I want to take as a basis for our message, God's
provision for victory. For God has made a complete provision for victory.
It is never impossible for a Christian to sin; but, bless the Lord, it is
always possible for him not to sin, for God's provision for victory is
But, of course, the word is also used in the Bible of being tempted with a view to falling into sin. In this sense, that kind of temptation comes from the devil. God tests us for our good; Satan tempts us for our downfall. And that is the battlefield for every one of us.
What a comfort it is, in the moment of temptation, to remember that there is one whose Name is Jesus-the Name that is high over all-before whom devils fear and fly; who has been tempted in all., points like as we are, yet without sin. And He, at the moment of our new birth, has come to live in us. And, friend, if you have never tasted the victory yet, bless the Lord, you have your victory in your heart, and there is never any need to go down.' No matter how severe the attack may be, defeat need not happen. Do you believe that? Jesus' power is boundless, boundless as the sea. Jesus is always able to help me. There is provision for the Christian, therefore, for victory; and I want the sense of that, the knowledge of that, to grip your heart. For if you have been living for years in defeat as a Christian, as well you may-for remember it is possible to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit but to be mastered by the flesh; it is possible to be out of Egypt but not in Canaan; it is possible to have our sins forgiven but to know nothing of deliverance from the principle of sin-yet let this thought grip your heart that it need not continue one minute longer. Now, of course, this is a subject which causes us all to meet on common ground. When you talk about a theme like this, you are bound to touch everybody. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will, with the temptation" _hot before it, nor' after it, but with it; at the right moment, for God is never late, and never early with His supplies to His harassed people-"will with the temptation also make a way of escape . ." that you may be able to run away? No; that you day be able to stand your ground; "that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13).
Let me illustrate what I mean. Here
is an engineer, testing a very expensive new machine. He is subjecting it
to severe pressures of heat; and he is watching a dial which is
registering the amount of the pressure. As he watches the machine, and its
reactions to the pressures of heat, suddenly he sees that dial go up to
the danger point; and when he sees it there, at a point where the machine
would be damaged if the pressure continues, he releases a safety valve,
that the machine might be able to bear it. The way of escape that God
provides is not for me, but, bless the Lord, it is for the devil. It is
not for me to run away; but He knows the moment when the pressure has gone
on long enough, and the time has come for Him to release the safety-valve.
He will never suffer you to be tempted beyond that you are able to bear.
First: when you become a Christian the Holy Spirit imparts a new nature to your life.
2 Peter 1:4, "There are given to you exceeding great and precious promises, whereby you are made partakers of the divine nature." Colossians 1:27, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Ephesians 4:24, "Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." The new man is not the old man regenerate. We receive this new nature at the moment of our new birth. It is at that moment that the Holy Spirit comes to take up His permanent residence in the life of the child of God. At that moment you are baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). And that new nature-or, shall I put it this way, the Holy Spirit has then become your second nature; and He cannot sin. It is impossible for the Holy Spirit to sin. Therefore, you have received within you a new life to whom sin is anathema_He cannot sin. And, given freedom of action in your heart and in your life, He will produce nothing but good fruit.
Recognising that, at this point, I am about to tread on somewhat thin ice, and on something of a controversial character, let me look at 1 John 3:9, and suggest to you that this is what this verse is saying. "Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." Now, many people interpret that verse as saying that when a man is born of God he does not continue in the practice of sin. He will sin occasionally, sometimes; but he will not continue to do it habitually. But the verse does not say that. The verse says, "He that is born of God doth not commit sin." Why? "Because, His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God." The seed of heaven, the very life of Jesus, cannot sin because that life is born of God. So you have received as a Christian a new nature that cannot sin.
