Jesus did not, nor did Paul. Jesus simply presented those who thronged Him with one standard, that was all: for conduct, the Sermon on the Mount; for cost, “whosoever he be that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple”.
Paul made no distinction between the justified and the sanctified. Having said in Romans 5 that the justified by faith have peace with God, He said to the same believers in the next chapter, “Know ye not, that so many of you as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death….likewise reckon yourselves dead indeed unto sin … yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” C. T. Studd, the founder of the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, always preached that same full gospel to the rawest primitive Africans turning to Christ, and demanded the highest from the newest.
How can it be otherwise? What is the gospel but the entry of Deity into redeemed humanity. Christ beginning to live His own life in a purified heart; and Christ lives a self-giving life, and nothing else. We don’t therefore believe that there is real evidence of a new birth, unless it is seen in the new life. The center has changed from self-interest to Christ-interest, and that means to world-interest.
I accepted Christ as a young man of nineteen. I did not know much, certainly nothing of the kind of thing I am now saying. But I immediately knew that a basic change of heart and outlook had taken place. There was Someone I had begun to love more than myself! What we love we talk of. “What fills the heart wags the tongue”, as C. T. Studd said, and I couldn’t help telling my college friends of this new reality in my life. “If that is Christianity,” one, who is now a bishop, said to me, “then I have never had it”. Exactly. It was different, though put crudely and ignorantly.
I had lots of battles to fight and adjustments to make. I argued and resisted when the holy Ghost put His finger on things, but in the end I always gave in. Of course I did; a greater thing I had taken over and compelled me.
I didn’t even know about Christ living in me, so I tried plenty to live by my own strength. In that sense I had to come to a crisis, when I received by faith the fact of being crucified with Christ and Him living in me (Galatians 2:20), and received the witness in my heart. But that was in reality no new thing; it was a deeper discovery of the One already there!
Then all these years, as lie led, I followed, and when He took me in ways of self-abandonment, I went with him. And that is all discipleship is! Then what about those church members, who maybe appear to us to be so lethargic—the “once-ers” on Sunday and that is about all; no missionary vision; no zeal to witness or for the prayer meeting? We must be careful about judging others; our zeal so greatly outruns our love. We are better channels of God’s grace by hopefully loving and believing that He is at work in them as He is in us, and that what He seeks He finds. But one thing we can and must do is preach “the whole counsel of God”. If we hew to the line in presenting Jesus as the One who lives His life of holiness, sacrifice, love, zeal to win others, missionary responsibility in us as the good news of free grace (Christ for us, Christ in us, Christ through us) from the first day a person is saved; if we uphold this inevitable consequence of Jesus in us, both in ourselves and our fellow believers; if our church fellowship is taught to see this in the scriptures as the normal Christian life, and the possibility of this being so in each of us because it is not we that live like this, but Christ in us; then that kind of gospel will surely be explosive as in New Testament days. The flesh will hate it, the Spirit will line up with it. Churches that line up may well have revolution before they have revival—which may be the healthiest thing.
Of course all who are called “sell all”. How can they do less for Him who did that for them, and who is now in them living that same standard of life through them? Of course they will lose their lives and find them over again in the lives redeemed through them. Those “lost lives” may mean thirty glorious years in the kitchen, at a printing press, at an office desk, or in the toil and heat of a tropical land. The way God takes them on this “selling all” road is His business.
Thank God there are many thousands in church fellowships and house groups in our land, in whom a self-giving, sacrificing, world-loving Savior lives and functions; and it is from them that the young men and women come, constrained by love that has utterly conquered them, who make up a Crusade like this, and many other such dedicated groups.
Let many more come, for there is endless room in endless needy areas of the world; while others of you equally live out Christ’s life in your home environments, yet you too share in the battle in distant lands by prayer and sacrifice. And where there are laggards—those we are tempted to judge because of coldness of heart and nominal church membership —let us love them and seek to sit where they sit, and understand and enter into what is damming up the free flow of the love of God through them. So often we shall find that it is a wrong concept of the gospel, and often we preachers are responsible. People think they have to be holy, zealous, victorious, alive with love to God and man; and because they are not (and never will be!) they have given up and sunk down to just a sort of passive adherence to religion. They have to be retaught that holiness, victorious living, zeal, love for God and man — everything — is merely part of God’s free gift, when He gave us Jesus, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification and (final) redemption”. Judgment demands, love gives. Let us give ourselves in love to such and they will learn the givingness of God.
Is there not a cross, a stripping in discipleship? Yes, but as God does the stripping, He puts glory into the hurt — and that makes all the difference. “The glory of the cross”. As C. T. Studd said: “Paul loved the music of the cross”. “Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross”. Come on now, let us step right into the full implication of the gospel, Christ eternally living His own life in us and by us, and His life is forever self-giving for others. What a gospel, that we selflovers can be changed into the image of the Self-giver by the simple means of daring to accept the fact that He is and will be just Himself in us!
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