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Friday, October 5, 2012

God's Supreme Interest in Man # 9

The Crisis of Being Renewed

"Ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, which is being renewed unto knowledge, after the image of Him That created him" (Colossians 3:9)

A word now regarding that phrase or clause which is, "being renewed after the image of Him That created him". This is something that has been taken up and is being carried on; and that relates to the occupation and the energy of the Holy Spirit. I am just going to be content with one thing in this whole matter of the Holy Spirit's work. You notice what it clearly says here, that the goal that the Holy Spirit has is this renewing work. Although He is not mentioned by name here, we know quite well that this renewing work is the work of the Holy Spirit; and the goal of the Holy Spirit's work is brought forward and made to stand over everything. It is all-governing. It is the end that is brought into view with the life of the believer and made the thing which rules throughout.

Now we are right, of course, in being occupied with the many things related to the end as we are concerned so largely with what is more elementary. That is, we are greatly concerned with the work of evangelization, which is bringing the gospel to the unsaved and bringing them to Christ. We are greatly concerned with the spread of the gospel, or what is so often referred to as the extension of the kingdom. This and many other matters like that are right and must be as a way to the end, as a means to the end, but perhaps there is a weakness often associated with that occupation, which is making these things the end in themselves.

And what is made very clear here is the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to this great end of being renewed unto the IMAGE of Him That created him. We must remember that the Apostle Paul is writing now at the end of his life, and this letter is set in the consummation of his ministry. His whole life and ministry and work is now being brought together in a consummate way. Here at the end he brings this activity and energy of the Holy Spirit, not here in relation to the entering into the Christian life and all that is associated with it, but in relation to the end of the Christian life, and he says in effect: it is the end that governs all.

It is not being saved in itself, and it is not the work of getting people saved in itself, however important and essential as that is, for nothing can be without it. Nevertheless, the thing that must be kept in mind is that this work of being saved and all that has to do with it is related to this great end: to secure conformity to the IMAGE of Him That created him.

Why are we saved? We rejoice in being saved, and praise the Lord that we are saved, and never cease to be grateful that He has saved us! We can never exaggerate the wonder of His grace in our salvation and in the Lord as our Saviour. But why are we saved? Well, it is not just to be saved, not just to leave it there, but it is the first step toward this full end. So why are we seeking that others should be saved and  using our lives and our time and our strength that they should come to salvation? Is it just that they should be saved? Just that they should be saved and escape condemnation, or judgment, and hell and find heaven? No, the Apostle brings forward the end. In essence, he says, "No," our object in leading others to Christ must always have the full end governing, and every one is to be brought right into line with that end: the renewing after the IMAGE of Him.

Now you may thing that this is hardly a thing to say, that it is obvious, that it goes without saying, but it does not go without saying, because there are so many born-again people who are saved people and, yet, who are falling lamentably and unrightfully short of Christ's likeness. We know it in ourselves and we are not speaking only objectively of other people, but it is true that we meet so many Christians who are very glad that they are saved, and make no hesitation in saying that they are saved, but their transformation is lagging behind, and in many you meet so little of Christ.

Now what we are being told quite clearly is that this will not do in the end. It will be the end that judges our Christian life, and so it is the Holy Spirit's work, His interest, His concern, and His energy and activity, not only to bring people to the door and to get them inside the door, but to make them know that door is but the opening of a Way. It is not the door alone, but it is what lies beyond the door, and that is this renewal, this making "anew" after the IMAGE of Him That created him. The end governs: it is Christ ALL, and in ALL that He signifies and means and stands for. It is that vast ALL that He is. "Christ is ALL, and in ALL" is the last clause. It is Christ in that fullness, which is more than our initial salvation.

Christ Himself, when He was here, never failed to let people know that when they entered that door, or that straight and narrow way, they were in for trouble - they were in for much trouble. Now that may sound like a very terrible thing to say, especially to you young Christians who are not far inside the door, but be perfectly clear about it, the Lord Jesus never deceived anybody about this at all. He let people know that to "follow Him," as He put it at that time, involved them in difficulty and suffering and persecution and trial. This is a lifelong thing. There is a cost here, a great cost. And we shall discover that while there are the compensations, for there are undoubtedly compensations in this life, and the mighty compensations for eternity, this is a way which is not easy for the natural man by any means. This work of the Holy Spirit is drastic, exacting, and very trying to the flesh (the "old" man). Make no mistake about it; it will take all the energy that the Holy Spirit Himself has to accomplish this work. It really will. So the Lord Jesus has not left us in any doubt about this matter.

But note, and I am glad the Apostle Paul puts it like this, because it is so true to experience, it is the new man who is being renewed.  Notice, first there was a precise and definite transaction, "Ye put off" and "ye put on," but now the work that is going on is not a single act of a single moment and a single day, but it is something that is going on in us. The new man is being renewed, and that process will go right on to the end. It will never stop until we will not allow it to go on any further, or until we put a period to it. This process will go right on to the end. It is something that is being done in us all the time. This changing over is not our position, which was the act, but it is our condition of being conformed to His IMAGE. That is the process.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 10

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