Christ, the Life of His People
William Nicholson, 1862
"Christ who is our life!" Colossians 3:4
It is very important to recognize and understand the cause of our enjoyments. It is so in temporal matters, and it must especially be so in our spiritual affairs. Christ is the source of our spiritual happiness. "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." John 1:4. "I have come that you might have life, and might have it abundantly." John 10:10.
The recognition of this truth will produce gratitude and devotedness to his service. And constant dependence upon him, as the life of our souls, will promote their prosperity. And union to him will cause us to participate in his excellencies, to bear his image, and to reflect his glory.
I. Christ Is Our Life, as He Delivered Us from the Sentence of Everlasting Death.
He reversed that sentence of condemnation. The exclusive power to give life to the condemned was claimed by him. See John 3:14-17; 6:32-35.
1. Christ has answered all the demands of the law. All men have sinned; by the law they are subject to the punishment of death. Law cannot, in its own nature, admit of pardon it can only show our sin to us.
Christ came and died to answer the demand of law by his substitutionary atonement. An adequate substitute for sinful man, cannot be another sinful man, because a man can do nothing beyond his duty. A Divine substitute is the only reason for diverting the demands of the law from the person actually guilty. Where is this substitute to be found? "We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrews 10:10
2. He gives man to enjoy the benefits of his substitution. The great results of it are, pardon, justification, and adoption, as realized in this life. Beautifully stated, in Acts 13:38, 39; Romans 8:1, 33, 34; Galatians 3:13, 14, 26; 1 John 3:1.
Now think of these great blessings, unmerited, undeserved perfectly free and gratuitous, purchased by the agony and unparalleled sufferings and death of Christ! On that cross he was bound as a captive, that I might be free! He was smitten and afflicted by God, instead of me.
Through his power, spiritual life is commenced.
II. He Is the Author of Our Spiritual Life on Earth.
"The carnal mind is enmity against God" it has no relish for his service. It is not properly impressed with its own guilt. It does not appreciate the substitution of Christ, nor comprehend the applicability of that substitution to its lapsed and guilty state. The soul of man is like a corpse in the grave dead past feeling. It requires the outstretched arm of Omnipotence, and the melting voice of Infinite pity, to be brought to bear upon the spiritual entombment of the sinner, saying, "Lazarus come forth!" "Awake, you that sleep, and rise from the dead!" Ephesians 5:14. Man requires to be quickened. Ephesians 2:1-6.
Thus with the sinner, the darkness is past, and the true light now shines. Christ is his life. He now perceives harmony, beauty, and worth, where once he observed nothing but confusion, and discord, and insignificance. "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see!"
III. Christ Is Our Life, as He Produces in Us Those Exercises by Means of Which We Realize the Benefits of His Sacrifice.
By the influence of his Spirit, he brings us . . .
to humbleness of mind, by which sin is loathed, hated, confessed, and forsaken. "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son!" Zechariah 12:10
He gives us to see our guilt, misery, and helplessness. By faith Christ is received, and with him all the blessings flowing from his substitutionary atonement:
pardon and justification,
acceptance with God, and access to him,
peace with God and joy,
eternal security, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perishever! No one will snatch them out of My hand." John 10:28
By faith the Christian stands; by faith he walks; by faith he lives, for Christ is his life. "The life he now lives in the flesh, he lives by faith in the Son of God, who loved him, and gave himself for him!" Galatians 2:20. Faith is the grand connecting medium between Christ and the soul. See this stated John 15:4, 5.
IV. Christ Is Our Life, as He Renovates the Heart and Conduct.
As soon as faith looks at the cross for justification, sin becomes "exceedingly sinful." Then it is seen as the most inveterate foe, and detested and spurned. And the Holy Spirit is given to impress the mind with the awful effects of sin, and to produce an utter abhorrence of it. Sin is beheld as the cause of alienation from the life of God, and fellowship with him; and as the source of all present and future misery.
For reconciliation with God and purity, we are indebted to Christ; his death is the cause of our sanctification. "He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works!" Titus 2:14
His Spirit is called the Spirit of holiness. His word is the instrument of our sanctification, John 17:17; James 1:18. Christ, too, is the great exemplar of his Church, and his Spirit inclines the redeemed to follow his steps. We are "predestined to be conformed to his image."
V. Christ Is the Life of All Christian Activity.
Christians are to labor in Christ's vineyard; and to show forth his praises. They are bought with a price, etc. They have talents to consecrate to his service, and they are to be fruitful in every good word and work. But none can be so without Christ, who is our life. He dwells in us, he lives in us as the sun lives in the garden, by his influence producing fragrance and fruits; or as the soul lives in the body actuating every limb, and penetrating every particle. See Romans 14:7, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.
