Master Sermon List
The Secret of Victory
by J. Charles Stern
A very wonderful possibility opens up before us in a consideration of the nature of the Victorious Life.
Surely our hearts are stirred with new longing and desire as we contemplate the plan of our Lord Jesus Christ for each of His followers to be a centre of radiating life and power, a witness to His own Life and Victory.
But the question will intrude itself. Can such life be maintained? Is such a life reasonably within the bounds of possibility, not merely at a time of spiritual uplift as at some convention or other, but day in and day out as I go back to the ordinary daily tasks? Will it continue? Such a question has to do with resources of the victorious life. What are the resources? Are they likely to fail? Are they such as to assure constancy?
There are many voices which speak here. Perhaps I am bewildered by the many explanations and definitions of the means and methods of obtaining and maintaining a life of victory. Perhaps I am tempted to despair and say, "This is not for me. I cannot understand it all." A simple illustration may help us. I decide to send my soiled collars to a Model Laundry to be cleaned. In simple faith in the good name of the laundry, I send them soiled and crumpled. They come back to me satisfactorily cleaned and ironed. That is all I need and I am satisfied. But later I come to know the proprietor of the laundry and one day he takes me over his great plant. He shows me first one process and then another. He explains the various methods by which individuality is guarded, washing, starching, ironing, packing, etc., and I am amazed as I discover what provision has been made to ensure satisfaction. I cannot understand all the machinery nor all the processes. I continue to send my collars. Whether I understand all the processes or not does not matter. All I do is to fulfil the simple conditions and to enjoy the results. So it is in the Victorious Life.
The resources of the Victorious Life may be summed up in just one word, CHRIST. The resources of the Victorious Life ARE Jesus Christ our Lord. Is that all? Yes, that is all. I remind you that "Jesus Christ (is) the same yesterday, and to-day and forever" [Heb 13:8], therefore these Resources will never fail. The maintenance of a life of victory is possible to every believing child of God. If only we would simply "posses our possessions"!
We shall therefore consider first:
I. Our Lord Jesus Christ As The Adequate And Final Resource Of The Victorious Life.
This is discovered to us in various ways. There is first of all:
The teaching of Christ Himself.
Several groups of passages in the Gospel of John reveal the fact that our Lord Jesus meant His followers to understand that He Himself was to be their life; not merely the way to life but life itself for them. Consider the great discourse of the bread of life in the 6th chapter of John. Look at verses 35, 48, 53, 56 and 57. "And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; He that cometh to me shall never thirst." "I am the bread of life." "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him." "As the living Father sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me shall live by me."
He is simply saying that as we partake of the bread which by various processes becomes our very life and is transformed into energy and action, so He Himself APPROPRIATED by faith becomes our very life and through us lives, energising us in all our activities and functions of life. Look again at the second group-John 10:10 and John 14:6. "I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly." "I am the ... life." Here is a further emphasis upon the fact that He Himself does not simply have life but is life and, further, that His purpose is for us to have His own life in all its abundance in ourselves.
Now turn to the third group, John 4:14 and John 7:37-39. "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be a well of water springing up into everlasting life." "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me as the Scripture hath said, out of his (inmost being) shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should recieve: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given: because Jesus was not yet glorified." We shall not dwell at length on these passages at present.
But just note this. In both passages Jesus promised that which was to be the source of perennial life. The explanation given by John in Chapter 7:39 reveals that He was speaking of the holy Spirit Who is Life, the Life of God in the soul, the means of the realization of Christ Himself in the life of men.
Now one other group in the teaching of Christ, John 15:1, 4-5. "I am the true Vine and my Father is the husbandman." "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the Vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing."
The picture is very beautiful. That hidden flow of life, up from the roots out to the branches, all one life. You cannot separate it. The branches and the vine are one. Leaves and fruit appearing on the branches are the product of the life of the vine.
Again, Christ is declaring that He Himself is the Source as He is the Resource of life. He is plainly showing one that the Victorious Life is just His own life. He Himself is the adequate Resource of the Victorious Life. Turn next to:
The Teaching of the New Testament Writers
(a) Paul. Gal. 2:20. "I have been crucified with Christ; nevertheless 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." Eph. 3:17. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." Phil. 1:21. "For me to live is Christ." Col. 2:4. "Christ Who is our life."
Have you pondered these verses? Do you know their meaning? It seems clear to me that they can only mean this, Christ Jesus Himself living in the believer is his life of victory. I am not to seek ways and means of such a life.
Christ Himself depended upon God simply by faith. He Himself exercising that faith in me is my final and sufficient resource in this life of victory. How simple and yet how real! Doing all the details of my daily duty from morning to evening in a silent, quiet dependence upon Christ in my thought life and activities. "For me to live is Christ." That Resource can never fail.
