A Living Hope
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - Christ in You

We return to the two passages of Scripture around which our thoughts are circling at this time:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to His great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).

A living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"...to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations (Gentiles), which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).

While a very great deal of proof and evidence is drawn together to enforce the one fundamental reality, it is that reality upon which we must keep our eye, and try not to lose it in the tremendous amount that gathers around it. For I feel quite sure that that which the Lord is bringing before us at this time, is a, if not the, most vital thing of the whole of the Christian life. It is the reality and the meaning of those last words: Christ in you, the hope of glory.

 The Hopelessness of Human Nature in Itself

Now we look at the disciples. We do not know very much about them; we know a little about some of the followers, like Mary Magdalene; we know the Bethany family, and a little about some others. We know a good deal more about the twelve. And, as we were saying, Peter always stands as a good representative of the others, for what was true of him was so true of them in many ways. There are quite a lot of good things about them. I think, Simon Peter was, in many ways, quite a loveable kind of man. There is no doubt whatever that, on the credit side, there was a very warm heart there, and a warm heart for his Master; there was real good intention. Now, well-intentioned people can, as we say, "put their foot in it" often, but good intention was there. He meant so well; his motives were all the best. We could go on and say a lot of good things about him, and about the other disciples. They are no worse than we are, perhaps in a great many ways, a great deal better than some of us.

The point is, human nature, not at its worst, but perhaps at its best, was represented by that company around the Lord Jesus with all their faults, sometimes their blundering, and yet, not evil; nothing of vice about them - good, honest, open-hearted men and women. In their intention, and in a certain realm, they were committed to Jesus, and very thoroughly committed to Jesus; sometimes breaking out in very strong affirmations and declarations of devotion and intention to go to death with Him, should it ever become necessary. Calvary! The Cross! Now what is the real truth? What is the real eternal value of it all? How much of it will go through, survive and triumph? Not one whit! We see the desolation of all their protestations, all their confessions, all their declared good intentions. All their professions of love, devotion, and faithfulness is lying in ruins; the most representative is denying repeatedly with oaths and with curses, that he has any knowledge of this Galilean. This shows the utter hopelessness of human nature in itself.

Where could hope be found? Would there ever be hope again? Will hope rise out of those ashes? Is it gone for ever? Is it finally and eternally hopeless? Yes, if it is left to them, if they are left to themselves. Where will hope be? Not in themselves, but in Christ in them; that will be the hope of glory. And let us be very clear about this, because it is just at this very point that you and I need to learn all our lessons over again. The hope will never be found in ourselves, even when we are Christians, even though we go right on as far as any Christians can go. Should He leave us for five minutes, it is as hopeless as ever it was before ever we started. It is a mature, experienced apostle that is speaking and saying: "in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing". There is no hope there. Christ in you: the hope, and the only hope.

2 Corinthians 5 contains the foundation of any hope where a man is concerned: "The love of Christ constrains us, because we thus judge, one died in the place of all, therefore all died; that they which live should henceforth live no longer unto themselves, but unto Him who in their place died and rose again. Henceforth know we no man after the flesh". "Wherefore if any man be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things are passed away, behold they have become new. But all things are out from God". It is the way of hope. Yes, through the devastation of the Cross, up into the resurrection, where it is Christ, the centre and the circumference of a new creation; a new creation - that is it!

So, there is no hope whatever in man naturally. I say, we have got to learn that lesson all over anew, because you are always trying to find hope in yourself; that is your trouble! Shall I put it another way: your trouble is that you cannot find any hope in yourself, and the fact that you are troubled about that shows that you want to, that you have not given yourself up. God gave you up in the Cross of Jesus Christ as a hopeless mess, and showed by that very Cross how hopeless we are, but in raising Jesus from the dead, taking Him out, and then sending Him, as in the Holy Spirit, to dwell within, God started a new basis of hope. It is never in us, it is in Christ; it never will be in us; we will be as hopeless at the end as we were at the beginning; it will always be in Christ. Friends, we have got to make everything of Christ, far more than we have. Oh, that we could free ourselves from that old ground of expectation where we are concerned; that we could quit it, and get positively on the ground of Christ. Christ, my Hope! With both hands I lay hold on Christ, and Christ only. But He is the Hope of glory!