VI. Christ Is the Life of All Spiritual Enjoyment.
He feeds the souls of his people; but it is by their faith that this food is converted into nourishment. "He who eats me, even he shall live by me." Hence to enjoy Christ as our life, there must be the constant exercise of faith.
The natural man looks to earthly things for enjoyment. But the supernatural man exhibits a marvelous elevation of thought and feeling. He can no more rest in these base things, than an angel can. And, like an angel, his only bliss is in beholding and adoring God.
And where does he find enjoyment? He finds it where Christ dwells, and in institutions of which he is the life. He finds it in ordinances. In the house of God; in his worship; in preaching; in praise and prayer; in Christian fellowship; in baptism and the Lord's Supper of all these Christ is the life. They would be as parched ground if he were not there; but his presence makes them "wells of salvation."
He finds enjoyment in the promises, and Christ is the life of them. They are all "yes and amen in him."
He finds enjoyment . . .
in the Bible, for Christ is the life of it,
in meditation, for Christ makes it sweet,
and in his prayer closet, for Christ is there.
He finds enjoyment even in afflictions, though they are grievous. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it!" Hebrews 12:11. Christ has appointed them; he has proportioned them; he will superintend their operation, and direct their outcome. See Romans 5:3, 4, 5; 2 Corinthians 12:10. "Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects!" Job. 5:17.
Thus the Christian life is a happy one. Why is religion so burdensome to many? Because they have nothing in them to render these things like the functions of life natural and easy. Hence they drudge and toil on, saying, "What a weariness it is to serve the Lord!"
Where genuine spiritual life exists, there is an inward propensity to holiness, and no ignoble and slavish devotion, springing from custom, or impelled by external motives only. The faithful find his service to be perfect freedom; and his yoke easy and his burden light. "Such a burden," observes one, "as a pair of wings to a bird they would be awkward, troublesome, and useless, if tied on; but as living parts of its body, they are graceful and pleasing, and the instruments of flight towards Heaven."
VII. Christ Is the Life of the Soul in the Hour of Death.
Christ has conquered death. He has plucked its sting. He has deprived it of its terrors. Hebrews 2:14, 15:1 Corinthians 15:55-57. Paul found it to be so, "Having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better!" Simeon found it so, "Lord now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation!"
Nature may suffer, and sometimes the mind may quail but Christ our life bears up the head of the dying saint, and cheers his heart by the power of his atonement. Leaning upon that staff of atoning love, says the believer, "I will pass through the gloomy valley, I fear not the bands of death, for they are broken. I will not fear its sting, for it is gone. My heart and my flesh shall fail, but the power of your resurrection, O Jesus, shall be the strength of my heart, and its blessings shall be my portion forever. Christ is my life!"
VIII. Christ Will Be the Life of the Body in the Morning of the Resurrection.
"I am the resurrection and the life." John 11:24, 25; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Corinthians 15. Christ will be the agent to effect his people's resurrection; it shall be done by "his mighty power." His glorified body will be the model to which the bodies of his saints will be formed! "But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body!" Philippians 3:20-21
IX. Christ Will Be the Life of Heaven.
Heaven is his dwelling-place, his imperial palace. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you!" John 14:1-2
The happiness of the believer in Heaven, derives its sweetness from communion with Christ. It is not on sitting on a throne, or walking in white, or reigning that his mind dwells but on sitting with Christ on his throne, walking with Him in white, and reigning with him in eternal life.
Without Jesus, earth would be a prison, and Heaven would be no Heaven to him. Christ in Heaven is its beauty, its charm, its essence, and its security. What would the throne be, if the slain Lamb were not in the midst of it? What would the Paradise of God be, if the tree of life was not in it? What would the fountains of living water be, if the Lamb did not lead us to them? What would the society of Heaven be, if he were absent, to whom every ear delights to listen, and whom every eye follows wherever he goes? But he is there, visible to every eye, and accessible to every saint! He is there, and he gladdens every soul, and tunes every harp. He is there the subject of every song of praise, the life of all their joys, and the rapture of all their hearts. Just men made perfect, angels shining in glory, thrones and dominions, principalities and powers you are not my saviors, you are not my Heaven. Jesus is my life, my joy, my glory, and my all. "Whom have I in Heaven but you?"
1. How wretched the condition of worldly men! They labor to find enjoyment on earth, in the creature. Real life and enjoyment are only in Christ.
2. Christ is now offered to you.
3. How dreary and dreadful will eternity be without Christ!