Putting On The Lord Jesus Christ
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:12–14).
The early days of the present church age were characterized by the danger of falling away from the grace of God which brought salvation through simple faith in the blood of Christ, and becoming entangled in the meshes of legal ceremonial bondage. The epistle of Paul to the Galatians was written to counteract this tendency. The Book of Hebrews also sounded the warning concerning the danger of turning back from the simplicity of the truth as it is in Christ to the temple, which was still standing, and its multitude of religious observances.
In these days of lawlessness, however, which, in the minds of many, are the closing days of the church age, the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme. It is now “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness” or license. Jude tells us of this grave error. To offset both of these God-dishonoring tendencies, the exhortation of Titus 2:11–13 is much needed. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world (age), looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” We learn from this text that God’s grace not only saves those who come to Christ, but that it also has a teaching ministry which will result in practical righteousness in the lives of those who are apt pupils.
In announcing my theme, “Putting On the Lord Jesus Christ,” I am well aware of the dangerous tendency of so-called ‘modernism’ which overlooks the need of personal regeneration which becomes a reality when souls receive the Saviour. Then He becomes Christ in usthe hope of glory—and let us be reminded that there is no hope apart from this. We have heard so much of “salvation by character,” “trying to measure up to the teachings of Jesus,” of “following His example,” that it is high time to cry aloud that it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done,” that we are saved, but rather that it is “according to His mercy” by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
On the other hand, however, we are confronted by the sad fact that many who would “contend earnestly” for the need of Christ withinthe believer, are sadly remiss in showing forth the grace and love of Christ outwardlythat can alone enable men about us to know that we have been “with Christ and learned of Him.” In other words, it is only too sadly true of us that our lives often speak so loudly that people cannot hear what we have to say!
The Scriptures present the doctrinal foundations of our faith necessary to salvationwithinbefore the practical truths by which our lives should be governed so far as outward contactsare concerned. The epistle of Paul to the Ephesians is a glowing example of this truth. Some one has said that the message of the first three of the six chapters is comprehended in the three words appearing in the text, “to the saints” (Ephesians 1:1). In these chapters, as a fruit of salvation, the glorious relationship of the believer, as a member of the body of Christ, to the great Head of the Church, is seen. Sainthood is described. In the last three chapters, which are intensely practical in directing the outward conduct of the believer, the expression “as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3), applies most definitely. In other words, God makes us to besaints before He tells us how to act assaints. This is one of the many proofs that the Bible is of Divine origin. Had man written the book, he would have had a ladder to climb as a result of self-effort before he could attain unto that which a holy God demands. God, on the other hand, gives us a glorious standing in His sight before He exhorts us as to our state or experience.
The same order is carried out in Romans and the other great New Testament epistles. How to obtain life and salvation and what that salvation is, is seen in the early chapters of Romans. How to live the life is set forth in chapters 12 to the end. We need not only to have the love of God shed abroad in our heartsby the Holy Spirit, who is given unto those who are justified by faith in Christ,—we also need to put onthe love of God—as an overcoat—to be manifested to those who are round about us. The all-sufficiency of our Lord Jesus is seen in this—receive Him to be saved! Put Him on if you would live before men to the glory of God.
Some years ago (1920) it was my privilege to prepare an outline chart of the epistle of Paul, the Apostle, to the Romans. I was able to secure the kind cooperation of a young show-card painter who was employed by a local Jewish clothing merchant. This young fellow was a nominal Christian but he knew very little of the reality of Christ either within or without. He consented, however, to use his paint brush in lettering the long canvas chart which was being prepared. He had gotten as far along as the outlines for the 5th chapter of Romans where the federal headships of Adam and Christ are set forth in sharp contrast. Suddenly it dawned upon him that just as he was helplessly bound in Adam to sin and its consequences so through faith in the Lord Jesus he would be just as blessedly subject to the truths pertaining to life and godliness through the accomplishment of the last Adam—even Christ. His soul was gripped by the power of God. He leaped to his feet, shouting “for joy,” with grave danger of landing in a bucket of paint. When he came down, however, he stood firmly on the facts of accomplished redemption. What was the result? This young man enrolled at the Moody Bible Institute; in due time he graduated and for some years has been a successful pastor, evangelist, and soul winner. He came to a deep realization of what it meant to have Christ inhim. As a result he “put onJesus Christ” and has been eminently successful in making Him known to others.
The early chapters of Romans have to do with justification in the sight of God. Here it is “not of works lest any man should boast.” In the latter chapters, however, we consider the “good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” In this sense we are justified by works as well as by faith in keeping with the testimony of James’ epistle which was to do with justification before men.
The exhortation to earnestly contend for the faith is apositiveone. It is FOR the faith—not againsteverybody and everything we meet. God does not want us to become so cantankerous as to be able to get along with no one! It is well to remind ourselves that the greatest argument in favor of God and His word of truth is a holy life—a life in which the beauty of Jesus is set forth to a lost world around about us. Let us “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” that men everywhere may see through us the only One who can save their souls.