The second thing that I would say to you is this, that the old nature remains in the regenerate life. The Christian will always keep, to the very end of his journey, what the Bible calls in Romans 8, among other places, the flesh. In this chapter, which everybody regards as the great charter of victory for the Christian, the theme is the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. In the first thirteen verses of Romans 8, no less than thirteen times have you the word "flesh." Similarly, in Galatians 5:16 and 17 Paul says, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh . . . so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." Now, what is the flesh? The flesh is not simply what you and I think is bad about ourselves. The flesh is not simply this body in which we live. It is much more than that. The flesh is all that we are. Spelt backwards, and with the "h" left off, it spells "self." This is the flesh; all that I am when I am not in Christ.
Paul said in Romans 7:18, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh)"-that is his definition-"in me (in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing." So you see, the new man is Christ in us by the Spirit; and the old man is self without Jesus. The flesh, says the Scripture, is "sold under sin": and that is a condition which is incurable, and the grace of God does not set out to cure it. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and His redemption does not refine, or polish up, or Christianise, or make religious, the flesh. It is unchanged in the life of the Christian. All through your life the flesh will always offer unyielding opposition to the Spirit. It cannot . be improved, it cannot be sanctified. God can only do one thing with the flesh, to free us from its power: and that is, crucify it, slay it, and put it to death. How He does that, we shall see in a moment.
But I am persuaded that the vast majority of Christians, especially in the early years after conversion, spend most of their time trying to polish up the flesh. Having received forgiveness of sins, we then say, "Now you watch what a good Christian I am going to be!" And we set about our daily quiet time, our daily reading of the Bible, our attendance at church; and we substitute in our diary, for a whole round of social entertainment, another round of religious activity: and the flesh looks really wonderful. Suddenly the whole thing has got religious. Having received forgiveness of sin, we decide now, with God's help, and by reading my Bible, and saying my prayers and going to church, as God helps me this way, I am going to make myself, my flesh, really live the Christian life. That ends up with the psychiatrist and coffee and tranquilizers. It ends up, over and over again, with the Christian disillusioned and shattered and bewildered, and often saying to himself, "This Christian life is absolutely useless; it is not for me." Of course it is not for you; it is for Jesus in you, by His Spirit.
Remember, therefore, it is possible for a Christian to live after the flesh. Romans 8:5, "They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." It would be just as well, perhaps, to take a moment and ask yourself, What are you minding? Are you minding the things of the flesh, or are you minding the things of the Spirit? Those who willingly and knowingly continue to live after the flesh, betray the falsity of their profession of faith in Christ. The old nature continues to exist in the regenerate life.
The third thing that I would say to you is this: that the Holy Spirit who has come to impart His nature within you, has power at every moment to overcome the flesh.Romans 8:2, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." 2 Corinthians 3:17, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Yes, the Spirit of God within has the power to overcome the flesh; and the basis for that victory was laid for us at Calvary. Let me remind you, dear friend, that the Holy Spirit only comes to fulfil, and make real in you, what Jesus did for you at the cross.
It was Dr. Scofield who said, "We need the Holy Spirit to make actual in life what Christ did for us at Calvary." At the cross, the Lord Jesus not only bore away our sins and forgave them, but He also took away this self-life, and condemned and crucified it. How did He do that? Because every moment of His life without exception He was dying to the whole principle of sin. He never lived to please Himself; He lived to please God. He never lived to serve Himself; He lived to serve others. He lived entirely for the glory of His Father, and in so doing here is a Man who is dying all the time to the sin principle, living on the principle of submission, living on the principle of obedience to God: and this life which had died to sin, He took to the cross and there condemned sin in. the flesh, as Romans 8:3 says. For, by His obedience and by His holy life He triumphed over all the activity of the flesh, over that root principle of sin which before your conversion has driven your body into evil action.
Jesus rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and received from His Father the promise of the Spirit, and baptized every poor, beaten, bankrupt, hopeless life that came to Him in repentance and faith, with this new principle of life-His own life, by His Spirit, to live within you. So that now, by the power of that new life, the old principle which drove your body to sin should tie put to death, and the new principle in your life should drive your body unto holiness.
