THE POWER OF THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS (MESSAGE N°3)

By Henri Viaud-Murat

English version of Tape C117, "Source de Vie", La Grotte, F-48370 St Germain de Calberte, France

This message is the third of a set of 5 (C 115 to 119)

Understanding the Cross in a Spiritual Way

You remember what has already been said about the two aspects of the work of the Cross. Here is a brief reminder : first, Jesus died for us on the Cross. He took our sins upon Himself, and granted us life through faith in His blood. Moreover, when He died, He also bore our sinful nature and carried it into His death : He caused us, too, to die on the Cross with Him, and when He was raised from the dead, we were also raised in Him and with Him.

We must be careful to understand the whole doctrine of the Cross in a spiritual way. There are Christians who do not understand it spiritually, which is detrimental to their lives. Their understanding of the Cross is merely theological and intellectual. We shall see what harmful effects arise from an improper understanding of the message of the Cross, so we need to understand it as the Lord requires in His Word. Thus we can step out of the deadness of the flesh into the life of the Holy Spirit.

To start with, here is a verse from the first Epistle to the Thessalonians : "May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely ; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23). To understand that is vital. It is the God of peace Himself who will sanctify us, as the following verse reminds us : "He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it." (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

He will do it, indeed, provided we remain in the right attitude of faith. Then God will wholly sanctify us. Paul speaks of the spirit, the soul, and the body, saying that those three components of our being must be kept blameless right up till the end, till our Lord Jesus Christ comes. Do you realise that "blameless" means "faultless, above reproach" ? When the Lord examines us, He will be able to say : "I see nothing to condemn, neither spot nor wrinkle. Not the slightest detail is amiss ! Everything is perfect !" Why ? Because He completed it Himself ! If everything is perfect, it means that God Himself perfected it.

But I must allow God to do His work, and the only way is to maintain an attitude of faith at all times. God will complete a perfect work in me if only I do what He commands me, i.e. believe in His Word. If I believe in His Word, then the power of the Holy Spirit will perfect and sanctify me wholly.

This requires a proper understanding of how God moves and of how we need to work with Him. We have already mentioned the fact that our former nature died in Christ. I want to give a more detailed exposition of this, so as to improve our understanding of it.

Our old nature is made up of three parts : the spirit, the soul, and the body. If we consider the beginning when man was created, that creation was sinless and perfect, in spirit, soul, and body. First, God made a body for man out of the dust of the earth. Then, He breathed His Spirit (in Hebrew, the word is plural : "His Spirits") into the nostrils of that body of clay, and man became a living soul. That is what the Scriptures say. A man is a living soul resulting from the joining together of the spirit and of a fleshly body. So man received a body of flesh, made out of the dust. Our flesh is made up of the same elements as the dust of the earth. When God breathed His Spirit into that body, man became a living soul, a living person : spirit, soul, and body began to function.

Adam’s spirit was sinless ; it was a direct input of God’s life within him. God breathed His spirit into Adam. Thanks to that spirit, Adam, although a creature, was in the likeness of the Lord. The spirit is the most powerful part of man, since it brings him directly into touch with God and the spiritual world.

When man became a living soul, he was given a spirit that joined him to God : there was no gulf of separation. No sin had been committed yet, so man was not cut off from God.

Adam’s soul was the part of his being that came between the spirit and body. We need to understand that the soul is the area of the personality, the realm of the self, i.e. the realm of the thoughts, the feelings, and the will. Those three vital components, thoughts, feelings, and will, make up the soul. Unlike the physical body, the soul is invisible ; But it is not the spirit. We need to be able to tell the difference between those two different parts within ourselves. Many Christians have never been able to tell the soul from the spirit, but sorcerers and occultists are perfectly able to !

The soul is lower than the spirit, which is the highest part of our being, linking us to God and the spiritual world. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. God created our spirits so that we might be directly in touch with Him.

The soul is the seat of the human personality. It includes the mind, i.e. the understanding and the ability to think and to reason ; then the feelings or emotions, and a vital third part, the will, which is the ability to decide, to accept or refuse. You know that sin is committed as soon as a man chooses to disobey. Eve was deceived first, led astray first, beguiled by the lies and the innuendoes of the serpent. However, she chose to disobey because she had been deceived, and Adam chose to disobey without having been deceived, so his case is worse. Anyway, the will is the organ that enables us to choose and to decide.

Lastly, the human person includes the physical body. Everybody understands what that is.

Man and woman were created perfect. Adam and Eve wielded powers beyond anything we can imagine today. All the animals of the earth came up to Adam, who gave names to them all. He and Eve had been created to exercise dominion over the earth, so they wielded authority over the world of animals, of plants, and so on. Initially, man possessed powers that were completely lost after the fall, due to sin. Today we can scarcely imagine the beauty and the power of that man and that woman before they sinned : namely, the spirit of man within him, with all the power God had imparted to it, could freely demonstrate all of its abilities. The perfection of man and woman was in the likeness of God.

When he sinned, man was spiritually cut off from God. God had said : "the day you eat of that fruit, you will die." Death is the severing of man from God. The wellspring of everlasting life dried up and man entered into death. Sin dragged him down into death, and his spirit was cut off from God ; his condition became one of spiritual deadness. So death entered man through his spirit first : Adam’s physical body did not die instantly. Over nine hundred years later, death finally worked its way through to his physical body : so you see it took some time for death, after the spirit had been stricken, to spread to the soul, then to the body. Adam and Eve had been created immortal and according to God’s plan, they were not meant to die as long as they kept clear of disobedience and sin.

Death came in through the spirit, then spread to the whole person. Subsequently, sin increased, and the human species grew more and more degenerate. The Bible shows that the length of man’s life kept decreasing. Presently, according to the Bible, a man’s life lasts seventy years, or eighty for the strongest. What a downfall, when man had originally been created to live forever !

