The Cross Opens the Way to Full Knowledge of the Lord
The Cross is the only way to spiritual knowledge. Important as study of the Word of God may be in its own realm, as laying a foundation for the Holy Spirit to work upon, you never come to a knowledge of the Lord simply by studying the Bible. The Holy Spirit may use what you know of the Bible to teach you much, to explain your experiences, to enable you to understand what the Lord is doing, but you never get this kind of spiritual knowledge merely by study and by teaching.
You must be prepared to let the Cross be so applied to your life that you are broken and emptied and fairly ground to powder - so that you are brought to the place where, if the Lord does not do something, you are finished. If you are prepared for that way, you will get to know the Lord personally (inwardly). That is the only way. It cannot be by addresses or lectures. They have their value, but you do not know the Lord spiritually along those lines.
The full knowledge of the Lord is reserved to us who live in this dispensation, because the latter is governed by the Cross. Peter himself had something to say about this:
"Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them. To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things, which now have been announced unto you ...; which things angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:10-12).
There you have two orders - prophets and angels - who did not know certain things which are revealed to us. The prophets knew much, but they were searching diligently to know something they could not discover. 'What does that mean?' they asked themselves. 'The Spirit of God is making us say these things, but what do they mean?' They sought diligently to know that which was reserved for us. Why could they not know?
Because full knowledge is based upon the Cross, and the Cross had not taken place then. And angels, too, desire to look into these things. Can it be true? We thought angels knew everything! Surely angels have far more knowledge and intelligence than we have about these things? They do not know. "Which things angels desire to look into." Why do they not know? Angels have had no need of the Cross; the Cross has no meaning for them personally. It is on the basis of the Cross that full knowledge is entered into. Does that need any further argument?
The Cross Secures Positive, Not Only Negative, Results
So then, the Holy Spirit, in order to bring us to the full knowledge of the Lord and by means of that growing knowledge to make us useful to the Lord, must constantly work by means of the Cross in principle; and my closing word is this. The work is not all negative; the Lord works on a positive basis. You may thing that the Lord is always saying 'No," that He is always against you, that the Cross is suppressive; but no, it is a positive instrument in the hands of the Spirit of God. God is working on a positive line. The fact is that, if ever the Holy Spirit brings us into a new knowing of the meaning of the Cross, He is after something more. That is the law of the Spirit of life.
You must remember that the Lord Jesus, in His resurrection, was not left just where He was before. Before He died He was on this earth, and then He died; and Paul refers to His raising from that death in these words: "the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all" (Ephesians 1:19-21). The resurrection carries Him through to the "far above all," and the principle of resurrection is always that of rebound - we may go down very deep, more deeply than ever we have known before, but the Spirit of God is intending that that shall issue in our being higher than ever before. So do not be afraid when you are feeling very empty, very finished, very much at the end. Ask the Lord that if this is truly the working of His Cross it shall be successful in what he intends for you; and if it is successful, you will be on higher ground afterward than ever you were before.
The Need for a Definite Transaction with the Lord
We have said from time to time that the Cross does involve a crisis. For some this may be an overwhelming experience, the biggest thing that has happened in your life, even bigger than your conversion. It was so for some of us as we moved from the apprehension of the substitutionary aspect of the Cross, where we saw only what Christ had done for us, to the apprehension of our union with Christ in death, burial and resurrection. Whether or not you have a big crisis which divides your life in two, you must have a point of transaction with the Lord where you recognize that the Cross is in principle an utter, all-inclusive reality that, sooner or later, is going to run to earth the last vestige of that self-life which is the ground of satan's power. It is best at some point to have this understanding: 'I rejoice in the fact of Thy death for me, and I am saved on the ground of that death and my faith in it. But I died in Thee - that was Thy thought about me as a son of Adam I could not bear to have all that that means brought to me at once, but I recognize that it has to be worked out as grace enables, and that sooner or later I shall have to come to an utter end; and I therefore commit myself to all Thou doest mean by the Cross.'
A transaction of that kind is necessary. Do not begin to kick when the Lord begins to work it out. He takes you at you word, but He is doing it with the definite object in view of getting you to a higher and fuller knowledge of Himself. Out of that growing knowledge of Him, the growing preciousness of the Lord, all real service will issue. It is not what we do, but what we have, that is the secret of service.
(continued with # 1 - "The Kingdom, and Entrance Into It")