Now there is the very root of Christian experience. In Jesus Christ the sin principle slain. Christ in you by His Spirit, to keep it dead. Christ in you by His, Spirit, to reproduce His life of holiness and victory. It is therefore through the Spirit, says Paul, that we keep in subjection the work of the flesh.
But listen: if you and I are not on our guard constantly, that old nature which is so lively in every one of us, will always seek to regain control. You are dead to sin in Christ, but sin is never dead. There are some people who think, and even teach, that the old self has ceased to exist; that somehow every root of sin has been plucked out and eradicated for ever. Well, that would make life so easy; but I find no Scriptural authority for that statement. If that were true, Romans 8 would not be in the Bible. Dead to sin in Jesus, but sin is never dead to me; and day by day if we are left to ourselves without the power of the Spirit of God, we shall go down. But as we yield to Holy Spirit control, He will deal with that old self of ours, and keep it in place of death.
Let me illustrate what I mean. Here is a judge and a
jury, and before them is a prisoner, and this prisoner is arraigned for
murder; and the jury, after having heard all the evidence, find him guilty
of murder. So the judge immediately passes upon the prisoner sentence of
death. But listen: the judge does no more. He does not take a gun out of
his pocket and shoot the prisoner. If he did, he himself would be guilty
of murder. What the judge does is to pronounce the sentence of death upon
the prisoner, and then hand him over to' the executioner, who alone has
the authority to put him to death. Listen. When you and I are in the thick
of the battle, and the heat is on, and we are being tested and tempted
almost to the point where you begin to say, "I' can't take this any
more," God watches in all His enabling power, and He waits to hear
His child passing the sentence of death upon that temptation, and saying,
"Lord, this is the self life, not the Christ life. Lord, I want this
to die. And, Lord Jesus, I come to You, and I hand this temptation over to
You, and I ask You now to slay it." And when I yield to Christ,
though that old self remains unchanged, and sin has the same hold upon it,
and if left to myself sin would irresistibly attract me, by the power of
His Spirit He takes possession, and He ensures the constant crucifixion of
that self-life as day by day I yield to Him. I do trust today that truth
has gripped your heart.
Let me, therefore, conclude by one further word. What is our part in this life of victory? The provision in the Holy Spirit is there. The fact that the self-life remains, and is just the same, and is unchangeable, that is there. Yet, the Holy Spirit in us has power to overcome. Then, what is my part in this situation? The moment by moment surrender of my will into the hands of the Lord Jesus. Romans 6:13, "Yield your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." God can set me free; I know He can, for my Bible tells me so-and for that purpose-to give me victory. He has come to live in my heart. As long as I cease to resist Him, He will fill my life, and He will go on delivering me from the enemy. . But, if I cease to submit to Jesus, He ceases to work in my heart. The moment I cease submitting, at that moment He ceases working.
That halt in the operation of God the Holy Spirit is not brought about often by open rebellion, but far more often by our desires, strange desires, to try to fight the battle ourselves. At the moment I take it out of His hands, and seek to fight the battle without God's help, at that moment I go down. God expects nothing from your self-life except total failure. He has written it off, He has sentenced it to death, He has
judged it at the cross, He has finished with you altogether: He expects nothing but utter failure. But He has given you the Holy Spirit, that you need never fail.
But you may say, "I haven't enough strength of will to maintain constant surrender." How many people come to us at Keswick, and say, "I've tried this before, and it didn't work. I yielded to Christ, and it didn't work; and I've gone on yielding to Christ, and somehow it didn't work. I haven't been able to keep it up; I haven't been able to maintain my surrender; I withdrew it." . Listen. Have no fear, for the Lord only asks for a will today that is sincere, regardless of how weak it may be. For to make your Will strong is God's business, not yours. Philippians 2:13, "It is God who worketh in you to will and to do of His good pleasure." It is not for you to try to make your will strong; it is for you to hand over that will in all its weakness, and let Him work in you to will and to do.
