Growing Up Into Christ
The change of heart by which we become children of God is in the Bible
spoken of as birth. Again, it is compared to the germination of the good
seed sown by the husbandman. In like manner those who are just converted
to Christ are, "as new-born babes," to "grow up" to
the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. 1 Peter 2:2; Ephesians 4:15.
Or like the good seed sown in the field, they are to grow up and bring
forth fruit. Isaiah says that they shall "be called trees of
righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified."
Isaiah 61:3. So from natural life, illustrations are drawn, to help us
better to understand the mysterious truths of spiritual life.
Not all the wisdom and skill of man can produce life in the smallest
object in nature. It is only through the life which God Himself has
imparted, that either plant or animal can live. So it is only through the
life from God that spiritual life is begotten in the hearts of men. Unless
a man is "born from above," he cannot become a partaker of the
life which Christ came to give. John 3:3, margin.
As with life, so it is with growth. It is God who brings the bud to
bloom and the flower to fruit. It is by His power that the seed develops,
"first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the
ear." Mark 4:28. And the prophet Hosea says of Israel, that "he
shall grow as the lily." "They shall revive as the corn, and
grow as the vine." Hosea 14:5, 7. And Jesus bids us "consider
the lilies how they grow." Luke 12:27. The plants and flowers grow
not by their own care or anxiety or effort, but by receiving that which
God has furnished to minister to their life. The child cannot, by any
anxiety or power of its own, add to its stature. No more can you, by
anxiety or effort of yourself, secure spiritual growth. The plant, the
child, grows by receiving from its surroundings that which ministers to
its life --air, sunshine, and food. What these gifts of nature are to
animal and plant, such is Christ to those who trust in Him. He is their
"everlasting light," "a sun and shield." Isaiah 60:19;
Psalm 84:11. He shall be as "the dew unto Israel." "He
shall come down like rain upon the mown grass." Hosea 14:5; Psalm
72:6. He is the living water, "the Bread of God . . . which cometh
down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." John 6:33.
In the matchless gift of His Son, God has encircled the whole world
with an atmosphere of grace as real as the air which circulates around the
globe. All who choose to breathe this life-giving atmosphere will live and
grow up to the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus.
As the flower turns to the sun, that the bright beams may aid in
perfecting its beauty and symmetry, so should we turn to the Sun of
Righteousness, that heaven's light may shine upon us, that our character
may be developed into the likeness of Christ.
Jesus teaches the same thing when He says, "Abide in Me, and I in
you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the
vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. . . . Without Me ye can do
nothing." John 15:4, 5. You are just as dependent upon Christ, in
order to live a holy life, as is the branch upon the parent stock for
growth and fruitfulness. Apart from Him you have no life. You have no
power to resist temptation or to grow in grace and holiness. Abiding in
Him, you may flourish. Drawing your life from Him, you will not wither nor
be fruitless. You will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.
Many have an idea that they must do some part of the work alone. They
have trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, but now they seek by
their own efforts to live aright. But every such effort must fail. Jesus
says, "Without Me ye can do nothing." Our growth in grace, our
joy, our usefulness,--all depend upon our union with Christ. It is by
communion with Him, daily, hourly,--by abiding in Him, --that we are to
grow in grace. He is not only the Author, but the Finisher of our faith.
It is Christ first and last and always. He is to be with us, not only at
the beginning and the end of our course, but at every step of the way.
David says, "I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at
my right hand, I shall not be moved." Psalm 16:8.
Do you ask, "How am I to abide in Christ?" In the same way as
you received Him at first. "As ye have therefore received Christ
Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him." "The just shall live by
faith." Colossians 2:6; Hebrews 10:38. You gave yourself to God, to
be His wholly, to serve and obey Him, and you took Christ as your Saviour.
You could not yourself atone for your sins or change your heart; but
having given yourself to God, you believe that He for Christ's sake did
all this for you. By faith you became Christ's, and by faith you
are to grow up in Him--by giving and taking. You are to give all,--your
heart, your will, your service,--give yourself to Him to obey all His
requirements; and you must take all,--Christ, the fullness of all
blessing, to abide in your heart, to be your strength, your righteousness,
your everlasting helper,--to give you power to obey.
Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first
work. Let your prayer be, "Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay
all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and
let all my work be wrought in Thee." This is a daily matter. Each
morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans
to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate.
Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and
thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ.
A life in Christ is a life of restfulness. There may be no ecstasy of
feeling, but there should be an abiding, peaceful trust. Your hope is not
in yourself; it is in Christ. Your weakness is united to His strength,
your ignorance to His wisdom, your frailty to His enduring might. So you
are not to look to yourself, not to let the mind dwell upon self, but look
to Christ. Let the mind dwell upon His love, upon the beauty, the
perfection, of His character. Christ in His self-denial, Christ in His
humiliation, Christ in His purity and holiness, Christ in His matchless
love --this is the subject for the soul's contemplation. It is by loving
Him, copying Him, depending wholly upon Him, that you are to be
transformed into His likeness.
