Living to Self or to Christ?

2 Cor. 5:14-16.

[04 1862 072] The thought uppermost in my mind in reading these verses is just as simple as it is of all importance, and that is, beloved brethren, what we are living for; a weighty question, I need not say, and it is of moment to our souls that we should not shrink from answering it, and that we should answer it in the fear of God. Verse 15 was peculiarly before me, "He died for all, that they which live," that is, the believers, etc. All were dead, believers and unbelievers alike, all were ruined men before God; and the death of Christ is the proof of the condition of every soul naturally; that is, all are lost — all lifeless toward God; that even the Son of God, who is everlasting life, should need to suffer — should find no portion but death in this world, is the proof that there was no life in it. Everything lay so irretrievably in death, that for Him to die is the only door of deliverance out of it. And "He died for all." It is not said that all should live, though undoubtedly there was life in Him adequate for every soul, life everlasting in Christ; but then, in fact, no soul did, none would, receive Him, not one. Grace therefore has wrought, and given some, not all, to receive Him. And therefore it is added, "He died for all, that they which live," that is, they who do believe in Him and have life therefore — "that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again." Now, there is never a question day by day that arises, but what brings out one of these two things, that is, whether we are living to ourselves or to "Him who died for us and rose again." And have I not to own the sad truth how constantly we have to rebuke our souls? How often, not to say in general, the first impulse of the heart is to take that view of everything which would minister to our pleasure, or gratification, or importance? What is this but living to ourselves? When any question comes before us, when anything, either in the way of an evil to be avoided, a loss to be shunned, or something to be gained, some object that comes before us, is it not our tendency to look how it will bear upon us and to give it that turn which will be for our profit or advantage in some way or another? I do not say always personally: it may be for our family, for our children, looking onward to the future or at the present. Now, we are always wrong when we do it. God would not have us to neglect the real good of those dear to us and dependent on us; but the question is, whether we trust ourselves or Christ. Are we adequate judges of what is best for our children? Are we the least biased and the wisest to decide on that which would be for, not the passing profit, but the good which endures for ever? It comes to a very simple issue. We have two natures — one which is always grasping for something that will please and exalt itself, and another which, by the grace of God, is willing to suffer for Christ, and clings to what is of Christ. But as the apostle says elsewhere, not that which is spiritual was first, but the natural, and afterwards the spiritual. So it is precisely in our practical experience. The thought that is apt promptly to arise when there is trial and difficulty, is the simply natural one, how to get out of it — not, how am I to glorify God in it, and turn it to the praise of Christ. Then, again, if there is any prospect of improving circumstances, this is the first thought — that which is natural. Ought we not to be upon our watch-tower with respect to this? Should we not have it as a settled thing for our hearts, this is my danger? We may not all be tried in the same way; for that which would be a gratification to one might not be so to another. But there is one sad thing in which we all agree: we have a nature that likes self, and seeks to gratify it, and we have hence a tendency to indulge that nature as the first thought of the heart. But let Christ only come before our souls — let us bethink ourselves of Him, when either trouble or pleasure comes before us, and what then? That which is natural fades away: we judge it. We say, That is a thing which brings no glory to Christ — and what are we here for? Let us remember that God has done everything to fit us for His presence: He has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. There is no doubt of that: it remains untouched. But the practical question for our souls is, whether our hearts, knowing the perfect goodness of our God and Father towards us, enter into this great thought — that He now sets Christ, dead and risen, before us, in order that, in the presence of the angels as well as of men, yea, in His own presence, there may be the wonderful spectacle of beings who once lived for nothing but self, here, by the very image of Christ before their souls, lifted above self altogether.

May we bring this to bear upon whatever may be the circumstances through which we pass day by day! It is the main thing for the walk of every saint. There are other great things for the Church; but they are so much the greater as they are built upon Christ, the object of each individual that composes the assembly. Let us not deceive ourselves as to that. No position can ever make amends for failure in the habitual thought of the heart. May we search and see whether we are living to ourselves, or to Him who died for us and rose again!