Interpreting the Crisis–Part Two
Continuing on from last issue, we conclude this two part excerpt from Once Caught, No Escape where Norman Grubb describes the revelation that came out of a personal crisis of faith.
Now our choice changes, when through repentance (change of mind) we are ready to discard our old faith in our self-life, recognize our wrong-doings, and transfer our choice of faith to salvation through Christ. What we take, takes us. We take Jesus, He takes us; and the consequence is God’s love shed abroad in our hearts. We begin, compulsively, not of duty but by a new dynamic, the tremendous revolution of a human being, the new birth, in which for the first time in our human history we begin to love somebody else more than ourselves. We start by loving Him who died for us. But when we love Him, we also begin to love people, for He is identified with people. But it is not our love. By no means so, because human love can only be self-love. It is God’s own love shed abroad in our hearts by His Spirit (Rom. 5:5). We have begun to be, not to have the eternal love. We have come home, the prodigal to the Father. Only it is an inner spiritual home-coming of which the parable is an outer symbol. Our home-coming is a union of spirit with Spirit. We have become branches of the Vine, one entity, one person as Head and body make a person; and as a branch is the spontaneous expression of the tree-life, we are the tree in one of its local forms.
This is what the creation of man in the image of God meant–that we should be little Christs, Jesus in human form. This is why God was manifest in the flesh in Jesus–that the meaning of manhood might be completely seen in Him and then become possible through His atoning work.
That earlier second experience I had in the Congo is what establishes us in the permanent awareness of this unity. I have sought earlier to explain a little of what it meant, but it is important enough to warrant a little repetition. At our new birth we find by painful experience that however anxious we are to be what we should be, the redeemed human self can never by itself rise above its human selfhood. We learn the hard way, by what we call “the wilderness experience,” not just the guilt of not having been what we should but the helplessness of not being able to be what we should be, and the great liberation of discovering that we are not meant to be different; we cut the words “ought to” (Rom. 7) out of our vocabulary! We have this second collapse–that the self will never be more than a container of the Divine Self: the self will not change, and will not become better and is not meant to, but contains the One who is all change.
We are then conditioned to see the fact of the eternal unity, our humanity the containers of His deity: He the all, not making us something different, not giving us love or power or peace or wisdom, but Himself being all that in us; He through the unity manifesting Himself in all these characteristics of the One God by us, so that it is the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace and the rest in Galatians 5:22, 23, and not our human fruitage. So we come home. This second crisis of faith affirms this relationship, and what we take takes us: and the Spirit in His own way and time bears witness with our spirits that He and I are a unity.
Now we live the normal human life. We accept ourselves for He has accepted us; and when we accept instead of reject ourselves, we accept others instead of rejecting them. We just are ourselves, that’s all; for we are the will of God, and we are the light of the world, and we are as He is in this world. And we are free. We dare to be ourselves, instead of the old watchful fear of constant failure, because in this unity we are held, not we hold Him; and we leave Him to do the holding while we live our normal lives. We leave Him to mind His own business, and we are His business.
Life has fewer strains, battles and problems–for a very good reason. As local expressions of God, and He is love, we are love in action. We are in a world, and are a part of it, which is torn asunder by the opposite of that love. We see it and feel it and are meant to see and feel. It is only when we have reactions that we are involved in situations. This is the purpose of us being humans. It is not wrong to have a human reaction to people or things. We are meant to; and our human reactions are normally negative–fear, dislike, anxiety, hate, disgust. If we were of the world, we should get caught up by these feelings and know no way of deliverance from them. Now we recognize them as having a purpose, not for ourselves; we are the branches of a Vine which is producing fruit for others; we are the body of the Person who is the Saviour and Intercessor for the world. We have passed on from a Christ for our convenience. He has become that now, fixed and settled. We are now part of a Christ for others. So we take a different point of view in our disturbing situations.