As to our self-ward attitude, we have got to take God's position about ourselves; and God's position about ourselves is that He will have nothing to do with us; He has only to do with His Son. Now, here opens a very large field of perplexing experience, and it is interpreted by this one truth, and this one key opens the door to so much. Why does the Lord ignore so much of our prayer? And why does the Lord not come on to the ground that we try to get Him to come on to? Why do we do not find the Lord with us in much crying, beseeching, entreating - and He does not move, He does not answer? The explanation is usually that we are on the wrong ground, that we are taking account of things that God has finished with long ago. We are wanting to get God onto ground that He has abandoned forever. You will only have the Lord, or we shall only have the Lord with us at all, while we keep on the ground of Christ. Make no mistake about it, you have got to find out whether that is Christ-ground, or your ground, or other people ground - the ground of human judgments, human interpretations, human feelings, human desires, that which is natural; if that ground is the ground on which we are trying to get the Lord to encamp and do something, He will be silent, and silent forever; we will not move Him.

The Ground of Christ

One thing about God is that He is a Realist, and if He says in the Cross, "I close the door forever to the natural man," you will never get Him opening that door again. Not a bit! Break your heart in prayer to get Him to move and to act, and He will not do it; only on one ground, and that is the ground of His Son. Can you provide the ground of Christ? Then you will find the door open with God, and He is coming through. That is His only ground. It will be despair and hopelessness until we can get clean through on to pure Christ ground - and then it is an open heaven! It is release! I said that opens a very big field; you see, it opens the field of the whole of the Bible. And I would ask you to take this as the key to your New Testament. It is of the Old, of course; but in spiritual reality, every book of the New Testament must be read in the light of this - Christ as God's ground, and God's ground of hope alone!

That passes from the individual to the collective. Oh, we have not yet learned much of this! I am aware, that this is perhaps the most difficult thing in the whole Christian life for every one of us, and in this I am the most backward of all the pupils. We will not get anywhere with one another in our relationship as the Lord's people, if we are going to keep on the natural ground of one another. If you are judging me according to what I am naturally, taking account of me because of what you see I am as just a man in myself, you will have all the ground for despair that ever you can want! And I will do the same where you are concerned; I will have to give you up; there is no hope! Some of us, of course, are able to see all the frailties and faults of others, and where does it lead? Despair, does it not? Deadlock, no way through, no future, no promise. The Lord is not with us in that. "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh", said Paul. What is the 'henceforth'? "Since all died"! The hardest lesson of us all is just this: to take account of the minutest bit of Christ that there is in another, and focus upon that; the work of grace. Go as far as you can, even if it is only in a sort of negative way, and say, 'What would they be but for the grace of God?' But go further, and say, 'See what the grace of God has done!' Now, that is the only way of hope - Christ in you.

But you see what that leads to. It means what this New Testament is all about; that we have got to provide one another with a great deal more of Christ in ourselves, for hope; there has got to be a continual increase of Christ, a continual increase of the work of grace in us, the grace of the Lord Jesus. It is the only way. The whole of the New Testament is about this first: Christ must get inside, and then Christ must grow inside, until, by God's grace, there is more of Christ than there is of ourselves.

The apostles, who were so meticulous and particular about this matter of converts "receiving the Holy Spirit" as a definite, positive, concrete experience, act or crisis, were just as particular in all their teaching that not only should the Holy Spirit have been received, but that they should be "filled with the Spirit". 'Be filled with the Spirit' is the word, and it is only the other way of saying, "Christ is in, but Christ has got to be fully formed within, more and more." This is a very practical school, is it not; very hard lessons, but does it not explain much? It is the heart and the core of true, spiritual Christianity: Christ, only Christ, the Alpha, the Omega; the Beginning, the End, and all between.

A few words before we go on to just another point: the hopelessness of the kingdom, until the King is within.

The King Within

How much we could say about the hopes and expectations concerning the Kingdom, that filled the hearts of every true Israelite. And, as we know, these disciples and apostles were very true representatives of Israel's hopes for the kingdom: they cherished that hope; they built everything upon that hope; all their thoughts, their mentality, is concerning the kingdom. Indeed, their very committal to Christ, in leaving all things to follow Him, had the kingdom in view as its motive. Right up to the last minutes, we might say, before He went to glory, they are almost obsessed with this kingdom matter. "Do You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" They are their last words on record to Him before He went.

But what about the effect of the Cross upon all that? Yes, the Cross, the crucifixion, shattered all their hopes of the kingdom: "We had trusted that it had been He...". We had trusted that it had been He that would restore the Kingdom. But here, their kingdom lies waste and all their hopes so far as He and the kingdom were concerned, were shattered, just scattered like dust to the wind. Where is the kingdom now? What is the hope of the kingdom now? It came back when He came in! That is what Peter is talking about: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath begotten us again by a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that doesn't fade away, reserved in heaven". There is the Kingdom vision, but it is back on the ground of Christ the King within. That was Peter's note on the day of Pentecost; that was the preaching of the first preachers: Jesus Christ is Lord; God has made Him both Lord and Christ; King of kings and Lord of lords! There is only that hope for the kingdom. But that is perhaps speaking in large terms. You see, I am talking about the preaching of the Kingdom, yes.

