Now, Lord, we believe that Thou dost not leave Thy work unfinished and if there is something yet to be added by Thee, we ask Thee that it may be in just as much light as at any time during these days. We pray that whatever the length of the message may be, it may all be to our real spiritual good and help. This may not be in a spiritual sense a tailing off and a fading out, a dropping away... though many have gone, we do ask Thee to keep the level high and the river of God full of water, and we, the trees of God, full of sap. So help us in our need this evening for Thy Name’s sake. Amen.
Well then, we come to the last of this present course of meditations on the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ as in some of the letters of the apostle Paul. And this evening, of course, in the sequence, we reach the letter to the Philippians and the particular place, meaning and application of the Cross as we have it in this letter. And to give it a name or a title or a heading, in this letter, we have what I believe is quite true: The Cross and the Dynamic of Victory.
Once more, the phrase "the Cross" may not be found here, but reference to it is quite definite. Perhaps the key to the letter might be the words to these Philippians: “To you it has been given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but to suffer for His sake.” That is an undoubted reference to the place of the Cross. Or later, the very familiar words, Paul’s cry: “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death.” These and one or two other places imply very clearly, in a very short letter comparatively, that the Cross has a very real place in this letter. If you want the references without our turning and reading them, they are chapter 1, verse 29; chapter 2, verses 5 through 8; chapter 3, verses 3 to 10 and verse 18.
Now no one who knows this little letter – this little big letter or this big little letter – will have any doubt that this is a letter of triumph. It is undoubtedly and unmistakably a triumphant letter, right from beginning to end. The apostle refers to the beginning of things in his relationship with these Philippians, and he refers to the suffering at the beginning. And you remember the story of his coming at length into Europe, Philippi and what he met almost immediately upon arrival: that demon-possessed woman, temple woman. I have often stopped with that – I stop with it just for a moment along the way and ask you a question: Why should the devil preach the gospel? This demon-possessed, temple woman cried out before all the people: “These men are the servants of the Most High God who show unto us the way of salvation!” You couldn’t have the gospel preached better than that, could you? Why should demons do that? Oh, the depths of satan! And why should the apostle quench it outright by casting the devil out of her? Well, I leave the question for you to answer. As you know, sometimes satan sponsors the things of God in order to discredit them. And there’s a lot in that; well, that by the way.
The result of that incident, as you know, was Paul and Silas thrashed and thrown into the inner prison, their feet made fast in the stock, bleeding, bruised, but not disconcerted. Triumphant, singing at midnight – and singing to considerable consequence! I like to think that Paul had a voice – that he could sing. Amongst all the other things that he had, he could sing. I covet that! There was a time when I could sing. As a boy, I was taken from place to place to sing, before my voice gave out (and, this is just a little personal reminiscence by the way, and it has a lesson in it I think) then my voice broke and I wanted very much that when my voice came back, my man’s voice, it would be a bass voice, a good bass voice. And when it came back, it was a tenor! I made on the masculine loss and I (foolishly... the tenors will forgive me) in those days I thought, "Tenor voice... well, it's feminine! That’s more like a woman’s voice." Bass voice... and here I had a tenor. What did I do? Tried to make it into a bass and spoiled the whole thing; couldn’t sing bass or tenor. Well, you can draw a lesson from that if you like. We very often interfere with the sovereignty of God and spoil everything.
Well, Paul could sing! And sing to some effect, and sing at midnight. Now our point is that this is triumph - triumph right at the beginning of the history of the Church in Philippi and out from that first adversity and suffering and affliction and victory, came that Church. And that Church was very quickly precipitated into the same kind of antagonism and suffering. And that persisted through the years until, in this last imprisonment, the apostle said to them, in the present tense: “It is given to you now, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but to suffer, for His sake.” And there’s more on that in the letter about his suffering because he speaks of now, his present imprisonment, saying that in Rome imprisoned (and the last imprisonment probably) the word has gone through all the Roman guard, the Roman Praetorium, and in Caesar’s household guard. Evidently the slaves in the household of Caesar, the servants, were getting converted while this man was suffering in his final imprisonment.
Well, for him and for them, it is a letter of triumph, isn’t it? Wonderful triumph! And we want to find out what is the secret of this victory.
The Dynamic of Victory
It is finally declared as to the Lord Jesus you know, and moves into what is in our mechanical arrangement chapter 2. The Lord Jesus has gone down to the depths, “Obedient unto death, yea the death of the Cross, wherefore God hath highly exalted Him, given Him the name which is above every name.” It’s victory! Victory, Paul! Victory, Philippians! Victory, Christ! That is what is here. But what we are concerned with in this brief space of time is the way of victory. And it’s a very unnatural way of victory.