This enables us to grasp the significance of the salvation that Jesus Christ has obtained for us. His salvation perfectly restores all that God had provided when He created us : it restores everlasting life from God within our spirits, souls, and bodies.

However, salvation in Jesus Christ secures for us a blessing far beyond anything that Adam and Eve enjoyed. The resurrection of our bodies, obtained for us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, means that our physical bodies will be glorified like Jesus’ body, whereas Adam’s and Eve’s physical bodies were derived from the earth. Moreover, we have inherited the very nature of the Lord Jesus, being predestined to become like Him.

We need to understand that death came into man through his spirit, then spread to his soul and to his body. When man’s spirit fellowshipped with God, the soul, central to Adam’s personality, was the servant of the spirit which had fellowship with God and obeyed Him. Adam’s thoughts were God’s thoughts, not rebellious thoughts. Adam’s feelings were pure, like those of God and of the Lord Jesus : love, peace, and perfect joy. Adam’s will was wholly and freely dedicated to the Lord’s service.

Initially, those three components of Adam’s and Eve’s souls — their thoughts, their feelings and their wills — were filled with everlasting life and served a spirit which enjoyed full fellowship with God. Before the fall, no sickness or infirmity had ever blemished their physical bodies, which were filled with life and strength, and were meant to be immortal.

When through sin man severed himself from God, he had to learn to live on his own, cut off from fellowship with God. Being deprived of God’s protection, he had to protect himself. Fear crept into his soul. No sooner had Adam and Eve sinned than they felt afraid, although they never had they known fear before that. It was an emotion that entered their souls on account of sin. Their thoughts being cut off from God, they had to begin to think on their own and organise their lives for themselves. Man still had the use of some of his wonderful God-given abilities, but he was on his own. God gradually faded from his consciousness and man was left with only distant memories of the earthly paradise.

Sin also marred their feelings. Hatred, anger, lusts and passions broke into their souls and took over. Their wills no longer enjoyed freedom in the service of God, but became subservient to man and his selfish desires. Everything was defiled by sin. Sickness, infirmity and death were at work in their bodies, causing all the havoc we know so well. Then the inheritance of death was passed on to their children, to their children’s children, right down to us today. We were born in sin. But it was not s at the beginning !

So God conceived in His heart His wonderful plan of salvation in Jesus Christ — the plan we are told about in the Gospel, which is Good News. As soon as a sinner hears the Gospel message, the Holy Spirit begins to move in him, bringing him to repentance. He shows him his sin and his need for repentance, which means turning away from sin ; He shows him that he needs to give his heart to the Lord and accept Him as Saviour and Master. When the sinner repents and accepts the regenerating power of Jesus’ Blood, the Holy Spirit comes to him and causes him to be born again.

This new birth is God’s work. He creates within us a new spirit which has nothing in common with our former sin-defiled spirit. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit causes our spirit to be born anew. Death had come in through man’s spirit ; it is also through the spirit that everlasting life begins.

The soul and the body are not yet born again when the new birth takes place. Only the spirit is born again. The soul and the body also inherit the salvation which Jesus has fully acquired for us, but the salvation of the soul and of the body is not yet fully manifested when the spirit is born again. We are required to strip ourselves of our old nature, to be renewed in the spirit of our understanding, and to put on the new man. But we shall have to wait for the resurrection of our bodies to come into the full inheritance of our salvation.

Through His death on the Cross, Christ had to pay for our sin. The chastisement that gives us peace fell upon Him, and He experienced physical death on the tree of the Cross. As we said, He carried into His death the whole of our old nature, those former selves made up of our spirits, souls and bodies. He caused them to die in Him and with Him.

Three days later, through His resurrection, Jesus acquired for us a new nature which is foreordained to be fully manifested if we persevere in the faith. This new nature is a new creation which begins with the spirit. Then the resurrection-life that has been imparted to our spirits gradually spreads to our souls and to our bodies, till Resurrection day, when we are to be transformed "in the twinkling of an eye", and when death (which is still at work in our mortal bodies), will be swallowed up by immortality forever.

This shows us how absolutely vital it is to be born again. Christianity is neither a religion nor a set of moral rules, but Life in Jesus Christ. Unless we are born again of water and of the Spirit, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, we can neither see the Kingdom of God nor enter into it : we are totally alienated from the Life of Christ and are still dwelling in death.

The problem for many Christians is that their spirits are truly born again through this new Life that begins to change everything within them ; but they do not realise that the change has occurred primarily in their spirits. Their souls, i.e. their thoughts, feelings, and wills are still part of their former selves in the same way as their bodies, which have not yet been changed into glorified bodies. The heart has been changed, but the thoughts and feelings have not yet been fully renewed.

The Holy Spirit who dwells within us, in our born-again spirits, wants the life of Christ to spread gradually from the inside outwards, to every part that was not transformed at the new birth, i.e. to the soul and to the body.

God wants to renew our minds and to give us the mind of Christ instead. He works through His Spirit and His Word, teaching us things we were unaware of before. Our old carnal nature was filled with unclean thoughts, with doubt and unbelief. Through the action of the Word and of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, from our already regenerated spirits outward, the Lord is at work changing us on the inside. We need to co-operate with Him fully and to do our part.

Paul speaks to the Corinthians about "casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5). The Lord says to us : "You are now a new creature, but parts of you still need to be renewed, for the resurrection has not yet come about. Your spirit has been created anew, and you are called to the full renewal of soul and body, to become wholly like Jesus Christ. I want you to believe and to let Me move in your life, so that from your born-again spirit outward, I can change all the rest of you. I want your spirit, soul, and body to become perfect, in the likeness of Jesus. On resurrection day, you will fully manifest the glory of God through a perfectly sinless spirit, soul and body."

