Our Changed Centre of Gravity

"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Me" (John 12:32).

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).

The centre of gravity has been changed for us who know that we are loved by our Lord Jesus Christ. Once it was the world. What an attraction its snares and shams had for us! In spite of our continual disappointments in it, it exercised an influence over us that we could not resist; our unregenerated souls had neither the power nor the wish to move outside its influence, and the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — a trinity of evil — made up our lives. We did not know that it was the law of sin and death that held us in this bondage, but it was, and the world which is not of the Father was the centre of gravity for us.

But a new Object has claimed us, and that Object is Christ, and what is so remarkable about this is that it is as being lifted up from the earth that He first became attractive to us. To be lifted up from the earth meant to be put to shame by men and to be accursed of God. The Nazarene, when lifted up and crucified, cried: "I am a worm and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, and they shake the head, they look and stare upon me" (Ps. 22), and Galatians 3:13 tells us that "it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree." Such was the lifting up of Jesus from the earth, and what could there be attractive in that? This is a great mystery; to the Jews it was a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness! A glorious Messiah, crushing their oppressors by irresistible might, would have been attractive to the Jews, and a monster that could have enthroned their vices and made their follies appear honourable would have been welcomed and worshipped by the Greeks; but One who "made Himself of no reputation … and became obedient to death, even the death of the Cross" (Phil. 2:8) could not be attractive to natural men; to them He was without form or comeliness, and when they saw Him there was no beauty that they should desire Him.

It is plain that this "lifting up" puzzled those who heard about it, for they say to the Lord, "We have heard out of the law that Christ abides for ever; and how sayest Thou, The Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" To be lifted up would in their view of things be an ignominious close to a promising career. Who would follow or put any confidence in one who had been put to the shame of crucifixion? Surely the Name of the One who had been cut off from the land of the living by a malefactor's death would perish for ever, for who would declare His generation? Light was needed to clear up this mystery, and so the Lord, instead of answering their question as they might have expected, warns them to make use of the light while it shone, to believe in the light that they might be the children of the light. Now light is pleasant and it is good to the eyes to behold the sun; so here the Lord cried and said, "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believes in Me should not walk in darkness."

All things are plain to faith, and Christ crucified — though to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greek foolishness — is light to us who believe, He is the wisdom of God and the power of God.

Had these people who were so curious to know who was this Son of Man who was to be lifted up, heard that Jesus had said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life"? It certainly appears as though they had, and if so, why should they have forgotten the other side of the great story, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life"? The fact is that if it was a necessity because of man's state of sinfulness and utter alienation from God that a kinsman, one made in the likeness of sinful flesh, but sinless, should be lifted up as their substitute and representative, a sacrifice for sin, that a way might be opened for them out of death into life, God Himself has met that necessity by giving His only begotten Son. And the only begotten Son of God is also the Son of Man. The natural man in his philosophical and scientific pride boggles at the incarnate mystery, but how great is the light that breaks into the soul of the one who believes it. It changes everything for us and makes us glory in the cross of Christ, and sing:

"O the cross of Christ is wondrous,
There I learn God's love to me."

Yes, so great was God's love to the world that He must intervene to rescue men from perishing; so great was His love that He must win them for Himself from destruction. He could not endure that they should exist for ever in darkness without any knowledge of His yearnings after them: hence the lifting up of the Son of Man — God's love-gift to the world! How wonderful it is that upon the Cross upon which was darkly written the hatred of men to God there should be inscribed the love of God to men! The hatred is the background which throws the love into bright relief, and it is the love that has become attractive to us who believe. God is made known to us in Christ Jesus, and He is brighter and better than the brightest and best that the world can offer us. So our centre of gravity is changed; the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us has become the Object of our affections. In Him the love of God shines forth, and has "shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). As a star that had wandered from its orbit but had come again under the influence of the centre sun, so have we, once wanderers from God, because under a malign and destructive influence, returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, and He has brought us back to God.

But it is certain that there must be an affinity between the object attracted and the centre of attraction. However high a man may leap into the air he comes back to the earth, because his body is of the earth; and only those souls are drawn away from the world to Christ in which there is a work that makes them one in nature and life with Christ, and the Scriptures speak plainly of this work. Take John 1:12-13 as an example: "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born … of God." It is this work "born of God" to which I refer, by it all who are the subjects of it have a new life and nature, and they must gravitate to Christ.

They will do so completely and bodily when their bodies are changed and fashioned like to His body of glory. I know that the teaching of Holy Scripture as to the dead in Christ being raised, and those that live and believe on Him being changed and caught up to meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:16-17) is scoffed at as being a physical impossibility: the law of gravitation would prevent it, it is said. But those who scoff are ignorant of God, and they do err, not knowing the Scriptures and the power of the Lord. It is, of course, a scientific fact that natural bodies are controlled by natural laws, and if these bodies of ours could not be changed, the scoffers would have ground for their laughter. But what says the Scriptures? Twice we are told that we shall be changed. "Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changedand this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:51-53), and "He shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to His glorious body" (Phil. 3:20-21). We learn that we are to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven, that mortality might be swallowed up of life (2 Cor. 5:1-4), and that we are to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16). Now when these natural bodies are changed into spiritual bodies — bodies of glory — will natural laws control them any more? Certainly not. They will then be controlled by spiritual laws. If bodies of earth must gravitate to the earth, bodies of glory will gravitate to glory, and such bodies will be ours by the power of the Lord. When the rapture of the Church takes place not one natural law will be violated or displaced, but we shall be released from the natural law by the change that will take place in us "according to the working of the power which He has even to subdue all things to Himself" (Phil. 3:21, N.Tr.). That is future, it is the blessed hope which lifts our hearts in joyful expectation, and it is as sure as the Word of God.

But I speak of the present. A change as great as that which will take place in our bodies has already taken place in our souls, and Christ has become our new centre. He draws us to Himself in our thoughts and affections. But the flesh is still in us, that old nature that loves the world and the evil things that are in it, and consequently the law of sin and death has the opportunity of operating against us and holding us in its thrall: hence we need to know the power of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, for this alone can make us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2). We have a new object outside of us — Christ once crucified for us but now enthroned in glory, living for us there and making intercession for us; and we have a new power inside of us — the Spirit of life, the Holy Spirit, and the new power works in us in relation to the new object outside of us) and the liberty of eternal life is ours, it is as we mind the Spirit's things, and this means as Christ fills our vision, for of Him the Spirit speaks, that we experience this liberty of life and peace, but nothing less than this is the true life of the children of God.

It is not brought about by self-occupation, but by occupation with Christ; not by denouncing the bad, but by being occupied with the good; not by any effort of nature, but by the Holy Spirit. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus will make us free for the happy service of the blessed God after the pattern of the freedom in which Jesus served Him when He was here.

And the Spirit within us is the power by which we set our affections on things above, on Christ Himself where He is, and so He is our new centre of gravity; by His sweet constraining power He draws us after Him, and we know Him as the object bright and fair that fills and satisfies our hearts.