If you like you can alter the phraseology and say: "Preaching for man's salvation is called 'evangelisation'"; but then we have missed the point so much. What is 'evangelisation'? What is 'preaching the kingdom'? What is 'preaching the gospel'? Is it just and only, announcing certain truths, certain facts, or certain doctrines? Is it? No! According to the true meaning of the very words themselves, it is 'bringing Christ', not only speaking about Him, preaching concerning Him; it is bringing Him! There is no hope unless you bring Christ; your evangelization has got to bring Christ; it has not to be something in itself, Christ has got to come in it.

And therefore, can you not see why it was at the beginning that the demand was that they should preach with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven? What is that? That is nothing other than Christ coming in in power, in presence. And if you and I cannot bring Christ to the unsaved, we can preach until we are blue in the face, and it will have no effect. We have got to bring Christ to them into their presence; they have got to meet Christ when we preach, they must sense Christ. The preaching must be by the Holy Spirit within. That is why so much preaching is ineffective and not in the power of the indwelling Spirit. That is not just a criticism; it is a challenge.

Churches are only born by Christ being introduced. He is the Seed, the living Seed, out of which the organism grows; you cannot found and form churches from the outside, collect people, and call the collection a 'church'. Every body of believers in any place has got to be the embodiment of Christ, and the one reality is not their teaching, or their manner of procedure, but that Christ is met, is found, is there. If you meet them, you meet Christ; when you go among them, you find Christ. Christ is in their life; Christ governs their life; He governs their business; He governs their home; He governs their relationships with one another; it is Christ.

And it is the only ground and way of believers being built up and growing. If we just grow ourselves, it will be an awful thing that grows. The tragedy is that so often, the very sphere of the interests of God is made the playground for the flesh to inflate itself, and display itself, and strut up and down. No, spiritual growth is not our growth, in the sense that we in what we are, are growing; spiritual growth is just the increase of Christ in us. But what I am saying in all this is one thing: the only hope from beginning to end, in any phase or stage or form, is Christ. Christ risen changed the scene of desolation and devastation, and gave a new hope when He came back in the Spirit and entered in, and began the realisation of the hope. That is what we have in the New Testament - the hope brought in with the resurrection, and then a proceeding to the fulfilment of the hope, as we read in the book of the Acts. It is the hope working out in progressive fulfilment.

As we theologically distinguish the Persons of the Trinity, we do not divide between Christ and the Holy Spirit in work, in nature; therefore, when we speak about 'Christ in you', we mean the Holy Spirit within. When we speak of the Holy Spirit dwelling within, we mean Christ within. It is what the Holy Spirit Himself means; what Jesus Himself meant when He said: "He shall not speak of Himself; He will take the things that are Mine and show them to you". They work together in such complete identity that you cannot distinguish between them. Though Christ remains at the Father's right hand, He is here in you, in us, by the Holy Spirit.

Now my final emphasis is upon this: our need to be very sure about this matter of the indwelling Spirit, which is the indwelling Christ. I know what questions you could begin at once to fire at me, about the 'baptism of the Holy Spirit', and so on. I am not surprised that the devil has supremely confused this whole thing, and brought it under reproach because this is the matter upon which everything hangs. But leaving all interpretations apart, let us come down to the fact, that you and I must in our Christian life, know two things: our death with Christ to the old man; and, through that, Christ within, the Holy Spirit within, starting on heavenly ground only, and entirely ignoring all earthly ground, going on on heavenly ground. That is the way of the Spirit.

Oh, let us learn, or seek to learn, this lesson. I do not want to throw you into the vortex of great confusion or questions as to whether you have ever received the Holy Spirit, because of this or that or something else about manifestations; do not be troubled about that. You can know that Christ is in you; you can know that the Holy Spirit is in you, by a thousand spiritual evidences, without any of those manifestations that some people say are the essential proof of the Holy Spirit. I speak of tongues, and such like. No, they are not essential to the fact and reality of the Holy Spirit being within, and filling; they are not! It is the reality that you and I need, not some particular kind of sensations, and demonstration and noises, and what not; it is the deep reality that Christ is in us, and there is our Hope, our Hope of glory; our only Hope of glory, but our true Hope of glory.

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