Not You But God: The Acid Test Of The Exchanged Life
The expression “The Exchanged Life” has become familiar to us here at The Moody Church for it constitutes the emphasis of the regular ministry of this church. It crystallizes a great truth which has had revolutionary effects in the lives of many whose hearts have been gripped by this principle. In fact, it has brought us into a new principle of life entirely where we have discovered that “it is no longer I, but Christ,” and where we have discovered that the thing that counts is not our struggling and whipping the flesh to bring it into line, but rather our yielding and committing our life to Christ and allowing Him to live His life in us.
A very great danger, however, that attends the frequent emphasis of the exchanged life—the life where it is not I but Christ—is the fact that we become so familiar with the theory of this principle of life, we become so able to quote Galatians 2:20 and say that we have been crucified with Christ etc., that in many cases the full implication of the principle within the context of my daily life is often obscured. Whereas we may profess very readily that it is “not I but Christ”; nevertheless, there is not that within the daily life to substantiate and give evidence of the claim.
Therefore, let us consider what we may call “The Acid Test of the Exchanged Life.” If we can pass the test then we are living an exchanged life. If we are unable to pass the test then we have learned only the theory of the lesson and know nothing of its reality in daily experience.
In Genesis 45:8 we find these words, “not you—but God.” This expression is the evidence I believe of “Not I—but Christ.” “Not you—but God,” what does Joseph mean? Joseph did not mean that he was blaming God for all that had happened to him in his getting sent to Egypt. Not at all. But he did mean that behind every detail of his life he recognized God. He was aware of the Lord’s hand and therefore every circumstance of life was embraced with glad abandon to the will of God because in it Joseph recognized the sovereign Lord Himself. That’s what he meant when he said “not you—but God.” He knew that his brethren were guilty of all the crimes committed against him, but in and through it all he saw the Lord and recognized His sovereignty. Therefore in Joseph’s heart there was no resentment or bitterness but rather a glad acceptance of all that had come to him because it was allowed of God.
That’s the exchanged life right down where we live. When a man can say as Joseph said “not you—but God” that’s the principle of “not I—but Christ” in full expression. But let’s take a little closer look. I would like you to consider some of the areas of Joseph’s life where this test applied and perhaps it will find a corresponding application in our own experience.
- The Intensity Of The Suffering Joseph’s Life
Going back to Joseph’s youth we find him suffering at the hands of his brethren. They were at enmity with him. They hated him. Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob, especially set apart from the others, the recipient of a coat of many colors and it must have been obvious as the Scripture says in Genesis 37:3, “Israel loved Joseph more than all his children.” But that was not the basic reason for their enmity. It was his character, his integrity, his loyalty. The Scripture says, “Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.” It was not just that he was a tale-bearer, but the honesty and purity of his own life rebelled against their evil conduct and in faithfulness he reported it to his father. “They hated the light because their deeds were evil.” Genesis 37:4 relates “they hated him and could not speak peaceably unto him.”
But not only were they at enmity with Joseph, they also were envious of him. Joseph dreamed dreams—dreams which foretold his exaltation over them, when they would bow to him and honor him. But they couldn’t stand his dreams. They begrudged any authority he might have within the family. And they “hated him yet the more.”
However, when we examine the record of these things, we do not find a single trace of resentment on Joseph’s part. Over this very area of his life he was able to write “it was not you, but God.” Not that God was responsible, but that God had allowed it all and Joseph therefore received it with thanksgiving.
Have you had in your life a chapter such as this? You have suffered at the hands of those who have disliked you, who have been envious, who have begrudged your advancement, who couldn’t stand your integrity and holiness of life, who have even become your enemies. Have you faced such intense inward suffering as that? I’m sure everyone has. But what has been your reaction? Resentment? Fighting back? Self defense? Or have you learned to write over that chapter “not you—but God.” Have you recognized that God has allowed all these things, therefore you have received them with joyfulness and no resentment? Until you can say “not you—but God” please don’t testify and say “not I—but Christ.” It is not so, until you can truthfully say the former.