He has put us where indifferent neighbours, blasphemous workmates, disturbing social conditions have their impact on us. We have our family problems, our unsaved loved ones, our church and mission discords, our physical sicknesses, our economic uncertainties. But now they are for a different purpose. They are not for our betterment or further training or sanctification (though they may have some incidental side-effects that way). They are God’s ways of revealing Himself to others by us. All life is now an intercession. We accept the unpleasant situations as from God, though apparently sometimes from the devil or man. This is what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 4:10 by “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” As Jesus died to Himself at Gethsemane in accepting a death which He wished He could escape, so we die to our desire to resist or refuse what we would like to escape. This is the dying fulfilled in our bodies.
But where there is a dying there is a rising. As we by acceptance die to our hurt selves, we have a consciousness of Him living His life in us. We have a poise, faith, peace, liberty, which hurt self does not have. The life of Jesus is being manifested in our mortal body, and people see something different from the usual way of behaviour in unpleasant circumstances. Then also, being freed from self-pity and self-hurt (though there is the constant hurt), we can now see along with God into something of His purposes in revealing Himself to others by us. We are freed to co-operate by the word of faith that God will do what He plans to do in the specifics He shows us in the situation. We are free to love those whose very antagonisms are proofs that they are really crying out for love, and to give acceptable witness as occasions arise.
The very hurts we so deeply feel become redemptive in stirring us to aroused human reactions which become a springboard for faith–this dying and rising with Him. God can come through to others, where He could not come through unless He first had His dying and rising human agent. So, as Paul summed it up: “Death works in us, but life in you.”
What was frustration is now adventure. But we are active agents, not passive recipients. So we go further. Faith is the one way by which we humans involve ourselves actively in anything. We think over a thing, we make a decision that we will do that thing, and then we do it. That is faith–thought, word and deed. A carpenter thinks over what kind of chair he will make (thought). He decides and maybe designs the type he will make (word). He then proceeds to get his wood and tools and makes it (deed). That is faith in action. But note that the decisive moment is the Word. That is why creation was said to be by “The Word,” and why all dramatic deliverances and supplies in the Bible records of the men of faith centred in their spoken word of faith. Speaking the word for us humans means that we have come out of our inner undecided selves into becoming people of decisive action: “I will do so and so.” The deed is really the outward clothing of the word, and proceeds naturally and easily from it. In creation, God as The Father was The Thinker. God as The Son was The Speaker. And from Them proceeded God the Spirit as The Doer.
A human by his faith in action can only go as far as he has human resources to utilize–a carpenter must have his tools and his wood. But we, in God, participate in the eternal resources. It is not our paltry human thinking, human affirming, human action. It is we as being He–He thinking, speaking, acting by us. So now we must watch against that sin of all sins–the sin of unbelief. Unbelief is really negative faith. It is believing the wrong way round, believing human appearances, in the hopelessness of things, in our weakness, in the dark situations of which life is full, producing fear, anxiety, pessimism. Unbelief is faith in the power of evil.
We are to replace negative faith by positive. As “gods” (John 10:34,35) we are to do as Jesus said: Express God’s faith and “say” to our mountains “Be thou removed.” We are to speak the words of faith which are creative and reproductive, just because it is the word which is the decisive committal. Not asking for a thing, but declaring it as done. Calling “the things that be not as though they were.” As we do this, the Spirit moves to transmute the faith into substance, because it has all along not been our human faith or human word, nor will it be our human deed. Having the mind of Christ, we take it that the direction of our thoughts and desires is His, He working in us to will of His good pleasure. Speaking the word of faith, we boldly say it is He speaking it by us; it is not we having faith in God, but having and expressing the faith of God (according to the correct marginal translation of Mark 11:22). He who gave the thought and constrained us to speak the word, does the deed.
That may include Him saying to us, “Now, I’ll do it by you.” Certainly. A missionary says yes to that. It may take four or forty years. Jesus fulfilled His faith by the offering of His body to be crucified, in faith for the resurrection. He never saw the outcome of His faith this side of the grave.
Faith is the whole man in action: therefore it involves our bodies, and there is a sense in which we answer our own prayers. “It all depends on God and it all depends on me” has truth in it. That is the faith James speaks of, which without works is dead: “I will show thee my faith by my works.” Having spoken the word of faith, we expect to be involved to any limit in fulfilling it. Salvation was by the offering of the body of Jesus. If love belongs to need, and we are an expression of that eternal love, then it will involve our time, our money, our physical labours, our homes, our earthly security.