Now what does John say? 1 John 1:2: "For the life was manifested and we have seen (it) and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life. Which was with the Father, and was manifested to you." 1 John 2:24: "Let that therefore abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye shall continue in the Son and in the Father." 1 John 5:11-13: "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
These passages unmistakably point to the fact of Christ as our life. In possessing Him, we possess life. As in the Spring the life manifests itself in flower and tree, so He, our Life longs to so manifest Himself through us. Our resource is the Life itself and this can never fail.
Will you permit me to bear a personal testimony? During the first World War, while serving with the Medical Corps, I became conscious of a great need in my life, for a more consistent testimony to Christ. The daily crowded experiences and my surroundings all too easily caused me to lose touch and to fail my Lord until I became greatly burdened and discouraged. One day there came to me the realization of the meaning of Philippians 1:21: "To me to live is Christ." I cannot tell you what joy and relief this brought to my life, but I well recall the freedom and power that came as quietly, day after day, I learned the difference between RESISTANCE and RELIANCE. Instead of resisting the inclinations to dislike and even [have] contempt for some of my fellows, I found that a quiet reliance upon Christ moment by moment, as my life through whom I could take His attitude to them, led to a real love for them. I found that He truly did constitute Himself my life as I relied on Him, and energized me moment by moment for each fresh and different emergency and challenge. Prayer, the study of the Book [the Bible], service, all became transformed as I ceased from my own working to let Him work.
He never failed and never has. In course of time, however, I drifted away from that position and had to learn how defeated I could be by my own effort. The testimony of Charles G. Trumbull in The Life that Wins again opened my eyes to the Resources of the Life of Victory in Christ, and I shall always be grateful for his testimony and the joy it has brought in my own experience. I know now that the maintenance of a life of victory is possible. I know it by a discovery of my own weakness. I know it by a discovery of how very inadequate have been the efforts of my constant struggle and I know it through the faithfulness of His Word applied by the Spirit of God, that Jesus Christ the Lord is the final and adequate Resource of the Victorious Life.
But now we naturally ask, how can I know this Resource as my constant stay? So we next consider:
II. Our Reception of, and Reliance upon, this Resource for the Victorious Life
It seems to me that there are three attitudes linked with faith as the means of our finding the Life of Christ as our Resource.
Abandonment and Faith
John 7:37: "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." Perhaps the simplest word of Jesus is "Come to Me." Yet will you please note it implies a very definite action of abandonment. When Peter and the rest of them came, they left their nets. When the blind man came he left his garment. When the sick of the palsy came he left his bed (he arose from his bed).
For us the life of Victory in Reliance upon Christ as our Resource must always mean a quiet but fixed determination to have His will done in our lives at every point and in every detail great or small, always, no matter what the cost. Anything less than this means a turning from Him to some other resource. "He that hath entered into His rest hath ceased from his own works as God did from His" (Hebrews 4:10).
You will no doubt recall the story of an old tract. A young lady, after a desperate struggle against abandonment to Christ for Salvation, goes to rest. She dreams that she falls over the side of a precipice but, in her fall, grasps the twig of a small bush and her fall is stayed temporarily. However, she feels herself slipping and hears a voice saying, "Let go the twig and I will catch you". She feels that she cannot let go and desperately clings on. Again the voice speaks the same words, and yet once again until, in desperation, she lets go and falls into the arms of the One Whom she recognizes as her Savior and Lord.
Some of you recall a somewhat similar experience when you first came to Christ. Then note these words: "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6).
To know His resources we must abandon our own. Shall we do this? You can trust the Man who died for you. He will never hurt you. Some of us will never know what resources are ours in Christ. We are too settled in our ways. We are too fearful to abandon. We are too careful to commit ourselves.
All of His resources are open to the soul who has none of his own. All of His life is yours if you will let Him, let Him, mark you, not do it yourself, let Him nail that old self to the Cross and replace it with His own life.
And as I faced this, I said once, "Lord, I cannot do it." Then in His love and mercy He disclosed a wonderful truth to me. There came a realization of the meaning of that text in Romans 12:1: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." "By the mercies of God." The word translated "by" is "dia" = "through", and the mercies are those Paul has been presenting in previous chapters, justification, redemption, sanctification. I saw it all. I simply thanked Him that He presented me to Himself in Christ and discovered that even my yielding was in utter dependence upon Him.
But the next step in the reception of, and reliance upon, this Resource is:
Dependence and Faith
This is a more sustained experience than the last. Look at Luke 12:27: "Consider the lilies how they grow; they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." John 15:4: "Abide in Me an I in you." The lilies make no effort to grow. Their roots simply receive life and depend upon it and the product is beauty.
