Our Cutting Edge
The Edge Explored
I want again to outline what we believe the Spirit has entrusted to us as our "apostleship," as much as He gave Paul his "apostleship to the Gentiles." It is to fulfill and complete for the Body of Christ what is the true meaning and activity of the human self as created and purposed by God.
In our generation, investigation into the true meaning of the self has been brought drastically to our attention by such as Freud and Jung. This has been called the "me" generation, with the answer always being sought and attempts at answers given as to what the true self is.
In his time Paul put the self into focus on its true level when in his Galatians letter he wrote of "God revealing his Son in me" (1:16), "Christ living in me" (2:20) and "He mighty in me towards the Gentiles" (2:8). Here in three radical statements Paul gave the total positive of the human redeemed me: containing and expressing Christ in me, as me.
But Paul, in his delight in "communicating that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles," did not there outline the negativethe indwelling sin of the self-relying selffrom which they had been delivered by this grace of God in Christ. It was in his Romans 7 (vs. 17, 20) that he testified to his own experience with that negative. He had been totally deceived into operating by what seemed to be his self-relying self, but was really Satan’s self-relying self masquerading as him.
So then, because he had not defined the negative before (at least in the written records which we have), there were these deceived, self-action works by the Galatians, as in 4:9-10: "Observing days, months, times, years." That was what Paul was combating in his Galatian letter: false brethren who enticed believers back to that old selfeffort life of works, which was really Satan-effort and "accursed" (1:9).
The Cross Is the Key
Now Paul comes right out with what we are delivered from by our identification with Christ in the Cross: "I am crucified with Christ"; "They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts"; and "God forbid that I should glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world." Here the negative evil fully manifested in our Satanic self-for-self activitiesis nailed, where it belongs, to His Cross. It is the very misery and bondage of that self-effort life under the Law which makes the deliverance from it so glorious. We are freed in His Cross by faith in His death as us and thus replaced in His resurrection by Christ in His nature of self-for-others as us. So what we are saying is that the "gospel" we especially preach is first the exposure of the hellish negative of self-effort works, which is indwelling sin, and then the glorious replacement by Christ indwelling with His nature, through His resurrection and our responding Galatians 2:20 faith.
The gap, even in the evangelical church of our day, is just what Paul had to recall his Galatians to so vigorously and underline in his letter to them. He does it by his all-out emphasis on the Cross, demonstrating that a strong, emphatic positive only operates in its passion and strength when it is replacing and swallowing up its negative. Then the self which puts its energies into operating the negative gives all its force to the positive. Thus, the self misused in expressing Satan’s self-for-self nature now totally and gloriously expresses Christ in His self-for-others nature.
We first see this as a fact in our Living God Himself as the Trinity Father, Son and Spiritin action. The Father as "consuming fire" (Heb.12:29) symbolizing total self-energy, by His own eternal choice begets His own beloved Son in His likeness. He "dies," as it were, a death to being a fire-self and His nature is transmuted into being His light-self (I John 1:5). As Spirit, God is the life-giving blessing in all the beauties, harmonies and glories of our universe. And it is His light-nature of otherlove through the Son which is birthed into us by the new birth of the Spirit. His are rich fruits, as in Galatians 5:22-23, the direct opposite to the labored, Satan self-for-self works with their horrible consequences of 5:19-21.
We Must See Who We Were
That gap, which is the main drive of our truth-presentation to the Church and the world is the teaching of not only Christ for us, but Christ in usthat special "mystery" which Paul opens to us in Colossians 1:27. But almost universally the Church, even in its deeper-life teachings and victorious life conferences and writings, does not bring its hearers to their true fulfillment through desperation and travail into Christ formed in us (4:19). This is because they have never been confronted with the negative in its full dreadful focus.
Paul himself, in his most personal of sharings, opened this negative up in its full explanation in his Romans 7 chapter. He had already gone well beyond the joy and realities of the new birth in Romans 5, and moved forward in chapter 6 to confronting, not just past sins committed, but present sinning even in our new birth condition. Here he underlines that further revelation of our identification with Christ, who not merely so gloriously died for us, but died as us.
Christ, Paul taught, was made sin as us (Rom. 6:1-13 & 2 Cor. 5:21), was cast off from the presence of His Father as us, died as usbeing loosed from that indwelling sin nature of the Satanspirit in us, and rose as us in His own nature of the Spirit of Truth. So now Paul says in Romans 6 that we can by faith reckon ourselves freed from Satan operating his sin acts (as in John 8:44) by our bodies, which now become containers of Christ.