Our feelings also need to be renewed, so that we are filled with those of Jesus instead of our own. All those feelings of hatred, bitterness, or jealousy that used to prevail in our carnal selves must be replaced by His feelings, i.e. by His love, His joy, and His peace, the feelings of Jesus Christ. Our wills were accustomed to serving our own selfish interests, for that is what the will of an unregenerate man does. However, those wills of ours must now learn to be wholly in the service of Jesus, till, as He could, we can say at all times : "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42).

Our bodies also, the bodies of our humiliation, await the resurrection when they will be changed into glorified bodies. During this time of waiting, they receive what the Bible calls "the earnest" or "the guarantee" in the form of healing or God-given strength, thanks to the stripes of Jesus. Resurrection is already included in the full salvation Jesus has obtained for us, but we are awaiting its manifestation, during which time God grants us "the earnest", i.e. fresh bodily strength, healing when we are sick, and divine health so that we can serve the Lord till He returns, and do His works.

Do you understand the work that the Lord is doing ? To complete it wholly within us, He demands consummate faith. Everything is worked out within us through faith in Him. As we have read in the Scriptures, He will do it, provided we believe in Him.

We already know that we are new beings, new creatures through our new birth in Christ. Even if that new creature is not yet fully manifested, we already possess the everlasting life of God. Even if some things are still changing in our souls and bodies, the whole of our former nature has already died in Christ. The Lord is saying to us : "I live within you to transform everything that still needs to be transformed, till my glory — that is to say the very nature of Jesus, the fullness of God — is wholly manifested in you." What a glorious inheritance !

When we speak of the death of our former nature, let us never imagine that death to self will turn us into utterly passive, unresponsive creatures without any initiative. It does not mean that we shall have no understanding of our own, no personality or feelings or will-power. Far from it ! Jesus wants us to become new creatures, in His likeness. He wants to restore within us a perfectly sound will, a proper understanding, fully mature feelings, a well-developed individual personality, and all of that will be in the Lord’s service, in perfect obedience.

However, the devil wants to scare us away from the radical change that the new birth brings. He says : "Now, you’d better watch out, because if you go through death to self, nothing will be left of you, you’ll be a spineless nonentity that is no good at anything, you’ll never have any kind of initiative, because God will be doing everything in you, and you’ll be a mere puppet in God’s hands." As usual, the father of lies is lying to you. God doesn’t want to turn us into puppets. He wants full-blown creatures, fully alive and autonomous, but who have freely chosen to give up self-serving so as to serve the interests of the Lord.

God wants to use us : so we need to be well-tuned instruments. Consider how the Bible was written : it is a good instance of how God uses men. All the writers of the Bible were men with natures like ours. They did not write the Bible as mindless robots. Each book reveals the personality of its author, his character and manner of speech. John does not express himself in the same way as Peter, who does not speak like Matthew, and so on. Each of them expressed himself in his own way ; but all of them were filled with the Spirit of Jesus at the time of their writing.

This does not mean they were infallible and that whatever they did throughout their lifetime was always perfect. But when they wrote down the Word of God, the Holy Spirit filled them. They did the writing, but God through His Holy Spirit gave them the exact message, so that today we can say that we have the letter-perfect Word of God.

God never does to His children what Satan does to mediums. When the latter break into "automatic writing" or are used by evil spirits, they are nothing but passive tools in the hands of those spirits. On the contrary, the writers of the Bible wholly submitted to God’s hand, but remained at all times perfectly active instruments, lacking nothing in their understanding and their feelings. They were used by the Holy Spirit Himself, who accomplished a fully divine task through a perfectly human instrument.

God will do the same for us as we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Even when our transformation is completed, God will continue to use us without ever depriving us of our specific personalities and qualities. We shall all be in the likeness of Jesus, but every one of us will be different. Each will have his own individual personality.

Each child of God is different from the others. We shall never be clones of each other, or identical robots. We shall all be conformed to the likeness of Christ, that is to say filled with the Holy Spirit, having the mind of Jesus and His capacities. But each of us will be different. God is great and powerful enough to make every single one of His children different from the others. Throughout the whole of creation, no two humans are the same. Look at two flowers : they belong to the same species, but some minute detail makes each one different. Take two animals of the same species : they always differ in one way or another. God enjoys making us all different. He wishes each of His instruments to be an individual with a full-blown personality ; and yet we shall all be like Him and like Jesus through our qualities, as we demonstrate the character of Jesus. Isn’t that wonderful ?

Therefore we must allow the Cross to bring total death to our old man. We must be transformed so as to be blameless on the Day of Christ. Blamelessness does not mean infallibility, which implies that one can no longer be mistaken and commit sin. That is not what God says of us in His Word. Blamelessness means that when God examines us, He finds no fault, no defect in us. We can reach such a condition through His grace, through faith. But we must be alert and remain in the faith, lest we fall back into sin and the works of the flesh are manifested once again in us.

If we retain our faith in the Son of God, the Lord’s power will be continually be at work transforming us. If we remain in the faith, the power of the Lord will move in us, day and night, at every second. We must not say : "Oh, I know myself, that’s the way I’ve always been ! I’ve known myself for ten, twenty, sixty or eighty years, that’s what I’ve always been like, and as long as I am on this earth, I’ll be the same !" If you speak like that, you are not speaking out of faith, and you won’t get rid of your problems ! But if you say : "I know what I used to be like, but I know that God is alive within me. His Word promises that He will transform me into the perfect stature and likeness of Jesus. I trust Him because He is faithful and powerful. It will not be my doing, but His, provided I believe in Him. So I believe I will not remain in my present condition, because my eye is on the goal. The Lord Jesus is my Goal. He is my pattern. He is at work changing me. I know he wants me to hold fast to the faith and to believe that He is able to do that wonderful work within me. I trust Him. I will not remain in my present condition."

