The Fulness of Life in Jesus Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - A Vital Secret

We are going to speak of that which is the all-inclusive and most vital secret of this superlative life. Everything will stand or fall according to our apprehension of the truth now to be considered, and a right understanding and application of it is calculated to revolutionise and transform our entire outlook and experience. It is necessary that we appear to be a little technical, but really it amounts to a re-study of familiar passages of Scripture. When we speak of the Christo-centric Life, we mean the life which has Christ right at its very centre as a living, vital reality. This will be explained as we proceed.

Now, this Christo-centric Life is an eternal truth born within those who come really into right relationship with God. In a phrase, it is "Christ in you." This truth, all its power and glory, is repeatedly spoken of in the New Testament as a "mystery." Not something beyond knowledge, but something kept from knowledge until a certain time. Thus we have such passages as these:-
"The mystery which hath been hid from all ages and generations which is Christ in you" (Col. 1:26-27).
"This mystery is great... we are members of His Body" (Eph. 5:30-32).
"That God may open a door... to speak the mystery of Christ" (Col. 4:3).

The truth was hid in Christ from the foundation of the world, but with the revelation of the Son of God it was made known unto those that received Him as Lord and Saviour. Thus we may now go on to study it as revealed truth. Firstly, consider Christ's own teaching on the matter:-
John 15:1-7: "I am the Vine - every branch in Me."
John 14:20: "In that day ye shall know - that ye are in Me and I in you." (This concerning the post-resurrection days, when the Holy Spirit is sent. See context.)

When Christ is in Possession

John 14:23: "If a man love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him and make Our abode in him."
John 17:23: "I in them and Thou in me."
Matt. 28:20: "And lo, I am with you alway."
Rev. 3:20: "If any man will hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him."

Now, if the Holy Spirit was to continue the work of revealing Divine Truth as Christ said He would, we must expect to see that those who received Him continued to teach others this wonderful and all-inclusive secret of Christian fulness. Therefore, we will gather up references made to it by the Apostles. Here are just a few of Paul's phrases in this connection:-
Rom. 8:10: "If Christ is in you - the body is dead."
Gal. 4:19: "Until Christ be formed in you."
Eph. 3:17: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts."
2 Cor. 13:5: "Jesus Christ is in you."
Phil. 1:21: "For me to live is Christ."
Gal. 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me."

John seems to have caught this significance and entered into its meaning. His Gospel record is particularly rich with the Christo-centric truth, and, naturally, he would refer to it in his epistles also. Thus we have in 1 John 3:24: "He that keepeth His commandments abideth in Him, and He in him."

1 John 4:4: "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." And in the 12th verse: "If we love one another, God abideth in us."

Truths that are Overlooked

There are numerous other passages bearing upon the subject, and in view of its importance we urge careful study with a good reference Bible.

One of the most remarkable things is that, although these things have been so familiar as Scripture to numerous Christians for many years, the true significance, the glory and the power, have not "dawned upon" them often for a great time.

Many earnest and devoted souls have endured years of that up and down, struggling, oft-defeated, ineffective life, until the whole thing has become an anguish almost unto despair.

Thus, in some quiet way, like the gentle dew, a soft stealing ray of light has illumined the familiar phrase, and it has appeared to them in its true signficance, and forever the fret and care, the striving and the anguish, have died away, and peace with power and ecstatic joy has flooded their whole hearts.

The Way of Deliverance

So wrote Dr. Trumbull in relating the secret of the great change in his life and work: "I realised for the first time that the many references in the New Testament to 'Christ in you,' 'Christ our Life,' 'Abiding in Christ,' are literal, actual, blessed facts, and not figures of speech. I had always known that Christ was my Saviour; but I had looked upon Him as an external Saviour, one who did a saving work for me from the outside, helping me in all that I needed, giving me power and strength and salvation. But now I know something better than that. At last I realised that Jesus Christ was actually and literally within me; that He had constituted Himself my whole life."

We may also quote from the experience of soul-anguish through which Mr. Hudson Taylor passed even after many years of Christian life and service, and of how deliverance came to him.

"As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in having wished to get the sap, the fulness out of Him! I saw not only that Jesus would never leave me, but that I was a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. The Vine now I see is not the root merely, but all - root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit; and Jesus is not only that: He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth!"

A careful consideration of this matter will make clear some fundamental differences, and some important discriminations will be necessary. The whole centre of gravity is changed. Instead of Christ being objective, He is subjective. He is the inward dynamic and life, and not an outward pattern or example to be copied or imitated. The Christian life is not a theory or a creed, not a ritual or a morality; it is experimental, the spontaneous manifestation of a divine nature.

It is not the Church, not even the Book, but it is the living Christ: Christ within, God within, Heaven within. We can only understand the teaching of the New Testament as we have this conception. If the mind of Christ is in us, and the mind is the seat of unity, wisdom, understanding, control, direction; then a higher type and standard of life is both possible and inevitable than that which is the mere outcome of blindly and weakly struggling to discover and imitate an outward example. Think further of all the boundless resources of such a truth:-
"That ye may be filled with all the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:19).
"In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead, and in Him ye are made full" (Col. 2:9,10).
"In Him should all fulness dwell" (Col. 1:19).
"All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth... and lo, I am with you alway" (Matt. 28:18,20).

That such a Christ is really within us, and that we are a corporate part of Him gives almost unthinkable possibilities to our lives, and should - as it can - dismiss all fear, doubt, despair, and misgivings. We should be filled with hope and confidence, and the song of victory, actual and anticipated, should be more often in our mouths. There is one thing which we must interpret here. We have noticed that the people who have really come to see and know this wonderful secret and fulness of life have almost invariably been such as have been characterised by a desperate earnestness in matters of spiritual life; they have been men of prayer, and have jealously preserved time for meditation (not only reading) upon the Word of God. The careless, superficial and casual will never know these secrets of the Lord; they are the rich harvest of the quiet hour and the single eye.

In concluding, it is necessary to point out that Christ dwells in us in order that we may be conformed to His likeness. It is a progressive work of fashioning us after His image. This is the predestined purpose of God. "Foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29).

"Until we attain unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13. This in relation to all the members of His Body.)

The inevitable sequence of the indwelling Christ is, if we yield and submit to Him, that more of His nature and likeness, spirit and mind, will be seen and manifest in us as the days come and go, until at length we shall awake in His likeness.

It may seem to some that all that we have said, while being obviously the teaching of Scripture, does, however, clash with many other passages which speak of Christ as seated at the right hand of God. Spiritual geography is beyond finite comprehension, and omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, have all to be admitted into our consideration. He is the all-pervading, but in a special sense He is with and in those who consciously open their hearts to Him, and enthrone Him as Lord of their lives. We look for His coming in person, for to us He has already come in spirit and power.

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