have wearied themselves out trying to die, seeking to grasp a fact which can only be understood as it is revealed to the heart by the Holy Spirit [Rom. 8:14-17].
In Romans 6:17 we read, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” What teaching is referred to here? Obviously that given in the earlier verses of this chapter, that we have died with Christ in order that here and now we may live on earth His resurrection life, and thus be His witnesses.
The new life upon whom God has designed to lavish His blessings, and use for His glory, is the new life in Christ. When we are really learning the secret of heart acceptance of God’s plan in the destruction of that which comes to us from Adam, and His design to bless only that which is bestowed upon us in Christ, we come into the way of life known as “the rest of faith.” The stress and strain which are the hallmarks of much Christian work and living are banished. No longer do we need to cry out that we may be used, no longer are we swayed this way and that by circumstances and the impact of the shifting currents of the opinions of others. As under the gentle teaching of the Holy Spirit we seek that the fact of death with Christ is applied in an ever deeper way, spontaneously and unselfconsciously, His life is manifested, and His power exercised [2 Cor. 4:10].
“True self denial,” wrote H. Miller, “like all other traits of Christ-likeness, is not conscious of itself and knows not that its face shines” [Exodus 34:29]. ‘But’, you may say ‘does not the world, the flesh and the devil, seek with all their might to extinguish this life, and nullify this power?’ [Yes] Certainly, but let us go with John Bunyan, in Pilgrims Progress, into the Interpreter’s House.
“Then I saw in my dream that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand and led him into a place where there was a ﬁre burning against a wall, and one standing by it always casting much water upon it to quench it. Yet the ﬁre burned higher and hotter. Then said Christian, ‘What does this mean?’ The Interpreter answered, ‘This ﬁre is the work of grace that is at work in the heart. He who casts water upon it to extinguish and put it out is the devil, but as you see, the ﬁre burns higher and hotter’. So he led Christian round to the other side of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, which he continually cast (but secretly) into the ﬁre.”
Many are concerned with the need of power for service. These basic principles will bring all such questions into proper perspective, and provide humble-minded sanity and balance, which is indicative of true spirituality. The great concern of the enemy of our souls is either to hold us back from full union with Christ by persistent accusation and harping on our own ability, or to push us into some over-balance because we seek to lay hold, in the realm of the old Adam, of those blessings and promises that belong exclusively to the new man in Christ. He is always seeking to complicate the issues when utter simplicity is the keynote of divine truth.
In our utter barrenness and unworthiness we can say, “I have been crucified with Christ” [Gal. 2:20]. It is not presumption for us to say this. It is necessity if Christ is to show Himself in and through us, and see “of the travail of His soul, and be satisﬁed” [Isaiah 53:11]. Here is the secret of Christian living which can make even our material age see that there is yet a living God in the midst of His people. May we be led more and more fully into its glorious simplicity.
Adapted from The Rest of Faith, ch. 1 (The Overcomer Literature Trust)
 John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, part 1, second stage.
Bracketed content, footnote, italics & colors added and British spelling changed – JBW