Even if there is only one hour or one minute left before our rapture or our death, let us be assured that throughout that hour or that minute, the Holy Spirit will be at work perfecting us. He will do it right up to the end if we remain in the faith. Alleluia ! And when our eyes see the Lord, when He comes back on the clouds, we shall be made entirely like Him, for we shall be transformed "in the twinkling of an eye". Whatever is not yet completely transformed in us will be changed then, because we shall have been holding fast to the faith !

What we must never forget is that our "old man" has already died in Christ : the whole of our former nature, spirit, soul and body, everything that is old and past died when Jesus Christ died on the Cross. So in Christ, I have obtained a new nature through my new birth, a whole new being : spirit, soul, and body. My spirit was renewed when I was born again. My soul — my thoughts, my feelings, and my will — is in the process of being renewed. Lastly, my body will be transformed on resurrection day. But everything has already been secured through the sacrifice of Jesus, and I need to lay hold on this by faith. I am perfect — spirit, soul, and body — in Jesus. Jesus is the perfect pattern, and I am predestined by the Father to be like His beloved Son. He wants me to receive this new nature by faith. First of all, the Lord renews my spirit, then He transforms my soul, and finally, my body.

So we need a proper understanding of how the Cross is presently at work in our souls and in our bodies. Remember, the Word of God says : "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Romans 7:23).

There is a difference between the body and the soul. Both are inherited from our former nature. Both have been defiled by sin. "Flesh" includes everything that belongs to our old nature. The sins of the body could all be called "coarse sins" : sexual sins, physical impurity, the sins of the tongue, gluttony, murder, adultery, and all the sins that drag us down to the level of beasts. The sins of the soul are slightly more subtle. They are committed in the areas of our thoughts, feelings and will. They may seem less coarse and less beastly, but they are just as much the workings of the flesh. They are evil, selfish, unclean thoughts, not Jesus’ thoughts at all, but those of a selfish, self-serving will trying to defend and justify itself, and to prove its worth to others. All of that issues from the soul and belongs to the old, carnal nature.

In the original Greek text, there are various terms meaning "flesh", often translated into English by a single word. When an English translation speaks of "the flesh", it uses a single word for two different Greek words. In Greek there is one term for "the flesh of the body", and another for "the life of the soul". The Greek word for "body" is "sarx". (The term "sarcophagus" is derived from it : it is a kind of chest in which dead bodies are laid. "Sarcophagus", in Greek, means : "flesh-eater"). There is another Greek word for the soul : "psyche". A number of English words are derived from "psyche" : psychology, for instance, is the study of the soul. But both "sarx" and "psyche", the body and the soul, are aspects of our "old nature", of our "flesh" in the biblical sense of the word ; and that flesh is ruled by sin, every form of which is to some degree beastly.

The whole of our old nature was destroyed and done away with through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Our body of sin was destroyed on the Cross. If, through faith, we lay hold on this glorious fact and see all of the unclean works of our flesh nailed to the Cross, then our works will be in keeping with it, and every coarse sin of the body will be ruled out. We shall obtain complete victory over sin. It will no longer rule over us, since we have become the slaves of righteousness, through faith in the Word of God.

No longer shall we practice adultery or gluttony, and so on ; but the work of the Cross is not confined just to the gross sins of the fleshly body. The Cross will also do its work in the soul, which needs to be crucified, too. Every part of our old nature that was made up of wrong feelings, evil thoughts, and a selfish, self-serving will must be put on the Cross.

The Holy Spirit’s work is to enlighten my spiritual understanding so that I understand God’s Word in a spiritual way. He also wants to keep on showing me any part of my former nature that has not yet been effectively dealt with through the Cross. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to lead us as we walk in the light, in the truth. The Lord grants us the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and to show us all the parts of our flesh that are still alive, every part of our former nature that has not yet been through the Cross.

Let us read, for instance, what Hebrews 4 has to say on the subject : "For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:12-13).

The Holy Spirit within us sees what our condition is : all things are naked and open to Him. Indeed, He is in a position to know us well ! He wants to teach us how to separate the soul from the spirit. We need to distinguish between what issues from the soul and what issues from the spirit, and to understand how the spirit and the soul work. The sword of the Spirit must cleanly divide the soul from the spirit. That does not mean that the Lord is going to paralyse our souls, stop us from thinking and feeling, and of having wills of our own. But through the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, not only will He divide all that is of the soul from what is of the spirit, but He will also teach us how to distinguish the carnal from the spiritual in the workings of our "inner man".

What comes from the soul is not necessarily evil, if our soul has been cleansed and renewed by the Lord as He transforms us. What is intrinsically evil is all that comes from the soul of our "old man".

Jesus is a perfect Man, so He has a soul. He has thoughts, feelings, and a will : but everything within Him is utterly pure and holy. It is not the soul in itself that is evil, it is the carnal soul inherited from the old nature, for it is selfishly focused on its own needs. It focuses only on the satisfaction of its own self-interests ; it is full of unbelief, doubts, and unclean thoughts.

That is why the Lord, through His Spirit and His Word, works within us to cleanse us in every respect. He will reveal to me anything that belongs to my former nature, anything that needs to be brought to the Cross and put to death there. He will also show me how to distinguish between soul and spirit. My life as a child of God must be led by the Spirit of the Lord. The Holy Spirit must do that from within my spirit, through my spirit. I must no longer be led by my soul.

So we shall be able to tell the difference between spiritual Christians and carnal or soulish Christians. A carnal Christian is one who is mainly ruled by his body and by his senses. He leans heavily on what he perceives through his senses, and on the whole, trusts only in what he can see and hear. He is rather like Thomas, who said : "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." (John 20:24). And yet the carnal Christian possesses the Word, and he has the Holy Spirit. His spirit has been renewed through the new birth, but he still dwells in the area of his senses.