The Final Deceit
But still there remains that final, top level deceit of the false indweller expressing his nature as us and by us. Our final release is only when, in our own Romans 7 travail, we at last "see" that what appears to be our "good" selfeffort is still Satan-effort of self-for-self. The so-called "good" of that forbidden tree is the lie that took us captive in the Fall. Only created to contain and express another as vessels, slaves, branches, wives, temples and body members, we were caught out into expressing that false deity as if we were independent selves, when there is no such thing!
Therefore, the strength and passion of affirming that Christ now lives in me is totally based on the startling exposure of realizing that I have been expressing Satan as me (Rom. 7:17, 20). Thus the misused self by Satan is transmuted into the right-used self by Christ; and as we were walking Satans, so now we are walking Christs.
Our cutting edge is a radical Pauline Scriptural insight and revelation. It is bound to meet, as Jesus said it would, with fierce opposition from deceived believers, of whom we were part. They seek to protect the inconsistencies of an apparent just-human self, which in actual fact is nonexistent. But we need to keep reminding ourselves and sharpening our inner understandings of this knife-edged completeness of revelation and our plain Bible basis to it.
The Beginning Of The Search
Now in tracing my search for a total answer to life, you also can discover how faith in Christ’s finished work both solves our human predicament and fulfills God’s eternal purpose for us.
When my wife Pauline and I joined her father, C.T. Studd, in the heart of Africa in 1920, we were both as totally sold out for Jesus as we knew how to be. Previously I had been for five years of World War I a soldier in the British Army. Christ had become my personal Savior at the age of 18, just months before I received my commission as a second lieutenant in the Gloucester Regiment. All through those years I was a zealous witness to Christ, both among my fellow officers and other ranks.
Then I followed my army career by going to Trinity College at Cambridge University, taking up a small classical scholarship I had been awarded just when the war started. For those of us having these prior scholarships, the authorities offered a shorter and much easier course for a "pass" degree. This replaced the more difficult honors degree and awarded us almost nominal BA and MA degrees.
I really spent my college months as a vigorous witness to Christ to my fellow undergraduates, who were mostly ex-officers as I was and quite sophisticated. The fruits of those months of bold witness were in quite a local revival of men receiving Christ and the starting of what we named an Inter-Varsity Conference with some from other colleges. This has since expanded into the quite vast Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in hundreds of colleges worldwide.
So by the time I had married Pauline, we had both heard the plain call of God and had given our lives to join C.T. Studd in bringing Christ to the various unreached tribes (the Azande, Medge, Mabbudu, Mangbettu and Pygmies, where today there are a hundred thousand believers in a thousand local churches). We were as sold out as we knew how to be for Jesus and souls.
We Needed More
But we had not long been with C.T. before we sensed that he had a "something more" in his Christ-abandoned living, without the strains and stresses of self-consciousness, fears and negative reactions we so often battled with. He was living the quality of gospel he brought to his Africans and spoke of a "Jesus Christ running about inside black bodies"! So we came to see we needed more than just our lives devoted to Christ, which did not handle the inconsistencies and often inner failures in our personal living.
So as we set out in search of this "extra," largely through the writings of Mrs. Penn-Lewis sent out to us from Britain, we gradually came to be confronted squarely by that very Galatians word of Paul’s in 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
In that confrontation one night when visiting an African believer, instead of sleeping on our camp beds in his native hut, we sat out in his banana plantation for about five hours. Then finally we took our stand of faith that we were now among those who say with Paul, "I am crucified with Christ" and now "Christ liveth in me…." In both our experiences sometime latershe after two weeks and I after two yearsthe Spirit bore His inner witness to us that Christ now living in us was the fact. We then began vigorously to bear witness to this, both among our fellow missionaries and the Africans.
"I" Am Crucifed?
It was at this point that I still had a confused and unanswered area. I could see and delight in the new reality of Christ actually living my life, which produced much transformation. But it still had not answered the many inconsistencies in the "I am crucified" part of that Galatians 2:20 statement. In that "I" there still remained plenty of self-consciousness, anger, strains, fears and whatnot. The fact of Christ living in me was much more consciously enjoyed than the fact of "I am crucified" with Him.