Jesus says, "Abide in Me." These words convey the idea of
rest, stability, confidence. Again He invites,"Come unto Me, . . .
and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28. The words of the psalmist
express the same thought: "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for
Him." And Isaiah gives the assurance, "In quietness and in
confidence shall be your strength." Psalm 37:7; Isaiah 30:15. This
rest is not found in inactivity; for in the Saviour's invitation the
promise of rest is united with the call to labor: "Take My yoke upon
you: . . . and ye shall find rest." Matthew 11:29. The heart that
rests most fully upon Christ will be most earnest and active in labor for
When the mind dwells upon self, it is turned away from Christ, the
source of strength and life. Hence it is Satan's constant effort to keep
the attention diverted from the Saviour and thus prevent the union and
communion of the soul with Christ. The pleasures of the world, life's
cares and perplexities and sorrows, the faults of others, or your own
faults and imperfections--to any or all of these he will seek to divert
the mind. Do not be misled by his devices. Many who are really
conscientious, and who desire to live for God, he too often leads to dwell
upon their own faults and weaknesses, and thus by separating them from
Christ he hopes to gain the victory. We should not make self the center
and indulge anxiety and fear as to whether we shall be saved. All this
turns the soul away from the Source of our strength. Commit the keeping of
your soul to God, and trust in Him. Talk and think of Jesus. Let self be
lost in Him. Put away all doubt; dismiss your fears. Say with the apostle
Paul, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which
I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved
me, and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20. Rest in God. He is able
to keep that which you have committed to Him. If you will leave yourself
in His hands, He will bring you off more than conqueror through Him that
has loved you.
When Christ took human nature upon Him, He bound humanity to Himself by
a tie of love that can never be broken by any power save the choice of man
himself. Satan will constantly present allurements to induce us to break
this tie--to choose to separate ourselves from Christ. Here is where we
need to watch, to strive, to pray, that nothing may entice us to choose
another master; for we are always free to do this. But let us keep our
eyes fixed upon Christ, and He will preserve us. Looking unto Jesus, we
are safe. Nothing can pluck us out of His hand. In constantly beholding
Him, we "are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as
by the Spirit of the Lord." 2 Corinthians 3:18.
It was thus that the early disciples gained their likeness to the dear
Saviour. When those disciples heard the words of Jesus, they felt their
need of Him. They sought, they found, they followed Him. They were with
Him in the house, at the table, in the closet, in the field. They were
with Him as pupils with a teacher, daily receiving from His lips lessons
of holy truth. They looked to Him, as servants to their master, to learn
their duty. Those disciples were men "subject to like passions as we
are." James 5:17. They had the same battle with sin to fight. They
needed the same grace, in order to live a holy life.
Even John, the beloved disciple, the one who most fully reflected the
likeness of the Saviour, did not naturally possess that loveliness of
character. He was not only self-assertive and ambitious for honor, but
impetuous, and resentful under injuries. But as the character of the
Divine One was manifested to him, he saw his own deficiency and was
humbled by the knowledge. The strength and patience, the power and
tenderness, the majesty and meekness, that he beheld in the daily life of
the Son of God, filled his soul with admiration and love. Day by day his
heart was drawn out toward Christ, until he lost sight of self in love for
his Master. His resentful, ambitious temper was yielded to the molding
power of Christ. The regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit renewed his
heart. The power of the love of Christ wrought a transformation of
character. This is the sure result of union with Jesus. When Christ abides
in the heart, the whole nature is transformed. Christ's Spirit, His love,
softens the heart, subdues the soul, and raises the thoughts and desires
toward God and heaven.
When Christ ascended to heaven, the sense of His presence was still
with His followers. It was a personal presence, full of love and light.
Jesus, the Saviour, who had walked and talked and prayed with them, who
had spoken hope and comfort to their hearts, had, while the message of
peace was still upon His lips, been taken up from them into heaven, and
the tones of His voice had come back to them, as the cloud of angels
received Him--"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the
world." Matthew 28:20. He had ascended to heaven in the form of
humanity. They knew that He was before the throne of God, their Friend and
Saviour still; that His sympathies were unchanged; that He was still
identified with suffering humanity. He was presenting before God the
merits of His own precious blood, showing His wounded hands and feet, in
remembrance of the price He had paid for His redeemed. They knew that He
had ascended to heaven to prepare places for them, and that He would come
again and take them to Himself.
As they met together after the ascension they were eager to present
their requests to the Father in the name of Jesus. In solemn awe they
bowed in prayer, repeating the assurance, "Whatsoever ye shall ask
the Father in My name, He will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing
in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
John 16:23, 24. They extended the hand of faith higher and higher with the
mighty argument, "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen
again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession
for us." Romans 8:34. And Pentecost brought them the presence of the
Comforter, of whom Christ had said, He "shall be in you." And He
had further said, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I
go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will
send Him unto you." John 14:17; 16:7. Henceforth through the Spirit,
Christ was to abide continually in the hearts of His children. Their union
with Him was closer than when He was personally with them. The light, and
love, and power of the indwelling Christ shone out through them, so that
men, beholding, "marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they
had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13.
All that Christ was to the disciples, He desires to be to His children
today; for in that last prayer, with the little band of disciples gathered
about Him, He said, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them
also which shall believe on Me through their word." John 17:20.
Jesus prayed for us, and He asked that we might be one with Him, even
as He is one with the Father. What a union is this! The Saviour has said
of Himself, "The Son can do nothing of Himself;" "the
Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works." John 5:19; 14:10.
Then if Christ is dwelling in our hearts, He will work in us "both to
will and to do of His good pleasure." Philippians 2:13. We shall work
as He worked; we shall manifest the same spirit. And thus, loving Him and
abiding in Him, we shall "grow up into Him in all things, which is
the head, even Christ." Ephesians 4:15.