A soulish Christian has gone a little further. He may have crucified the actions of his body, but his soul has not yet been taken to the Cross. He is still under the influence of his feelings and of the emotions of his "old man". His love is sentimental : it is not the pure agape-love of the Lord. He still entertains human thoughts. He relies on his own human understanding. He cannot discern the Lord’s thoughts and remains under the influence of the human thoughts that issue from his soul.

For instance, soulish Christians will use all the human resources that the world can offer when they set up a Gospel-meeting. They will organise the Church according to man-made patterns, but they do not let the Spirit of the Lord lead them step by step by. They have no idea of what it means to walk in the spirit. It is through their souls that such Christians conduct their own lives as well as their church activities. They are led by their own thoughts and their own feelings, by all the visible needs they see around them, and they do not discern the leadings of the Holy Spirit.

When Paul wanted to go into Bithynia, the Spirit stopped him. "After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them." (Acts 16:7). Paul was led by his spirit, not by his soul. So a soulish Christian is one who lives on the level of his soul and is not familiar with the level of the spirit. He is not fully controlled by the Holy Spirit through his born-again spirit.

The spiritual man, however, has been trained by the Lord to discern keenly whatever comes from his unregenerate soul, that is to say his own human thoughts or feelings, and his own human will. The Lord has trained him to distinguish between the soul and the spirit within himself. The Holy Spirit must have unqualified sway over our lives, from within our spirits, where He dwells. The Scriptures declare : "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own ?" (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Our physical bodies are indeed the temples of the Holy Spirit. But when the Lord comes to live within us, He comes and lives in our spirits, which reside, of course, in our bodies. God comes and lives through His Spirit in our regenerate spirits. If he is truly seated on the throne in our lives, that is to say if our flesh does not oppose Him, He will teach us how to come into direct spiritual contact with Him. If we pray without ceasing and eagerly desire to be led by the Lord, He will teach us how to walk in the Spirit, by His Word.

Gradually, the Lord will open up our spiritual understanding. Wisdom from above will be imparted to our spirits. If we have given the Lord the full control of our lives, if our regenerate spirits are fully obedient to Him, then the Lord’s life will come down through our spirits and pass into our souls, bringing light to our minds, our feelings, and our wills. Every element within us will then be a powerful, living instrument in the Lord’s service, and no longer an autonomous tool functioning independently of Him. Those instruments will work under the control of our spirit, which is led by the Holy Spirit.

It must be very clear to us that the Holy Spirit comes and dwells within our spirits. From His position there, He wants to restore the full authority of the Lord over all that is with us, spirit, soul and body. He begins His work on the inside, then He works in the areas of the soul and of the body.

At every stage of our spiritual progress, the Holy Spirit sheds light on whatever is carnal, whatever originates in our former nature. He points out what is of the soul and what is of the spirit. His deepest desire is to lead and shape our lives in every respect, spirit, soul, and body. He wants us to be made into pure and perfect instruments for God’s work on this earth.

That is why The Scriptures declare : "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12 &-2). The Scriptures also declare : "We…do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him." (Colossians 1:9-10).

There is something important we must bear in mind, as far as our spirits are concerned. When the fall took place, man, through his disobedience, was cut off from God. He lost the spiritual fellowship he had had with his Creator. But man’s spirit still retained the power it had originally been granted : a human spirit can do amazing things.

The human spirit now being cut off from God, it would have been exceedingly perilous to allow man to continue to wield such tremendous spiritual powers. So God placed a sort of natural hedge of protection around man’s spirit. Man found himself severed, so to speak, from the realm of the spirit, so that he could not go on using the power of his ungodly spirit. Otherwise, he would have been in touch with legions of evil spirits, with Satan and his demons. God, so to speak, veiled the existence and the power of man’s spirit, so that man would not use its amazing power apart from God’s will.

When man is born and grows up on this earth, he is not naturally aware that he has a spirit endowed with great capacities. Those capacities remain hidden, and, so to speak, buried within him. Moreover, God, in His Word, has forbidden us entrance into the realm of the spirit unless we are under the direct guidance of His Holy Spirit.

Any illicit attempt to break into the realm of the spirit, unless we are under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, leads to what we call spiritualism, magic, and all the various forms of witchcraft. Occultism actually consists in breaking into the realm of the spirit without God’s permission. Since God is not in charge of this inroad, Satan and his demons take over and the human spirit is brought directly into touch with demonic powers. All those who have reached a certain level in the occult know that they have entered the realm of the spirit, but they are not always aware that they are being led by Satan.

Since Adam’s fall, Satan has kept trying to urge man to violate that territory which God declared "out of bounds". Satan tells people : "You have a soul and a mind of your own, and you may be very clever indeed, but that is not enough ! Hidden within you are abilities you are quite unaware of, and through which you can acquire amazing powers ! Break into the realm of the spirit, explore and use all of your abilities ! You will be like a god !"

Anyone who engages in spiritualism or occultism opens a door into his or her spirit and into the spiritual realm. But in so doing, he — or she — is brought into direct contact with Satan and his demons, because this has been expressly forbidden by God. Those persons develop divining powers, are able to make predictions and to receive knowledge of past, present or future events. Most of the time, they do not realise that they are using their spirit-power and being dominated by Satan. The door they have opened into the spiritual world gives them direct contact with the power of the human spirit, but since that spirit has not been reborn through faith in Jesus Christ, and since the person has done what God specifically forbade, Satan and his demons are immediately attracted to him or her. So today, growing numbers of men and women who do not know God are breaking into the spirit-realm, that is to say into occultism, witchcraft, white or black magic ; some are even downright Satan-worshippers.

Once, when shopping in a large store, I had a look at the book department. Noticing the title of one of the books, I thought to myself : "No ! that can’t be !" The book gave detailed explanations about how to leave one’s body, and included easy, step-by-step exercises teaching the reader how to get in touch with the "amazing power" of his spirit. It commended the extraordinary excitement of learning how to roam freely through the invisible world ! Anyone, even a child or a teenager, can now buy that kind of book, take it home and practise out-of-body travelling ! Some will definitely manage to learn how to travel invisibly through the spirit-realm ! On the cover you could read : "You are going to experience wonderful things !" People see that and say to themselves : "Well, that really opens up astounding new prospects !"