I was called one day to the hospital bedside of a woman who had made a terrible mistake. Her name had been heralded in the local newspapers because of an apparent attempt to end her life as a suicide. Fortunately the knife she made use of did not cut deeply enough to prove fatal. I said to this poor woman, “What made you attempt to take your own life?” I was nearly stunned when she replied—“Romans 12:1.” It did not take long to convince her that she had tried to do the very thing contrary to the exhortation of that Scripture—that God wants not a deadsacrifice as set forth in the millions of animals slain in the Old Testament offerings but that He wanted livingsacrifices—those who would live for Him every day of the their lives! I can say, to the glory of God, that the woman in question has lived a consistent, consecrated Christian life for many years—that there has never been a recurrence of the type of brainstorm that nearly proved so tragic.
Let us turn to Romans 12:1. Here we read “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that, ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.” The word, “therefore” always refers to what has been mentioned before.“I beseech you, therefore, by the mercies of God—.”What are the mercies of God? They are doubtless referred to in Romans, chapters 1 to 11, in which His gracious dealings with both Jew and Gentile and His marvelous provision for the Church of God are specifically set forth.
Considering the word “righteousness” as the key to the Epistle, we find that righteousness is required by a holy God with the result that, man, being devoid of it, is under condemnation. Next, we see, righteousness is revealedin God’s great plan of salvation. Righteousness receivedproduces justification. Righteousness realizedhas to do with the great truth of sanctification. Righteousness rejected by His own earthly people, the Jews, in refusing to receive Christ as Saviour and Messiah, resulted in their repudiation—yet the “mercies of God” are even seen on behalf of Israel for, in spite of the opportunity they neglected, the promises of God to the fathers of blessing to the nation are protected by the assurance of fulfillment. We come back to our text—“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present (or yield) yourselves (bodies) a living sacrifice—.” Because of that which He has donefor you—you should nowdo for Him.Chapters 12 through 16 describe in a very full way what it is to be a living sacrifice—not an act once for all to be committed, not a single blessing to be received at a penitent form at the close of a protracted meeting. No—but to live—every day—a life that is well pleasing unto God. It was D.L. Moody who said that before his conversion he worked toward the crossin an effort to be saved but that since his conversion he worked from the cross.In other words, he was a living sacrifice because of the mercies of Godalready shown him.
Those who are receiving their degrees today are going out into the world with the hope that they may continue to live up to the honored motto of this blessed institution—to live “for Christ and His Kingdom.” How can this be done? Only in one way. It will be possible alone to those who can look back from the “therefore” of Romans 12:1 and realize that the mercies of Godto them individually have resulted in personal salvation to their souls—that through the blood of Christ they have been redeemed—that they are no longer their own; they are bought with a price—that consequently they are privileged to glorify God in their bodies and spirits which are His.
We are not left, however, to mere speculation as to what the life of living sacrifice is. In Romans 12:1–16 we are told of life in Christ in relation to other members of the mystical body. I would suggest that the 12th [chapter] of Romans be read in conjunction with the 12th [chapter] of 1 Corinthians. How marvelous to know that I have been made a member of His body—that as a member I have a definite function to perform. How blessed to read in 1 Corinthians 12:21 that the Head (Christ) cannot say to the feet (the humblest believers) “I have no need of you.” Glorious calling—my Saviour has need of me! We are constantly mindful that we cannot get along without Him.We think of the words of our Lord Jesus—“Without me ye can do nothing” and again of our own weakness in the words of Paul (2 Corinthians 3:5) “we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves.” How marvelous then to think that there is a sense in which He cannot get along without us!Stating the reference in 1 Corinthians 12:21 positively would make it read—“I have need of you.”
Who do you intend to serve as you go out into the world of opportunity that lies before you? Are you going to seek “your own” or “the things which are Jesus Christ’s”? Are you like those foolish ones of old at the tower of Babel going to seek to make a name for yourselves or are you going out to glorify the name of the Christ who says, “I have need of you”? We are often reminded of the words of Mother Clark, co-founder of the well-known Pacific Garden Mission of Chicago—“Only one life, ‘Twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”
I am constantly being approached by various persons in my ministry at The Moody Church who ask if I cannot help get them into Christian service. They do not seem to realize that it is the Lord of the harvest who must thrust out laborers into His harvest. I sometimes remind them of the testimony of the Apostle Paul who, in speaking of his apostleship, said that he had not received it fromman nor byman but by Jesus Christ and God, the Father, who raised Him from the dead. God has a place for each one of us who is redeemed and regenerated but let us not be in such a hurry that we will try to enter a field of service to which He has never called us.