The first requirement, therefore, is yieldedness; the second, is a constant faith. Romans 6:11, "Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God." By faith you received forgiveness, by faith' you receive victory. Not by your tears, or your prayers, or your striving, or your labor, or your struggle. All this ends in failure. Just fix your gaze upon Jesus, and count upon 'Him; and in the same way as you received forgiveness, in that way you receive victory.
Now that requires from you a definite act of faith and commitment. It involves a new starting point in your Christian life. I am not preaching a second blessing. (If you a~ k me if I believe in that, I do; because I believe in a million blessings-one, two, three, four-and a day without a blessing would be a very unpleasant and a very unhappy day.) But I am quite sure that there are many Christians who have taken the step of faith and received Christ for pardon, but they have never taken a step of faith just as clear, just as definite, to yield themselves to Holy Spirit control, that they might receive by faith deliverance from sin.
Will you take that step today? Salvation is by faith, holiness is by faith; not by effort, but by faith. And here in this tent there can come from some weary, beaten, struggling, defeated, disillusioned Christian a commitment, a step of faith by which they take the very gift of God-life and victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. "Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord." But you must take the
step of faith. You took it for forgiveness, but you have never dared take it for victory. You thought you had to work for that, with a bit of help from heaven. You thought you had to sweat' it out; to fight your own battles with God's help. You haven't, my friend. At this moment you can enter into a new principle of life altogether. ~ I tell you, it is like being born again all over again. It is like getting out from under the burden and finding yourself on top of it in Jesus Christ our Lord.
How many Christians, when you ask them how they are getting on, reply, "Not so bad" _and then they add, "under the circumstances." Is it not tragic when a Christian is "under the circumstances," and not on top of them 1 But the Lord Jesus is calling, I believe, the Christian church everywhere to recognize that His resurrection life indwelling the life of a child of God spells victory, and that victory is for you to take by faith.
I would ask you, therefore, to bring before your mind the impossible situation in your life, the thing that has got you down, the thing that has kept you under, the thing that has taken away your testimony and the smile from your face, and the thing that has got you thoroughly bogged down. I wonder what it is-God knows, the Holy Spirit knows, and you know. It has got you down for so long that you have stopped praying for victory. You have assumed that you are the victim of temperament, or heredity: your mother had, that problem, and therefore you must have it; it is in the family. Or, maybe it missed the previous generation, and it has come out again in you, the psychologists tell you; and there you are, defeated. Bless your heart, there is no temptation that can ever come to you that God is not able to deliver you from. Would you dare, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, to step by faith to the very throne in heaven and claim the victory that Jesus won for you at the cross?
I was brought up as a child on a very strict principle. My parents were not Christians, but my father would shy to me, "My son, there is no such word as "can't'." Then he would administer that principle with the appropriate means on the part of my anatomy that was designed to take it. And many a time it was more comfortable for me for a couple of days thereafter to walk than to sit, while I tried to learn the lesson, "There is no such word as "can't." I am quite sure that he was utterly sincere in his conviction. But I want to tell you that it was only when Jesus filled and flooded my heart and life, that He changed the "can't" into the "can." And Christ can do that for you in any situation right now. My favorite life verse, since I became a child of God, has always been Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." Could you say that today?
Now, take a good look at the impossibility. Take a good look at the thing that has got you down to the point of despair. Bring it right before your mind. You know what it is- a beastly temper, a most unpleasant and critical tongue, an awful heart that is full of jealousy and lack of love and coldness, perhaps some secret sin that dominates your life and has driven you to tears, and you have fought the battle alone hour after hour, till now you have almost given up struggling with it. Yes, I know; bring it well before your mind. Now, just look right off to Jesus, and say to Him, "Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole." Do you really mean that? Do you really want salvation more than you want sin? Very well, tell Him so; and having told Him so, just say, "Thank You; Lord; I take the victory that You won for me, and I take it now. Not only here at Keswick; I take it now in that situation at home, in business, in my own personal life when I am alone with my thoughts. Lord Jesus, I take the victory."