However, they do not realise that in opening a door into their spirits they are doing something that God forbids. Little do they realise that they are going to make direct contact with demons, that their future may well be destroyed, and that they may end up in hell sooner than they think. Beloved, these are the end-times, and we shall have to engage in spiritual warfare with increasing intensity ! On one hand, the church of Jesus Christ is going to become more and more spiritual, and will increasingly be led into the realm of regenerate spirituality under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through obedience and holiness. On the other hand, the great Babylon is on the rise, increasingly endowed with spiritual power through the illicit activities of unregenerate spirits whose master is Satan.

The Holy Spirit alone, on His own sovereign initiative, can take us into the spirit-realm. He alone imparts, according to His will, spiritual gifts, visions, words of prophecy, of wisdom or of knowledge. In that case it is the Holy Spirit who opens the doors of our spirits into the spiritual realm, enabling us to receive spiritual gifts. The latter come from the Holy Spirit but are given through our spirits. There is no danger as long as we remain in a position of utter submission to God and under the exclusive control of the Holy Spirit.

Working up visions is none of our business. Visualisation is an occult, satanic technique. Authentic visions are granted by the Lord ; but even then we need to take the utmost care as we begin to exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We must be very careful to remain in a position of humility and of utter obedience, and to let the Lord do His work. The Lord wants to train us to be increasingly sensitive to what our spirits are doing, but He demands that we remain strictly under the control of His Spirit and His Word.

The Lord desires to restore within us the full control of our selves through a regenerate spirit. That control, however, must be exercised under the absolute control of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our spirits. That keeps us from the terrible danger of using the power of our spirits on an independent basis, which would amount to unmitigated occultism. Once our hearts have been touched by the love of the Lord, once we have allowed the Cross to do its work in us through and through, our position will be that of steadfast, obedient, whole-hearted worshippers before Him ; then without any danger to ourselves or to others, we can become powerful instruments in the Lord’s hands. Anyone who breaks into the spirit-realm unwisely, without fully submitting to the Holy Spirit is running a very great risk.

I have been pondering and praying about the "Toronto Revival" we have witnessed recently. I said to the Lord : "Lord, I haven’t got peace over this. I have the impression that powerful forces of deception are at work here." I believe the Lord has revealed the truth to me concerning these matters. I shall not go so far as to say that everything that has occurred in that movement is utterly and exclusively satanic ; I believe that here and there, the Holy Spirit may well have been at work in people’s hearts. But since most Christians are ignorant as far as spiritual matters are concerned, and often lack spiritual discernment, they tend to act rashly, and to take in spiritual influences that have nothing divine about them. Does not Satan try to pass himself off as an angel of light ?

Someone who is soulish or carnal lacks spiritual discernment and does not realise that when the Spirit of God is operating there are plenty of opportunities for demonic interference. I believe that in the lives of those whom the Lord had visited hosts of demons have begun to operate, counterfeiting the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, making people believe that certain manifestations were of the Lord, when actually they were satanic, or carnal, or both. At that point, those Christians opened themselves up to deception and to a whole range of manifestations that had no longer anything godly about them. When God manifests Himself and opens up the spirit-realm for us, if the Holy Spirit remains in control, everything is orderly and peaceful. The apostle John, like Daniel and many other Bible characters, began to tremble when God manifested Himself ; they even fell to the ground, face downward, drained of their strength. But nowhere in the Scriptures do we see any of those hysterical goings-on that are wrongly ascribed to the Holy Spirit !

"And behold, a hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands." (Daniel 10:10). Nowhere in the Bible do we see any of the wild, soulish, emotional, demonic manifestations that occur in those so-called "revival manifestations." Do we find instances of animal noises, shrieks, multifarious antics, or any of those strange psychic phenomena that are being passed off as the action of the Holy Spirit ? Of course not, none of those things are from the Lord !

When the Lord manifests Himself, our spirits must sense His presence in a spiritual way. Our physical senses are not necessarily involved. When God’s presence is manifested, we can only do what Daniel, John, and all the others did : humble ourselves deeply in the Lord’s presence, even if we are overflowing with love for Him. We realise He is there, we understand who He is, and what He has graciously done for us. We bow down and worship Him and await His instructions. We may tremble and feel drained of our strength, because the Everlasting God is manifesting Himself, but that should never be an occasion for any of those dreadful wild antics that are being given free rein in some places.

That is, indeed, a remarkable instance of deception. It shows that Christians are no longer used to discerning between the things of the spirit and those of the flesh, to telling the difference between the manifestations of God and those of Satan, so as to behave as the Holy Spirit wishes them to. Those are false revivals, beloved, and not the ones the Lord wishes us to have.

A true revival begins with the preaching of the Cross and continues with the action of the Holy Spirit who thus confirms His Word. A true revival requires us to be utterly consecrated to the Lord, totally given over to Him. But that is not enough : one may well be fully consecrated to the Lord and deceived at the same time, for Satan comes and deceives even the consecrated ones. To escape deception, we need to love the truth deeply, and to meditate on the Word of God prayerfully, on a regular basis. We shall be kept by that Word. Jesus says : "Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try those that dwell upon the earth." (Revelation 3:10). The original text actually says : "I also will keep you from the hour of temptation." You see, our keeping of His Word will enable the Lord to keep us from the great deception that will come upon the whole world in the last days. So let us never cease from the prayerful meditation of His Word, and let us say : "Lord, let Your Word sink into my heart ! Open up my spiritual understanding to the wonders of Your Word ! It will produce faith within me, and enable me to walk in your perfect plan for me !" It is not enough to read the Word : we must also meditate on it as we pray. Central to the Word is the majestic message of the Cross, the power of God for us who believe !