Many would like to preach to great congregations. Some are even humble enough to be willing to accept the pastorate of The Moody Church, should it be offered to them. I would not, for a moment, attempt to curb the ambitions of those who aspire to the very highest possible accomplishments in any given field of Christian service but we do need to look carefully into our own hearts to make sure that our ambitions are not to glorify selfinstead of Godwho alone is worthy of honor and praise. “There is still plenty of room at the top,” we are told, but let us be willing to have God place us in any position, high or low, where our lives will count most for Christ and His Kingdom.”
It is only as we yield our bodies to be a living sacrifice that the Holy Spirit will produce in and through us that fruitage in Christian life and ministry which God has ordained for us. Oh, may we heed His beseeching, and yield our lives unreservedly to Him, “who loved us and gave Himself for us.”
Romans 12:17 to 13:14 deals with our lives in relation to the outside world. Should we be subject to the authority of human governments when our citizenship is in heaven? Should we pay our taxes? Have we a civic responsibility? The answer is here. I am reminded of the wonderful reply given by our blessed Lord when he was confronted with the question of paying taxes to Caesar. He called for a coin which was handed to Him. “Whose image and superscription are these?” said He. “Caesar’s,” was the answer. “Render, therefore, unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things which are God’s.” Have you ever stopped to think that just as the tax money bore Caesar’s image so you,redeemed one, bear the image of God even though, through the fall of man, that image was greatly marred and His likeness entirely lost—Render therefore unto God—that which is God’s—your life upon which He has stamped the mark of ownership—twofold—once through creation and again through redemption. “We are living epistles, read and known of all men” (2 Corinthians 3:2). What does the world read when it reads you? Can the world see Jesus in me? Not unless, in our relationship with it, we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
But there is another group that we have to deal with known as “the brethren”—(Romans 14:1–15:7)—What a trying group this is to get along with! It took the grace of God to save the rest of them just as it took that grace to save you. We are reminded that “not many mighty, not many noble, etc. are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Some one has suggested that a good subject for Romans 14 would be “How to Disagree without Being Disagreeable.” What a blessing it would prove if some people we have heard of could only learn the lesson taught here. In this chapter we have real truth concerning the “Unity of the Spirit” which is not necessarily an agreement in regard to every teaching point of Scripture but rather the ability to get along peacefully and in love with those who do not see everything eye-to-eye with us, though they are “in the faith.”
Romans 14 would be a good place for some who are constantly carrying clubs to use on their brethren in Christ to stack those clubs and sit down together in holy and blessed fellowship. Sooner or later the Christian who insists upon constantly using a club to keep his brethren in line will find that that which he holds in his hand is a boomerang.
Life in the Gospel is the theme of Romans 15:8 to 33. Here the Apostle Paul speaks in detail of his distinctive ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles. How blessed it is to know that God has a special ministry for each one who is saved. He has the blueprint. He alone knows the steps which He hath ordained for us to walk in. Only the Holy Spirit can lead the yielded soul into the perfect will of God for our lives.
Those who are receiving their degrees today are to be highly congratulated. We trust that the honors conferred upon each recipient will be placed back in the pierced hands of Chrsit that He may sanctify them and use them to His own glory.
For some amazing reason I was invited in June of 1937 to attend the graduation exercises of the Bob Jones College of Cleveland, Tennessee. There I had conferred upon me the degree of Doctor of Divinity. I have tried to wear this title well and have trusted God to use it to His own glory in my life. Many are inclined to make light of degrees of one kind or another. I have noticed that it is generally those who have none who do so. To tell the truth, so far as D.D.’s are concerned there are both good and bad ones in the Bible. Spiritual shepherds in Israel who failed to warn the people under their care of approaching dangers were referred to as “dumb dogs” (Isaiah 56:10)—dogs who failed to bark and warn the sheep of the coming of a wild beast of some sort. It is sadly true that we are living in a day when many who occupy posts of spirutal responsibility fail to sound forth a much needed warning with the result that great harm comes to the flock of God. But let us turn to Daniel where a good D.D. is mentioned—“dissolver of doubts” (Daniel 5:12). This is what every true minister of the Word of God should be—a dissolver of doubts. The world is perishing in its sin of unbelief. What can dispel its darkness and make faith a reality? The answer, again, we find in the Word—“Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God”—Preach the Word and that Word itself will create faith in those who hear it. The message you proclaim will dissolve the doubts of those whom you address.
Some one once asked Spurgeon, the great London preacher, if he could defend the Bible. “Defend the Bible!” said he, “I would as soon defend a lion!” Let it out; it will take care of itself.
There are a number of special degrees awarded by the Holy Spirit through the words of the Apostle Paul in the closing chapter of Romans. Read the list of names found there and underline the special designations which speak of the particular faithfulness of each person named. There are degrees here that are higher than any group of men can confer. May each member of this graduating class merit the choicest of them.
We preachChrist! Let us practiceChrist, by the grace of God. Let us not be conformed to this world but let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Talk to Him in prayer every morning before you speak to another soul. Read His Word before you look at any other thing. Witness for Him at every opportunity.
To obey the injunctions of the practical portions of Scripture which we have been considering is to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lust thereof.”