This guest post, by one of my favorite preachers in Christian history, Ian Thomas is taken from his book The Saving Life of Christ (which I highly recommend you to read in its entirety).

We have begun to see how victorious Christian living is not a method or technique to be worked out in our strength – it is an entirely different and revolutionary principle of life. It is the principle of the exchanged life. When the Spirit circumcises our heart by cutting off our old flesh-life, we can say with Paul – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

I would like to explore with you the true spiritual content of the Gospel – the good news! It is not just heaven one day, but Christ right now!  “The glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you.” (Col. 1: 27) It is the reality of Christ communicating His divine life and nature through our mortal body based on our dependent faith.

Unfortunately, there are many who refuse to give up their old way of living by self-will. They also prefer to rely on the strength of their flesh. Many Christians are like Martha. (Luke 10: 41-42) They are dedicated Christians but they are still serving the Lord through their own human efforts. Like Martha, because they are still working in their own strength and will, they remain worried and upset about many things. And of course, this kind of service drains them of spiritual energy.

This may of course be a picture of you. Do not be shocked when I say that it is the picture of a carnal Christian. Yes, I am talking about Sunday school teachers, Sunday school superintendents, and pastors in the pulpit. I am talking about many ordinary, average, earnest Christians. They are not hypocrites. But they are tired – desperately tired! Furthermore, their old carnal nature is always rising up to overshadow the light and beauty of Christ’s life. But when you meet them, they will smile sweetly and mean it.

Story after story could be told of men and women who bravely, doggedly, out of a sense of duty and devotion, go on and on in their work for the Lord. But yet, deep down in their hearts, they are frustrated and spiritually worn out. These believers have not yet entered the Sabbath-rest of God where everyone rests from their own human effort. Like Martha, they still lack “the one thing needful.” (Luke 10: 42) They do not yet know about the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit that is able to raise their spiritual life up into the heavenly realms with Christ’s spiritual blessings. (Eph.1: 3, 17-20) And so they still find themselves with an up and down spiritual life and constantly drained of spiritual energy. They still need to enter into a participation with Christ in His divine nature. (2 Pet. 1: 3-4) We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy which so powerfully works in me. (Col. 1: 28-29 Emphasis added)

The problem in Christianity today is that no one is telling God’s people to turn from the worldly way of human effort – the old flesh-life. You must seek out the supernatural life of Jesus Christ. It is only His activity and His work clothing you and being displayed through you that will ultimately find the approval of God. You are not to be the original actor. Only what you permit Him to do in and through you by His divine power and in His nature will merit His approval. Before Christians will truly enter into this kind of life, where they walk wholly by faith within God’s Sabbath-rest, they must first recognize their own spiritual bankruptcy. But this is a hard lesson to accept when people have grown up under the influence of the “spirit of the world.” (1 Cor. 2: 12) Only after their self-sufficient spirit has been completely broken will they truly begin to wholeheartedly seek out the spiritual wealth that comes from the life of Jesus Christ, through faith.

Can we begin to see why we should be praising God when He brings us to the end of our self-life. While the soul will experience some suffering, it is a time of rejoicing. Only when we have given up all human effort and have truly begun to trust God to direct and empower our every step are we in a condition for God to use His power to take us into His Sabbath-rest. There remains then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for everyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work…Let us, therefore, make every effort {by coming out from the carnal ways of the world} to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Heb. 4: 9-11)

Remember the path our Lord has shown to us. We are to follow Him through the cross and into His resurrection life – “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12: 2)

The cross will bring about a death to self-will and human effort. This is why the people of the world will scorn anyone who takes this course. Are you willing to die to the ways of human wisdom in order to be raised up by God’s power into the divine life of Jesus Christ?

We must give up the self-life in order to receive the Christ-life. It will be necessary to choose one or the other because we cannot serve both the flesh and the Spirit. “No one can serve two masters.” (Matt. 6: 24) Only those who are willing to live wholly under the control and power of Christ’s Spirit have the promise of an inner manifestation of His divine life. (John 14: 19-21; 2 Cor. 3: 17-18) For if you live according to the flesh you will die {have a dying spiritual life}; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these {and not everyone who says “Lord, Lord”} are sons of God. (Rom. 8: 13-14)

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