All day and every day, the Cross must be at work in every part of us. Jesus said to His disciples : "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24). It is therefore vital to understand that the Cross does its work within us through faith in what the Lord has done and keeps doing for us. Even now, the Cross is at work slaying all that is carnal and soulish within us, all that originates in our former nature. The Lord’s desire is to accomplish that, it is His response to our faith in His Word. The Lord Jesus Himself is the Author of our faith and the One who brings it to perfection. Faith is a gift from God. Since God shows no partiality to anyone, He is ready to grant faith to anyone who asks for it : so we have no excuse if we do not believe what He says.

Our faith activates the law of the Spirit of life that is at work within us, in our spirits, counteracting the law of sin and death. It is vital to understand that we must remain grounded in faith at all times. Scripture declares in Romans 8 : "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2). Paul uses the past tense here, pointing out that this is an accomplished fact. My former nature was crucified in Jesus : I have been set free from its yoke. The law of sin and death is at work in my former nature, whereas the law of the Spirit of life is at work in my new nature. My spirit, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, is under a law called "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus". The Holy Spirit is the life-giver, and that life is Resurrection-life. All of the sanctifying work of the Lord is done through the law of the Spirit of life who moves within me when I believe. That same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us up when Jesus returns.

Our faith in God’s Word activates within us the law of the Spirit of Life, which is far more powerful than the law of death that works in our former nature. But since I am not yet resurrected, my body and my soul are not yet fully renewed although they have already died in Christ. Our bodies and our souls can come into full obedience to the spirit only if we are steadfastly grounded in faith. It is our faith that releases the power of the law of the Spirit of Life.

If we depart from our position of faith, we immediately fall back into the flesh, under the sway of the law of sin and death. To remain in a position of faith, we need to keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus and to hold fast to His Word within our hearts. To illustrate the working of those two laws, I like to remember Peter walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus walked on those waters, He was supported by the law of the Spirit of life : it enabled Him to counteract the earthly law of gravity and to walk on water. Jesus was both perfectly human and perfectly divine. Normally, no man can walk on water. Normally, on this earth, anyone who walks on water must sink, because the law of gravity keeps pulling him downwards.

However, there was another law, more powerful than the law of gravity, the law of the Spirit of life, that caused Jesus to walk upon the waters. When Peter saw the Lord, he exclaimed : "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." Jesus spoke a single word : "Come." That single word was a word from God : "Come !" It was therefore a powerful word, it was spirit and life. Hearing it, Peter must have said to himself : "My Master has spoken, so I can go in perfect confidence !" He stepped over the gunwale and as long as his eyes were riveted on Jesus and on His Word, the law of the Spirit of life reversed the effects of the law of gravity, that is to say the law of sin and death : "And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus." (Matthew 14:29). He walked on the water ! He did what was impossible in the natural ! To go on walking on the water, he needed to keep his eyes riveted on Jesus and his heart filled with the Word Jesus had spoken : "Come." However, at one point he took his eyes off Jesus. He remembered he was in the midst of a storm, and must have said to himself : "Now, what on earth am I doing here ?" Instantly he was overcome by doubts and fears, and sank. "Now when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid ; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying : Lord, help me !" (Matthew 14:30).

The law of the spirit of death was still there, ready to take its course ; but it was being counteracted by the law of the Spirit of life, which is stronger. That law of the Spirit of life prevailed as long as Peter retained his faith in Jesus and kept his eyes on Him and on His Word. Peter responded appropriately : "Beginning to sink, he cried out, saying : ‘Lord, help me !’ And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, saying : ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt ?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased." (Matthew 14:30-31).

It is exactly the same with this Word that says to us : "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." (Romans 6:6). That word is as powerful as Jesus’ Word "Come". Both those words are of the same divine origin ! It is exactly as if Jesus appeared to us, saying : "Beloved, your old sinful nature died with Me when I died on the Cross. Through my resurrection I have given you a new nature. If you believe, I tell you that I am at work within you manifesting that new nature. I want to make you like Me. So come and walk on the water with Me, through faith. I want to perform miracles, even in your present body, through the Law of the Spirit of life that is at work in you through my Spirit."

As long as we have that Word is in our hearts and our eyes upon Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life will cause the work of Jesus to be perfectly manifested in our lives. The law of the Spirit of life will transform us and fill us with the thoughts and feelings of Christ. It will constantly be performing miracles ! Can there be any greater miracle than the replacing of my old carnal nature by a completely new spiritual nature, in the likeness of Jesus’ nature ?

God alone can perform the miracle of the new birth. He causes the law of the Spirit of life to work, granting me a new spirit. Starting from that new spirit, the Lord works at transforming everything within me. Despite the fact that my body is not yet risen again, the Spirit of Resurrection who raised Jesus from the dead will restore it to life. Even if my soul is still cluttered with things that need to be removed, it will be renewed by the Spirit and by the Word.

If I want the law of the spirit of life to move powerfully within me, I need to keep my eyes upon Jesus. I need to keep His Word within my heart and believe what He says.

What if Peter had assessed the situation from a human standpoint and said : "I specialise in fishing, and know perfectly well that when one walks on water, one sinks !"? If he had used his human understanding, he would have left the realm of the spirit. If he had begun reasoning and coming up with sophisticated theological arguments, he would never have walked on water ! He simply accepted to believe the foolishness of Jesus’ preaching. Humanly speaking, it was foolish to listen to someone who said, "Come on, walk on the water !" Many would have said in unbelief : "Do you think that is the way you can walk on the water ? The whole of my past experience tells me that it won’t work !"