What had been missing and was written about so effectively by Paul to his Galatians"Christ revealed in me," "Christ living in me," and "Christ mighty in me towards others"I had now in some focus. But "I am crucified" effectively a dead and risen self, a self "crucified in its affections and lusts" and a self "crucified to the world and the world to me"was another matter. Some more clarity was needed at that level.
I began to see things in the same way the Galatians obviously did. They felt they needed some self-improvement and were falsely persuaded to try some self-effort works ("You observe days, and months, and times and years" – 4:10). And I strongly felt I needed more love toward my fellow Africans. How could I obtain it?
I began to get my answer in the startling word which came to me: "God is love" (l John 4:8)not has, but is. Therefore, the love I needed was and is HE as a person. He is that love, and therefore my capacity to love can only be the bold recognition that He as love expresses Himself in and as me "Christ liveth in me"; "Christ my life."
Then I saw myself as just the containing vessel. To express love simply required faiththat Galatians 2:20 faithwhich recognized and affirmed He was the love expressed by me. And that began to take me much further into Him as peace, power, wisdom and indeed all those qualities needed by me. There they all were, and thus expressed by me as me, just as a vessel contains and offers the liquid in it, or the branch reproduces the tree life in it, and so on. This was a good stride forward.
I Am Only a Container
But now I came finally to my ultimate question and answer. What then was my "I" before I became conscious by faith through glorious grace that He was that All in me as me, and I simply the expresser of Him? Now I was coming right up to that million dollar question all are asking (Freud; Jung and onward to modern psychology): What is the self?
And now at last I had found the answer given so plainly by Paul in his Romans 6-8 personal sharing and mainly in his chapter seven. Here he has come right out with the plain fact, long unobserved by me when I read him. This human self of ours was only always created to receive, contain and express God’s own Deity Self in His self-forothers nature.
Consciousness came in the Triune God Himself only by opposites. In His eternal consciousness as a fire self-forself, He was transformed into the light self of self-giving love by the begetting of His Son. All the powers of His eternal self now poured into and expressed other-love in place of self-loveGod as light in place of God as fire.
And we are marvelously created to express His likeness, "made in His image" (Gen. 1:27). So then our first parents Adam and Eve had to be conscious selves by being confronted with the opposites of the two trees in the Garden. By their taking of the forbidden tree in conscious self-for-self disobedience under Lucifer’s enticement, we all received in our human vessels that rebellious self-for-self deity spirit of error.
Therefore, the answer is that there has never been such a thing as a simply human vessel-self. In Adam we all started at the Fall by being occupied by this Satan lying spirit of error, whose nature Paul names as "sin indwelling us" (Rom. 7:17, 20).
I Am Crucifiedby Faith
So now the Galatians 2:20 of Christ dwelling in us has its strong basis first in the Cross-death experience. There in Christin His body death "made sin" as usour co-crucifixion with Him means that we are not just some mysterious empty self now to be filled with Him, but a self which had been totally occupied by the false deity. The "I am crucified with Christ" means that by faith I am identified with His death, as symbolized in water baptism.
Out has gone from me that false deity with his self-for-self nature. And now Christ living in me means He as Spirit of Truth, with His nature of selffor- others, has fixedly replaced that false deity. So there never has been such a thing as just an empty human self.
The liberating gospel is the replacement by faith of the Satan-sin lying deity with our Christ in His nature of self-for-others love. And that is its freeing, cutting edge.
"Not I, but Sin" before "Not I, but Christ"
We are so bold in saying we have the "cutting edge" because somehow, on the whole, the teachings of the Church of Christ have missed the fact that our human "I" was vigorously occupied by and expressed that lying spirit of error. "I am crucified" is not some mysterious, unexplained condition of my "I" as empty, but means that casting out forever of the false occupant to be replaced by the True One. It is the surgery of cutting out the false indweller and his replacement by the True One that is our cutting edge.
The strength, glory and passion of the replacement is that we redeemed humans have first to agonize over our inconsistent self, expressing its apparent self-unpleasantness. "It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom. 7:20). And thenthenthere is the glorious discovery that Christ now in me is the replacement for Satan-Sin dwelling in me, sin characterizing the self-for-self nature of the Satan-indweller.
