September 2, 2018 at 11:14 pm #11300David SeargentParticipant
Recently, God led me to a little book called “It’s As Simple As This” which, although not specifically about the Kingdom of God, has shed much light on that subject. The simple title and brevity of this book gives little hint of the depth of teaching that it contains, but of chief relevance is the light that it sheds on the teaching of Paul summed up succinctly in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ: the life I now live is not my life, but the life which Christ lives in me; and my present mortal life is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” This verse contains spiritual dynamite that a quick reading is insufficient to ignite. Let’s look at it more carefully and try to draw out what Paul is saying.
First of all, “I have been crucified with Christ”. This is as true of every Christian as it was for Paul, as he later states that “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the old nature” (Gal. 5:24). So the old “me” has been crucified with Christ and is now dead! I must, however, avoid any attempt to “revive” the old self. Paul warns the Galatians (Galatians 5:13-16) against gratifying the old nature, which remains possible if we have not fully grasped the message of Gal. 2:20 and its repeated emphasis in Gal. 5:24.
Secondly. Let us consider that word “faith”. Some translations have “trust” which probably gives a better idea of the meaning. It could almost be replaced by “surrender”. Let me explain the latter. Although I have never had the desire to jump from an aircraft myself, my stepson has tried skydiving. When novice skydivers are given their first experience of the sport (whether they are trainees or simply people wanting to add this experience to their list) they make the jump in tandem with an expert. All they need do is enjoy (hopefully!) the experience. The expert skydiver does all that it necessary for a safe parachute ride to the ground. The novice, very literally, places his or her life in the hands of the expert. They have complete FAITH (= TRUST) in the willingness and ability of the expert to enable a safe landing – and that faith is based upon their knowledge of the expert’s ability and experience. The novice does nothing to aid the expert (such “aid” would probably be detrimental and therefore dangerous). The novice simply “surrenders” to the expert’s ability. This is analogous to the Christian’s faith in Christ. At conversion, the Christian becomes aware that he/she cannot achieve salvation by his/her own works and places all trust in Jesus alone – literally trusting Jesus for the Christian’s eternal life; placing all hope of eternal salvation in the hands of Jesus alone. One can do this only as the Holy Spirit causes one to become aware of one’s own utter inability to achieve salvation by any one or thing other than Jesus, on the one hand, and the full sufficiency of Jesus to secure salvation on the other.
Initially, the new Christian will often understand “salvation” simply as attaining Heaven and avoiding Hell in the next life, but through the leading of the Holy Spirit will come to see that there is more to it than this. Specifically, if Galatians 2:20 is to be anything more than an interesting theological doctrine for us – if it is to become for us a living truth – our surrender to Jesus must be such that he becomes the very Fountain of our life. If our old self is dead, that fountain is now dry and the water of our life must issue from this other Source; the presence of Christ Jesus within.
Thirdly, as Galatians 2:20 is true of all Christians, then every genuine Christian draws life from the same Fountain. In a sense, we are no longer isolated individuals each drawing from his or her private inner fountain, but members one of another as we draw from the single Fountain that is Christ. Paul called the church the “body of Christ”; and a body is under the control of a single mind and enlivened by a single nervous system and blood supply. He also spoke of Christians as having the “mind of Christ”; and the mind of Christ is one Mind. Jesus also told his followers that he is the Vine and they are the branches. Notice that Jesus did not say that he is the trunk of the Vine or even the sap of the Vine, but the Vine itself, including the branches which are his disciples. Note also that when we see a vine, it is usually the branches and the foliage which they carry that attracts our attention initially. As Jesus was speaking to Jews when he made this statement, his listeners would immediately have understood the reference to the Old Testament symbol of the Vine as Israel itself. As the Vine, Jesus is the true Israel of God, the perfect Jew. The branches that bear fruit are those who allow themselves to become one with him and draw his life (the Vine’s sap) into themselves. Those Israelites who refused Jesus do not bear fruit and are cut away from the Vine and discarded.
The fact that our old self has been crucified with Christ and that our life is now through the risen and ascended Christ living within us (the doctrine summed up in Galatians 2:20) is something that we simply have to accept. We believe it because the Bible tells us that it is true and we just live in the light of this truth. It is, as the title of the book says, “as simple as this”! Yet, as we continue to live in the light of this fact, the Holy Spirit will impart an inner witness to its truth. This may come sooner or later. It may come as a sudden and vivid awakening or slowly and as a quiet assurance.
Now, how does all of this relate to the Kingdom of God?