How do we depend upon Christ as our life practically? The story is all told in a little word used in several New Testament passages and variously translated "on" and "upon", the word "epi." In Acts 16:13, these words occur: "Believe ON the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved". The same word is used in 1 Peter 5:7: "Casting all your care UPON Him". And in every case it means "to lean your weight upon".
Two other places where it occurs will make this clear. John 13:25: "He then lying ON Jesus' breast." John, at the last supper reclining with the weight of his head upon the breast of the Lord, pictures vividly the meaning of the word. Once again in Mark 4:38: "And He was in the hinder part of the ship asleep ON a pillow." There Jesus is at rest, resting His weight upon the pillow. It simply means that moment by moment, in every emergency of thought or action and in the even ways of life, we lean ourselves upon Him by faith until the attitude becomes habitual and our life is the life of dependent faith upon Him and His life is expressed through us.
God is Love, and so the third means of receiving His Resources is:
Love and Faith
John makes this clear in his epistle, I John 4:16: "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." I John 3:24: "He that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him and He in him." I John 5:2: "By this we know that we love the children of God when we love God and keep His commandments." In other words, a sweet affection for the Lord Jesus Christ, fostered and maintained by love for others through Christ, means that His love dwells in us and triumphs, causing us to live the life of obedience. Love is maintained in us by Christ. He uses us as a medium of love and begets His own love through us as we depend upon Him for this. Is there lack of love to any one? There need not be. Just now He can cleanse and replace by His own love.
But we must turn briefly to a consideration of:
III. The Results of Such Reception and Reliance in a Victorious Life
The first result will be:
The Life of Christ lived in us and through us here.
John 14:19: "because I live ye shall live also." I Peter 2:9: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."
Walking down a Glasgow street one day, a gentleman was attracted by a crowd standing at a shop door. There he discovered a man selling a beautiful picture. He was describing the merits of the picture to the people before him, pointing them to this corner and to that corner and showing them this that and the other thing, and all the time he was speaking of the picture he was not seen. He was behind the picture, and only the picture in its beauty was visible to the people.
And so with us. Jesus will live His own life of victory, we simply being the showcases to display His glory. "Not I, but Christ", the hidden source and the constant resource of the life of Victory.
Again it means the:
Light of Christ applied to Daily Problems
John 8:12: "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." And Romans 12:2: "Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind."
We are imperfect vessels, but as we depend upon Him it will mean that we shall have His own mind upon the problems of life and grow more and more to His thought.
The Love of Christ will again be manifested in all our life. Romans 5:5: "Because the Love of God is shed abroad in our hearts." 2 Corinthians 5:14: "The Love of Christ constraineth us." How we have longed to display this love. And ho often we have failed. Have our resources failed? They have if they are our resources. But Christ Jesus has never failed and He Himself is the final and adequate Resource of the Victorious Life.
Now what does all this mean? It means that you and I can safely and assuredly enter into a life of Victory. The Life of Christ is realized in us by the Holy Spirit, but have we abandoned ourselves to Him completely, that our Lord Jesus Christ may constitute Himself our Life?
Dr. Griffith Thomas once explained Christian responsibility as "our response to His ability." Now let me ask: for the sake of a helpless, Godless humanity, for the sake of a struggling and oft-times weakened Church, for the sake of our young people, and, above all, for the sake of our living, loving Lord, will you not now yield to Him, withholding nothing that from this hour the complete will of Christ may be done in each one of us by our recognizing Christ Jesus as the Resource of the Victorious Life, that His Life may be lived in us henceforth for His own glory?
S. D. Gordon in one of his books tells the story of Theodore Monod. He was an earnest, eloquent man. The realization came to him that he was to yield fully to Christ. In much of his life self was ruling. He came to the parting of the ways and the battle was a fierce one, for self dies hard, but finally by the Spirit of God, he gained the Victory, as you may, as we all may. It was Theodore Monod who described his own battle and victory in that great hymn: "O the bitter shame and sorrow. . ." with its triumphant conclusion , "None of self and all of Thee."
And now as I close, who will dare to trust the Lord Jesus Christ fully to meet every need for a life of Victory? Will you do it, and, having yielded quietly to Him that He may crucify self, will you rise up to say, "For me to live is Christ"?
Hidden far from agitation,
Rests my soul in quiet peace;
Held by grace through full salvation
In the place where self doth cease.
Rest in ceasing from self's clamour;
Joy in leaving all to Him.
Earth has no such place of favour,
Far from earthly strife and din.
Secret of the blessed Spirit,
Known to those who yield their all;
Heaven won through Jesus' merit,
Eden rescued from the Fall.
Come, my soul into this refuge,
Rest from self in Jesus there;
Cease from thine own work and striving,
Rest on Him your every care.
by J. Charles Stern