I don’t know what you would even remotely mentally figure or conjure up, as a picture of victory, and the way to victory. Of course, victory itself implies warfare and conflict. Yes, but in this letter, it’s something more than that. This victory is not just objective, whether it be the Philippian jail or the Roman prison or the persecutions from without. The victory is here subjective, inward... and it’s a strange way of victory - quite unnatural. And it is in the main supremely and pre-eminently presented in the case of the Lord Jesus (chapter 2 from verse 5 onward). The cycle... Equal with God... equal with God - by His own right, in His own right - equal with God, in glory. It was said through John, “Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” All that! All the content of that... emptied Himself, found in fashion as a man, the form of a bondslave, “obedient unto death, yea the death of the Cross”. From the highest heights to the lowest depths. From the greatest fullness to the most utter emptiness.
The Cycle of Victory
The cycle of victory, the way of victory. The great “wherefore” comes in at that deep point – the death of the Cross. An unnatural way, isn’t it? Now you notice that this is taken by the apostle, to be the history of Philippian believers and, of course, in our own case. In principle the apostle takes that up from Christ and passes it over to believers and says, “Let this same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” By the same process, by the same experience in principle, with certain differences between Christ and ourselves (always having to guard that) but in principle: the same cycle, the same history, the same experience for believers, “Let this same mind...” The same mindedness - that is, have the same disposition.
In Scotland we have a way of speaking, we ask somebody if they’re going to do something or want to do something, and say: “Are you minded to do so?” Are you minded? A mindedness... a disposition... an attitude. Let this same disposition be in you as was in Christ Jesus. And the result will be the same in both ways: down, down, down you go, until you touch bottom. And at the bottom the terminus is met and things come round and up, and up. But there’s no up until there’s been the down. And this is not something in our history which is done once and for all. It was in the case of the Lord Jesus, and that is one of the differences.
Very often when I want to get in touch with a man, if I’m going into a store and I go up in the elevator, I say to him “Well, your life is made up of ups and downs, isn’t it?” And of course he catches on, and I say to him, “Be sure that you finish up and not down!” That is the Lord’s mind. It may be through the way down but through the way down, it’s the way up.
Now, I want to make this very brief and get to the real point of this - taking this mind, this disposition of Christ which was put into action, into effect, so fully and utterly – what did it amount to? Exactly what happened? Well, the Lord Jesus, and this mind that was in Christ Jesus, was that of a wonderful capacity that you and I have got to have inculcated in us as the only way to victory: the capacity for letting go... the ability to let go.
We know, and you’ve heard it probably many times before, this fragment in chapter 2 of this letter about His being equal with God, His great emptying, His self-emptying and coming down to the uttermost depths, is an offset to something. It is the offset to all the work that ever satan did! And the motive, or the mindedness - the disposition of satan out of which all this age-long mischief and ruin has come - was acquisitiveness, possessiveness, drawing to self, having and holding for one’s self. The Scriptures show us that satan was the cherubim that covereth, evidently in a very high place, possibly if not exactly, next to the Son, very near to the Son, but envious of the Son. This is why, you see, covetousness is idolatry – it’s satanic. Covetous, envious, possessive, acquisitive – to have what God had not intended him to have - that which was reserved for the Son. Well, he made his bid for equality; equality with God in the place of the Son. And the history... the awful history.
You know, dear friends, our spiritual history looked at from one standpoint in the Scripture, our spiritual history is the undoing of the work of the devil! Did you know that? Unbelief was the downfall of Adam, therefore faith is the undoing of the work of the devil there. That’s why it’s so important! And all things like that, they’re here to undo that possessiveness, that acquisitiveness, that unlawful ambition – to undo it in principle. There had to be Somebody who voluntarily emptied Himself of His own rights and of all that those rights were and contained... to undo this awful thing, not in Himself, for that was never true of Jesus, but to undo it in mankind! And by His Cross He destroyed the works of the devil! The Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil! And the first and most awful work of the devil was this aspiration to have, possess, to acquire... You know, Cain, it is said by the Scriptures, to be of that evil one. He, because, says the writer, he was of that evil one... the name Cain means acquisitive - acquisitive. Of the evil one.