But that exchange has meant first a strong emphasis on the negative, which can then have an equally strong replacement by our Positive. Light only shines brightly in proportion to the darkness it swallows up. This is often where the pointing finger of accusation is directed at those of us who first must major on sin-exposure before the time is ripe for the replacement by Christ-exposure. We are bound to be first called sin-minded and apparently sin-obsessed before we can give, in all firmness and consistency, its replacement by our Christ-mindedness.
Examples: Four Movements of the Spirit
I have had contact in my many years with four strong Spirit movements. In each case they have been founded on a strong negative emphasis on sin before coming to the full glorious liberation of replacement by Christ.
In my early college days there was the Oxford Group Movement founded by Frank Buchman, which swept through Britain and America. Its primary emphasis was "The Four Absolutes" Absolute Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness and Love and the practical challenge to line up your life of professed Christianity with them. With that came the honest response of making a list of miles of failures. Only then were we pointed to the cleansing, atoning blood of Jesus, and thus boldness in acceptance of cleansing. Then we were presented with the fact of Christ indwelling us and our living by daily "listening" to Him and noting what He said.
The radical effects on many lives were due to the first emphasis being on sin-acknowledgment and confessing (often quite lurid) before cleansing and daily guidance were within reach. Though the movement, with its famous book For Sinners Only, was blasted by many believers as being too sin-minded, its aim was right, of course. Even the flow of the pure gospel by Paul began with the iniquities of our fallen condition in Romans 1-3 before presenting the blood atonement. Unfortunately, in later years the Oxford Group Movement dropped its emphasis on the Blood cleansing, and so has almost disappeared in world effectiveness.
The second Spirit movement, was C.T. Studd’s emphasis on sin-exposure among his Africans. Law was in operation before grace was applied, and this met with much criticism, as though "Sin and Law" directed. But now, as the years have passed, how well we see the strong foundation laid which has produced all the thousands of Congo (Zaire) believers and churches. The crusade Studd founded has expanded into about thirty-five unevangelized fields around the world with twelve hundred fellow workers.
Then I had close contact with the Ruanda Movement of East Africa, with its best known presentation in Roy Hession’s Calvary Road. It was based on "walking in the light," sin quickly recognized when "the cups don’t run over," sin confessed and cleansed in the Blood, and challenging of each other. This has been used of God in the Spirit-quickening of tens of thousands and is still in action in East Africa and worldwide. Here again the critics seek to point at it as too sinconscious and sin-confessing and challenging. Yet, it is precisely this that has made it so preeminently Jesus-conscious.
Now, after C.T. Studd in his worldwide missionary crusade, the Oxford Group in its true days, and Ruanda, as modern movements of the Spirit with which I have been connected, some of us are part of a further movement of the Spirit. We are finding that, though still mere beginners in our churchwide, worldwide Spirit commission, our message has its cutting edge, with which I title this article, and is producing both fervent adherents and critical questioners.
Preserving the Edge
The first raw fact is that we were all first Satan-Sin expressers, and of necessity must be brought to realize both our hopeless Romans 3:23 condition as well as our Romans 7 travail along with Paul of "O wretched man that I am!" Only then do we move on to live naturally, with no further condemnation and with the boldness of being spontaneous walking Christs, having once been walking Satans.
Yet along with this glorious new liberation in Romans 8:2, we are at once warned by Paul that we are to "walk" step by step in the Spirit. We are always liable to assaults of the negative and thus lapses into the negative believing (unbelief) through the Satan pressures on us. But always we replace the negative by this positiveness of being He-as-me, and this now becomes our daily and easy adventure of faith. Thus we delight in our normal positive walk, yet always are alive, as Paul said in Romans 8, to diversions and to having them pointed out.
So we come back to where I started to our cutting edge. Such a majority of fellow believers and even victorious life teachers have missed the vital point that the strength of a positive is always in recognizing and replacing its negative. Christ in usour Positive, as in I Corinthians 11:3 and Romans 11:36only has force because He replaces Satan-Sin in us.
The Intercessor magazine, weekend fellowships and conferences, literature, and a rising group of representatives and teacher-sharers bring this "total"with its negative as basis to its positiveto our fellow believers. If it is my final word before the Lord takes me, it is just this: We are peculiarly called as our commission to preserve, emphasize and explain this, thus following directly in Paul’s own steps. Once again we say that the negative must be painfully exposed before it can be healthily replaced, though with vast relief and thankfulness and passion, by its Positive. And that is Christ, only Christ, in and as us, because He takes the place of that false deity in and as usand makes us FREE INDEED! May our lips never be closed.