Well, the Kingdom of God is essentially the Kingship of God and acceptance of this reality is (unless I am greatly mistaken) the same as surrendering to Christ in sense of which we have been discussing. Once the full implications of Galatians 2:20 are accepted and realised, we can see clearly that we are dead to the “kingdoms of the world” and that we are truly residents of the Kingdom of God. I BELIEVE THAT IT IS OUR PRIORITY TO PRAY THAT GOD WILL OPEN TO US ALL THAT IS CONTAINED IN THIS WONDERFUL VERSE AND GIVE US THE FAITH TO ACCEPT EVERYTHING THAT HE SHOWS US. Furthermore, we should ponder this verse as often as possible; meditate on it so that it never slips away from us. In fact why not make this a subject of group prayer at prayer meetings? Pray, and then rest in silence while the verse is – to use that grand old phrase – “inwardly digested”. This need not always be pondering on the actual words of the verse, so much as the meaning of these words; the wonderful fact that we have this wonderful relationship with Christ. We also recall that every Christian has this relationship with Christ. Any godly thought and action that proceeds from any Christian arises from Christ within. Our individual Christian lives are all part of the one Life being lived by Christ through his people. We simply put aside all other thoughts and distractions and just silently abide in his presence within. In this way, groups of Christians begin to experience the reality of the Kingdom, forming the nuclei of an organically growing network of “Kingdom people” who recognise each other as those whose lives are not ultimately individual, but all draw from the same Fountain; a Body motivated by the single Mind of Christ!
<p align=”center”>THE TESTIMONY OF NORMAN PERCY GRUBB</p>
<p align=”left”>Every so often, God raises up a prophet through whom he shines light on a certain, hitherto largely neglected, scriptural truth. Without seeming too facetious, I will refer to these as “spotlight prophets”. Luther was one such; perhaps the most important as it was through him that God shone the spotlight on the central Christian doctrine of justification by grace accepted through faith alone. Other spotlight prophets include such people as Calvin, Smyth, Fox, Wesley and so forth. Last century, God raised up another such prophet in the person of Norman Percy Grubb. It was Grubb who wrote that wonderful little book “It’s as Simple as This” as well as several equally challenging works. In common with Luther, Grubb received his spiritual spotlight, initially, as an answer to a personal spiritual crisis, but later came to see it as a word of prophesy to the church at large. Unlike Luther, Grubb’s crisis was not about his salvation (after all, he had the advantage of living after Luther!) but concerned what he saw as a defect in his attitude toward those around him. It happened while he was a missionary in Africa. He became painfully aware that he did not really love the Africans to whom he was sent to minister. Also, he began to wonder if what he was giving them was much more than a Christian ethical code rather than a dynamic relationship with God.</p>
<p align=”left”>There is no doubt that Grubb was doctrinally sound and zealous in his Christianity. Several years earlier, while a student at the University of Cambridge, he (with a group of other conservative evangelical Christians) was instrumental in founding an Evangelical Union as a counter to the theologically liberal influence of the Student Christian Movement. Similar evangelical groups were subsequently founded in universities across the English speaking world. I would not like to guess how many university students have become Christians as a flow-on from Grubb’s uncompromising evangelical stand at Cambridge all those years ago, but I do know that I am one of them!</p>
<p align=”left”>Yet, something was clearly missing in Grubb’s Christianity. He prayed to God about the problem, probably hoping that God would infuse a more Christ-like loving attitude into him. But God led him to Galatians 2:20 instead! As a student of the Bible, Grubb must have read that verse many times and as a Bible-believing Christian, he would no doubt have believed it at some sort of cerebral level, yet apparently its impact had never actually registered with him at the level of daily life. But now he saw it clearly and, after a spiritual struggle that lasted for five hours in the African forest, confessed that he had died to sin and that he could say, with Paul “Yet not I, but Christ lives in me”. He writes, “That was as far as I got on that crisis occasion … But once said, my confession of faith became fixed and was never to be gone back on.” Then, some two years later, “the sudden quiet light was lit in me, ‘Yes. It really IS Christ in me … This was so total that for a time I almost thought I was Christ! That didn’t matter while the glory of the inner recognition settled in me”. (quotes from “It’s as Simple as This”). (Grubb’s expression here sounds pretty extreme, but we must remember that our language is not adequate to expresses experiences of God and we should exercise caution in taking these types of expressions too literally. A language more fitted to transactions in the marketplace inevitably gets stretched when one tries to use it to express the deep things of God!).</p>
<p align=”left”>The doctrine of having died with Christ and now empowered by “Christ in us” became a central aspect of Grubb’s teaching throughout the rest of his long life.</p>
<p align=”left”>Grubb’s experience must have been quite overwhelming. Others may not find the “sudden quiet light” as sudden or as bright, but the essence of the experience – the more or less obscure knowledge that “it really is Christ in me” who has taken control of the engine room of my life is what living as a citizen of the Kingdom of God is all about. Christ is King. He is King within my life and, as more and more people experience this fact in their own lives, his Kingship in the world will be progressively displayed through them.</p>
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