How many Christians rob themselves of their inheritance in Jesus-Christ because their human minds are controlled by the law of sin and death, which successfully deletes from their understanding the Words of Christ, which are Spirit and Life ! The Scriptures declare : "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God : for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14).We must never, ever put the Word of God through the mill of our human patterns of thought ! We must simply believe ! Then God will bring His promises to pass. "May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely ; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.""(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

He is the one who will do it ! But not just anyhow. He will not do it unless we believe the Word of the Lord. We are meant to be changed into the perfect likeness of Jesus Christ. Let us believe that ! Perhaps we think that it is a difficult or even an impossible task, because we know ourselves, and we know what our past was like. But we have no right to entertain such thoughts, because the Lord Jesus, who knows us better than we do, has decided to transform us. He has the power to do it, and will do it, if we believe. He has already caused the whole of our former nature to perish on the Cross. It is dead ! Let us come before His Word, come before the wonderful work that the Lord Jesus has completed, and believe.

No matter what, believe ! When you see temptation coming along, believe ! When you see the storm and the troubled waters, keep on looking at Jesus and saying : "Since He said so, I’m going to keep on walking on the waters with Him !" Do you understand that we must not depart from this attitude of faith even for a second ? Do you understand why the Lord Jesus wants us to take up our cross daily ? That means that we must believe and walk in faith instant by instant ; and that faith enables us to walk on water and see the things of God coming to pass within us.

But if we depart from that spiritual level, if we allow doubts and fears to fill us, if we let our souls and our human understanding rule us, if we keep looking at the circumstances, if we heed what our senses tell us, we sink !

What happens to others must not influence us either. If a brother - who used to be faithful - falls away from the faith and goes back to the flesh, Satan will certainly come and say to us : "You see, if such a man as he didn’t make it, however could you ? If we open the door to fear or dread, our eyes will no longer be on Jesus, but on the storm, and we shall sink.

Let us be like Noah, who was the only faithful and righteous man in his generation. He never took his eyes off his Lord. He remained faithful, although in his time "the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually". Noah was the only righteous man in his time, and his family was saved thanks to him. Let us be like Noah. We may be in places where we are the only ones looking to Jesus. If we start listening to unbelieving, soulish, or carnal Christians, saying : "What a fool you are to do that ! Be sensible ! Use your mind ! If only you would use your brains a bit, you’d realise that it can’t work out that way !" that may well be proper human psychology, but there isn’t an ounce of faith in it !

I think you understand that living a crucified life does not mean being passive and paralysed ! No, it is the abundant life of Christ manifesting itself through a wholly transformed nature. Far from being passive, it is fully active, but it is cleansed by the blood of Jesus and by His Word. Never be afraid of becoming a puppet, when you live that crucified life. Far from it ! All of the abundant life of Jesus will manifest itself through you, because the flesh that prevented its manifestation has been cut away, slain on the Cross.

Many Christians, today, are far too passive, sitting and waiting for something to happen. But that waiting is not the expectancy of faith : true faith is always followed by the corresponding works. Satan is letting us have it with all his might, and we remain passive. What are we waiting for ? Jesus is telling us : "Come out of your passivity, this is no time to "wait and see" ! Get up, it’s an order ! My work for you is complete ! New life in Me is my gift to you, so lay hold on it in faith ! You died and rose in Me ! I am filling you with my strength, with my power of life, with my faith. Get up and go and do my works, wherever I have placed you !

That may begin in very small ways, maybe simply witnessing about Jesus to the people in your village, interceding for them, or demonstrating the character of Christ to them. It may also mean doing great things world-wide. You might called to the ends of the earth to lead millions of souls to Jesus. He is the Lord of your life. Whatever your calling, the Lord requires you to be faithful and to walk through faith in the Son of God. In store for you, He has the right spiritual activities, prayer, and meditation of His Word, witnessing, and so on. All those things are part of the works of Jesus. He Himself will complete His work in you. Don’t be afraid, and don’t say, "I’ll never make it, Lord, it’s too hard ! It is true that you will never reach the goal in your own strength, but Jesus within you will take you to the rock that is higher than you. The power of His life will energise you ! The Apostle Paul went practically all round the Mediterranean preaching the Gospel, walking most of the way, when he was no longer a young man ; but he could say : "To this end I also labour, striving according to His working which works in me mightily." (Colossians 1:29).

Accept what the Lord says : He wants to make a wonderful creature of you. You have already been shaped in Christ who is alive within you. Decide to believe it. Take it in ! Say : "Lord, now I’m letting You do Your work, I believe you are working out something wonderful in me." Alleluia !

Let us pray : "Lord, I bless Your Name, for You have made marvellous creatures of us. We know that sin had utterly destroyed us, but You are working out something wonderful. Not only are You restoring us, but You want us to grow to the full stature of Jesus, to reach perfection. I pray that Your Word will come into our hearts and dwell there. Do not allow the enemy to come and pluck it out again, but let it take root in our hearts and bear fruit till the Day of Christ comes. Day after day, carry on in our hearts that work that You have begun. Bring it to perfection. Teach us how to tell the difference between the old and the new nature, between soul and spirit. Grant us a greater abundance of light in our hearts and in our lives. Let Your light shine abundantly through the Holy Spirit. Fill us with light from above, with that wisdom of Yours from above, which is pure and wonderful. Let our spiritual eyes be opened, let our spiritual understanding be enlightened, and let us perceive ever more clearly the wonderful work of Jesus, for Your glory. Thank You, my Father, in Jesus’ Name. Amen !

 

The above teaching is the transcription of a spoken message, given in French by brother Henri VIAUD-MURAT. An audio cassette-tape of the original French version is available. The whole of the original recording has been written down unaltered, so as to retain the spontaneous quality of the spoken message, except for a few minor changes made to improve the clarity of the written text.

You can obtain a copy of the audio cassette-tape of this message — and others (in French) — by writing to :

Source de Vie —La Grotte, F-48370 St Germain de Calberte— France.

You will receive, without any obligation on your part, a copy of our cassette tape catalogue which is available only in French for the moment.