This is where all our ambition to be something, to have, to possess, to hold, to keep, power, supremacy, domination – this is where it all comes from: from the evil one. And the undoing of it all as a principle and with all its consequences, is firstly in Christ - the mind that was in Christ Jesus, and then that transferred to the Philippians. And I think the Philippians were a beautiful example of this, you know. Although there was a necessity for saying it to them, which necessity we need not dwell upon because it’s here in the letter. Nevertheless, they were a beautiful example of this letting go, giving, releasing! One would think of what the apostle said about their generosity, their thought for him, their care for him. They were the first to think of this man’s situation. He might be going without food, he might be short of clothing, he might be living in penury without the necessities or even some luxuries in his prison. They are thinking of him, doing all they can to minister to him. How grateful he is in this letter for that. Read it again! The outgoing, the letting go, without thinking of what it cost them... The mind that was in Christ Jesus.
Now, whatever the method, however it was done, the principle; this is the thing we want to get and go away with. Dear friends, the Cross here is the symbol of victory. Don’t forget it or have any doubt about it – it is the symbol of victory. But, but, the principle of the Cross in this letter is the power, the ability, to let go! To let go to God, to relax your grip - your hold. To let it go. Right through Biblical history you will see that victory, marvelous victory, came when that was the issue. Even sometimes when it was something God-given, God asked for it back. It wasn’t always something bad that you’ve got to give up, something questionable you let go. No. Something God-given: Isaac. Was ever anything more God-given than Isaac? A miracle of God, was Isaac! What a gift... a supernatural gift. Impossible, perhaps I think we can say certainly impossible of repetition: “Take thou thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, and offer him...” Given by God miraculously, supernaturally, in answer to long prayer - many, many heart groans, the despair of the situation, the hopelessness - then been given, and God said, “Hand it up, hand him up. Offer him.”
Well, what about it? Was that Cross victory? “In thy seed, in Isaac, shall thy seed be called. In thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.” This is the mighty, mighty victory of being able to let go. Of course, I could dwell upon this and apply it in many, many ways. Some of us, you know, to whom God we feel undoubtedly gave ministry, called us to the ministry and gave us a ministry, we have been brought to the place where we’ve had to hand back our ministry to the Lord. Hand it back and say, “Lord, all right. If you don’t want us to go on, here it is. You gave and you take.” And for the time being feel the desolation of that loss. I think I can say, I think I can say it hasn’t been lost. There’s been something more afterward. Something more. There’s a lot of history in what I’m saying. God gave, and Job... I’m only quoting Job, aren’t I? “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away...” and triumph: “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” I don’t know that we’ve all got there. But I have got there absolutely when some of these things happen and I spontaneously say “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” Now there’s agony and anguish (at least for the time being) but there is spiritual enlargement and spiritual gain. God is no man’s debtor.
Well, that’s the principle here in Philippians, and you notice how the apostle takes it up in his own case. He doesn’t say it in as many words that this mind that was in Christ Jesus is in me and I followed it out, but in what he says he exemplifies it. He tells us of all the things that were gain to him: all the advantages of birth, inheritance, upbringing, education, success, climbing to the top of the tree in his profession as a rabbi and all that that meant of influence and opportunity and power and possession. What a fulness this man had naturally before his conversion! And then he says in this letter, “The things which were gain to me, these have I counted as loss for Christ.” All gone! Will you tell me that Paul’s letting go has been loss to him? To God? To the Church? Oh, what we should have lost through all these centuries if Paul had held on to all those advantages. The things that he said were gain, were gain... and they were, if he’d held on... No, he let go. But now do you notice what he says, after all that he says, “I count them loss, as refuse, refuse, refuse. That’s the value of them as I see it now. You’ll see in a moment why – I see it now. Just refuse!”
But he said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have attained, neither am I already at this time, at the end of my life, full of life, all the age... all the age.” Of course, that belonged to twenty centuries ago and Paul was a young man according to standards today, I am a long way ahead of Paul’s years. But, for him, a long full life – the end of it all? “I count not myself to have attained, neither am I already complete, but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which lie behind I press toward the mark of the on high calling of God in Christ. Now, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.”
Do you notice the course? Resurrection! Fellowship of His sufferings! Being made conformable unto His death. The climax of the risen life is the Cross. You’ve got that? The climax of the risen life is the Cross. Because all our knowing of the power of His resurrection will only lead us further and further into the meaning of the Cross. Unto what? Being made conformable unto His death... to attain unto the out-resurrection from among the dead, something far greater than that initial experience of union with Christ in resurrection. But, it’s done, you see.