There is a law, a principle at work in this, to which Jesus referred when He said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Whatever form it may assume, this we take for granted–that the whole of us will be involved. Not by self-effort, not by pressing ourselves to get into action, but we shall find ourselves compelled: “the love of Christ constraineth me.” We have to, and love to, right in the midst of the cost of it. For the joy set before us, we too endure our cross. Faith works by love in action. Yet through it all we know it is not our efforts, our so-called sacrifices, which bring the results. It is the faith which even through years of waiting has already declared the outcome.
This I understand to be the meaning of life and the adventure of loving. It is all inclusive, because I see the devil only as God’s agent; there is no permissive but only directive will of God. He works all things after the counsel of His own will, and it is the good pleasure of His will. He enjoys it, and so do we by faith. So there is a wholeness to being: no second causes. Even where the enemy, operating through the perverted freewill of man, appears strong and dominant, we see him under God’s directive control, already defeated at the cross, and we with the Victor “far above all.” We are the privileged ones to be the channels of faith and love through our self-giving, by which the victory will be visibly manifested. The shout of a king is among us.
This is a brief outline, which I have sought to expand to the fullest of my understanding in those last two books, God Unlimited and The Spontaneous You. It is this which has given me a broad base to a faith with understanding. In that critical year, while shaken by my questioning of God, even when going through it, I came to one decision. I had so known and loved the Lord and He had been so real to me through the past twenty years, that I said to myself, “If God is an illusion, He is so wonderful and so satisfies all I can conceive He should be, that if He is the great illusion, I will remain a little illusion along with Him.”
But by the end of a year the mist had cleared. I can’t exactly say how except that it was while I was reading John of the Cross’s Ascent of Mount Carmel; and the result has been worth all the agony of that year. The awareness of the unity became a fixture which has never varied since. I think I would say that in the earlier Congo “second experience,” Christ in me became a permanent reality: in this one, I in Christ became the permanency: the recognition of me (and all the redeemed) being a part of the One, and functioning each in our local situation as He Himself in a branch form. We are in the same relationship to Him who is the whole, as any workman is to his source material, in the sense that God puts Himself at one’s disposal. It is up to us to mould the material into the particular product of our choosing. In this sense God called Moses a god to Pharaoh and a god to Aaron, and Jesus commented on the fact as an inspired word of Scripture that we are gods “to whom the word of God has come,” as I have already mentioned. This is the ascended life. Having ourselves been joined to Christ in death and resurrection for our own deliverance and union, we now exercise the authority of a royal priest seated with Him in His royal high priesthood and exercising our priesthood on earth by the operation of a faith which works by love. The permanency of the sense of exaltation, the changeless inner light, the awareness at all times and any moment of the familiarity of being one, so that it is not really I but He, the given fact of a forgiveness and cleansing which preceded any sins by two thousand years, the ability to speak the word of faith on any situation: I cannot say how these have become facts of experience since coming out of that tunnel, but they have.
But I still have to emphasize, even though I cannot make it plain to others, that there has been for me a vital difference between the second experience of discovering Christ living in me, and this third revelation of Christ all in all. The second experience left gaps where I did not yet see Him in everything everywhere, and all a form of Him, whether negatively of Him in wrath as consuming fire, or positively of Him in grace as light; and so there were separations, and callings on Him to be this or do that, in place of affirmings that He is in fullness of His action everywhere, and specifically through my (His) faith in local situations; and thus the constant use of the word of faith which Jesus used and told us to use (Mark 11:22, 23), and all the men of faith of the Bible used in their exploits of faith or endurance. Before, that gap had to be bridged on each occasion by outreachings of faith. Now, there is no gap except in momentary human reactions, and therefore only a constant reaffirmation. And to be settled into this union which is a unity, I had to go through a “dark night of the soul” which affected no outward things, but the very inward vitals of my “I and Thou” consciousness.