Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 16, 2014
The Great Secret
In my early years as a disciple of Jesus I tried hard to live like a Christian. I struggled to be “like” Jesus, to imitate him in my attitudes and relationships. All my self-effort resulted in frustration.
Then I met E. Stanley Jones, an author and missionary to India. He had an inner peace that I envied. He said the great secret of the Christian faith was summed up in two words: in Christ. Live in Christ. Let Christ live in you.
Jones said this was the secret of the Apostle Paul’s amazing life. The heart of the gospel, Jones insisted, is found in Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20:
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (New KJV)
Jones was 77 when I met him and I realized he was not struggling to live like Jesus. Instead of trying to imitate Jesus he was surrendered to Jesus. He had a sense of His living presence. Jesus was not an example from the first century; he was the risen Lord, here with us, right now. Jones spoke of Jesus as though he was in the room with us, unseen but powerfully present.
Instead of struggle I saw in Brother Stanley an effortless joy. He was in a groove. His life was in cruise control, or better yet Christ control. This was obviously the Spirit-filled life I had heard about but never experienced personally. Christ was in Jones, and Jones was in Christ. The reality of this man’s deep relationship with Jesus was truly captivating. I sensed a peace and calm in Jones that could only be explained by the presence of Christ within him.
I wanted what Jones had – a sense of the presence of Christ in my life. Seeking his counsel I met with Brother Stanley and confessed my hunger for the assurance that Christ was living in me. He asked me to claim for myself the promise of God found in Mark 11:24 – “. . . whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
We knelt in prayer. Brother Stanley prayed simply that God would give me the assurance I was seeking. No bells rang as we stood up. No angels sang. But since that day I have been a different man, a new man, for that day I surrendered my life to Jesus in a way I had never done before.
I invited Him to take over and he did. Ever since that moment I have by faith believed that Christ was living in me. I exchanged “imitation” for “incarnation” and a new joy became mine.
Instead of struggling to imitate Jesus, I focused on letting Him live His life within me. This made sense for, after all, he had said clearly in John 15:5 that he is the Vine, we are the branches, and “without me you can do nothing.”
So the heart of the gospel is in Paul’s words: “Christ lives in me.” Repeatedly, the apostle writes of living “in Christ” or of Christ living “in me.” Here then is the great secret of the Christian life –let Jesus be Lord and live in your heart. The key is not struggle but surrender.
The same week that I embraced the joyous peace of Christ living within me, my friend Thomas Carruth gave me a copy of Brother Stanley’s book, In Christ. Jones shared how he had searched for a concept that would reduce the whole of life to the utmost simplicity. Here said:
“If you have that, you’re ‘in’; if you don’t have it, you’re ‘out.’ By ‘in’ I mean ‘in life,’ and by ‘out,’ ‘out of life.’” That concept Jones found in the phrase “in Christ.” He concludes: “If you are ‘in Christ’ you’re ‘in life’; if you are ‘out of Christ’ you’re ‘out of life.’”
The more I studied Jones’ claims the more the secret made sense. It cleared up much confusion for me. The Christian life is not about religion; it is about life in Christ. So the phrase “in Christ” is the ultimate phrase in the Christian faith because, as Jones says, “it locates us in a Person – the Divine Person – and it locates us in Him here and now. It brings us to the ultimate relationship – ‘in.’“ This takes us beyond being “near” Christ, “believing” in Christ or “following” Christ.
I was captivated by Jones’ explanation: “To be ‘in Christ’ means to pull up the roots of one’s very life from the soil of sin and self and herd and plant them ‘in Christ.’ He becomes the source of our life, the source of our thinking, our feeling, our acting, our being.”
“This obviously involves self-surrender,” Jones said. “Not merely the surrender of our sins, our bad habits, our wrong thinking, and our wrong motives, but of the very self behind all these. All of these are symptoms; the unsurrendered self is the disease. So the phrase ‘in Christ’ is not only the ultimate concept, but it demands the ultimate act – self-surrender.”
Jones was so convinced that he was right that he said if this concept or thesis is not true, then it doesn’t matter – forget it; but if it is true, then nothing else matters – you can’t forget it”!
As a young pastor I embraced Brother Stanley’s concept and it has been the focus of my Christian journey to this very hour. In the midst of faults and failures, storms and trouble, this has been my chief desire – to let Christ live within me, to guide, comfort, discipline and use me for his glory. Now, in the sunset years of my life, I can declare Brother Stanley’s affirmation to be my own:
“My creed and my song are one – my creed: ‘Jesus is Lord’; my song: ‘Jesus is Lord!’ I’m in Him and He is in me. Hallelujah!” And I would add one word: Glory!
Beyond any doubt the great secret of Christianity is Christ living within us. Paul was right. Jones was right. You and I can be right – if we choose to surrender and let Christ live within us! + + +