The way of victory is ever and always the growing capacity to let go to the Lord. While we hold on, stand our ground, claim our rights, keep things in our hands - we’re in defeat. There are a thousand ways in which this can be applied. But dear friends, in many, many ways, the Lord waits for this principle to be applied, or to work out. A wife is jealous of her husband... and she prays and prays and prays, and the Lord never answers. Never answers. She wants to hold him, keep him to herself, just have him in her possession. And her prayers are not answered and nothing happens until one day, the Lord says: “Let him go. Let go. If you will let go, I’ll take hold.” And it's when we learn like that – it may be the other way around – I only take that, not because all women are jealous that way, but men can be just the same you know, jealous of their wives... or their children. They keep such a tight hold; not going to let go. Or something... anything... I’ve mentioned ministries, no matter what it is, if you and I hold this to ourselves, even though it may be something not wrong – not evil in itself, not sin in itself - but we’ve got hold of this and we’ve got hold of our own position and our own rights and we’re not going to let go.
Now, you know that was the reason for the defeat of the Corinthian Church. The awful defeat of Corinth spiritually was: they would not let go. Their love for power... their love for worldly wisdom... their love for emotional gratification... drawing all these things, even spiritual things, to themselves. And it was not until they were broken on that and you have the brokenness of the Second Letter to the Corinthians where they are indeed broken, that their victory came.
Well, have you got this? You want victory? It may be, you see, that there is some kind of controversy over letting go to the Lord... taking your hands off. Oh, it’s a great lesson that we have to learn in the Christian life – to keep our hands off... off the ark... off people. Oh, it's trying things with our own hands – to direct people’s lives; cause them to take the course that we think they ought to take; impose our minds of judgment and wills upon people. You know so many years ago the Lord said, “Take your hands off, and I’ll do it. Take your hands off.” Oh, how we love, don’t we, to put our hands on people’s lives and on people? It’s this love of power – inborn, inbred – love of power... to have. And the way of the Cross is the way of letting go even good things to the Lord, if He requires.
Now you see here at Philippi in virtue of something that evidently was there, “I beseech Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind.” One with another - two dear women. I remember Captain Wallace in quoting that, misquoted it. He said, “I beseech Odious and So-touchy to be of the same mind.” Odious and So-Touchy... well, it may be. Whatever it may be, there was something there between these two and they were standing for their own rights. One was not giving way to the other, not saying “I’m at fault.” Pride, pride... making them hold their ground, their own ground. Perhaps one was in the right, but that one was not going to let go her right. And that was why the apostle said, “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.” He had rights! Unquestionably, His were rights in His own right. Yours may not be your rights after all. But whether they be or not, the point is: you let go. Let go. You surrender. You put this in the Lord’s hands and take your hands off. You be willing to suffer the loss of all things for His sake. And while that is the Cross, it's victory, “Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him...”
Well, now I close, but mark it, calling your attention then to this. How was it that the apostle Paul was able to do this - suffer the loss of all things, count all the things which were gain as mere refuse? How could he do it? It is just the captivation of being a servant. And that’s a great motive, isn’t it? “For me to live is Christ. I have no other object or motive in living but Christ. Christ.” Look at the large place Christ has in this letter again. “For me to live is Christ.” And “I can do all things through Him, Christ, who strengtheneth me.” He was captivated by Christ. And that captivation by Christ, the Christ that he had seen, come to know, was so infinitely, infinitely greater beyond all these things which he at one time had counted gain. Position in the world, possessions in the world, and everything – these are nothing when you’ve seen the Lord Jesus! And there’s no other way of victory but seeing the Lord Jesus. But it’s only crucified people who truly see the Lord Jesus. Do you know that?
Well, that’s enough. Is that closing the conference on a depressing note? I didn’t mean that. I meant victory! See the way of victory? Yes – the Cross is not just losing everything and having a miserable life stripped of all. The Cross is victory! It’s gain out of loss! It’s life out of death! It’s much out of little! That’s the Cross.
Shall we pray?
Now Lord, do write into our hearts all that has been Thy desire for us to really know in these days and cover it there, protect it there and give us grace to respond in obedience to every challenge, every call, and do make us people so self-emptied of pride and personal interest and all that – so empty... and so taken up with Thyself, Lord Jesus. So enamoured of Thee, so captivated by Thee that nothing is too much to let go for Thee. May this be the dynamic, this captivation of the Lord Jesus at every cost. And now unto Him, Who is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, unto Him be the glory, in the Church, by Christ Jesus, unto all ages, forever and ever. Amen.