If we desire a further demonstration of the out-living of this principle then compare the life of our Lord, “who when He was reviled, reviled not again,” who also said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you.”
Compare also the life of the Apostle Paul who was constantly in jeopardy because of his enemies. He said in 1 Corinthians 4:12, “being reviled, we bless.” When in our experience it is really “not I but Christ,” then over every area where we are reviled for His sake we shall be able to write “not you—but God.”
- The Inequity Of The Slavery Of Joseph’s Life
The enmity and envy of Joseph’s brethren led to something worse. At first their plan was to get rid of him by slaying him, but Reuben persuaded them otherwise. Then they decided on another plan to get rid of him by selling him as a slave, which they did. Oh, the injustice of it all. How unfair it was. Sold in Egypt to become a slave in the house of Potiphar. How it must have crushed him—separated from home, father, family, from all that he enjoyed as the favorite son of Jacob. His soul was in anguish at the very thought of it. But in spite of the injustice of all that happened to Joseph, he was able to write over this chapter of his life “it was not you—but God,” and “God meant it unto good—to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20).
Somehow your thoughts turn at once to our Lord who when He was being taken by wicked hands, and crucified and slain said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Behind the cross the Saviour saw the Father. He knew that it was the Father’s hand that was laid upon Him. Isaiah 53:10—“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him: He had put Him to grief.” He could say “not you—but God.” And then also we think of Stephen, who when being stoned for his faith in Christ said, “Lord lay not this sin to their charge.” And above the stones he saw the heaven opened, the glory of God and Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of the Father.
Let me ask—Have you ever suffered an injustice, received unfair treatment, been betrayed? Have you? Of course you have. But how did you react? Aren’t we inclined to build up a good defense for ourselves, to justify ourselves, to feel sorry for ourselves that we have been treated in this way. Yes, and sometimes we have so resented the injustice that we have been overcome with an unforgiving spirit.
That is not the exchanged life. That is not Christ living in me, for if it be “no longer I but Christ,” then I would be able to do as He instructed in Matthew 5:39–44. And over every aspect of that experience wherein you were unjustly treated you would be able to write “not you—but God” and you would receive it with contentment and thanksgiving. But that is the thing that is so difficult for us to do. In fact, it’s impossible for us to do. It is only as we are truly crucified with Him that we can live out in experience “not I—but Christ.”
- The Infamy Of The Stigma Of Joseph’s Life
All that Joseph has suffered so far is bad enough, but he hasn’t reached the end yet. Following these experiences, we find that he is falsely accused and cast into prison and because of it he bore the stigma of impurity, of unfaithfulness, of unreliability, of failure. That was a hard blow, but we read in verse 21 of Genesis 39—“the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Once again behind all that he suffered he saw the hand of God. Once again Joseph demonstrated the grace of God. Once again he passed the test. Once again he came through in victory, for over that experience too he was able to write “it was not you—but God.”
Can you think of some others who also bore a stigma for the Lord’s sake? Do you remember Mary? When she was told by the angel that the Holy Ghost would come upon her and that she would give birth to a child who would be the Son of God, she replied, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” And for years, she bore a stigma for His sake.
How do we respond when we are falsely accused, when some infamous stigma is put upon our lives by lying lips. Do we get angry and resentful and denounce our accuser and shout our innocency to the world? Joseph didn’t. Mary didn’t. Our Lord didn’t. They recognized behind it all the sovereign hand of God had with glad abandon received it as from Him.
There is another stigma which we are called upon to bear. It is what Paul called “the offense of the cross.” It is a stigma which the early church bore because they were followers of Jesus Christ. Galatians 6:17, “I bear in my body the marks (stigma—brand marks) of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That brand mark is the cross. How do we respond to the stigma of the cross, to being nailed there ourselves. May I say, that is the whole secret of passing this test. For when I am really crucified with Christ, when self has really died with Him, it will be no longer I, and over every circumstance of life I will be able to write “Not you—But God.” “He meant it for good.”