The Panoply of the Soul

Rom. 13:14.---' Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.'

These words, like most other utterances of Holy Scripture, are illuminated by their context. They stand in a paragraph which brings up the thought of weapons and of war. The Christian is called upon to be up and walking, not to consciousness only, but to action and to battle. He is to throw off the works of darkness, and to 'put on' instead 'the armor' of light, and so equipped to move up and down amidst the realities of life. This is the special reference stamped here upon the word 'put on.' The thought is not of a robe, rich and flowing. It is of coat of mail and cap of steel. It is of the knight panoplied for the battlefield.

To put metaphors and similes aside, we look here at the Christian arming himself, as to his whole being, with what shall give him victory over sin; with what shall make him---not hereafter but now---more than conqueror against the powers of evil.

Think now of the phraseology of this text. Here again is 'put ye on.' But here, for the armor of light, stands this astonishing equivalent and synonym---the Lord our Redeemer, the Person, the Self, of Jesus Christ. It is the Lord---in all the significance of that great word; the heavenly King, the eternal Master. It is Jesus, in all the significance of that human name; Son of Man, rescuing His brethren from their sins. It is Christ, in all the significance of that mystic title; the Anointed, the Possessor of the Divine Spirit, the Giver of that Spirit to His people. It is He who now takes the place of the armor of light. 'Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.' So we shall be able to withstand, well able to overcome.

To realize our need of Christ we have just to remind ourselves of an old, an unalterable thing---the infinite holiness of God and the all-pervading sinfulness of man. We have just to look at the absolute spirituality of the holy Law to see there pictured as in a mirror, not now the cruder sort of sins, things done and said in dens of vice, not now the opener forms of a gross self-indulgence, but the thought of foolishness, the resolve of petty selfishness, the burst of small impatience, the consciousness of neglected right and permitted wrong, the lack of love of our Lord, the expressed without words or speech refusal to live out our life, which is not our own, to Him, the non-response to His Spirit's strivings, the subtle preference of self to Christ which lurks in the kernel of every sin. And see, too, the environments of influence and circumstance, which do not create our sin, but which bear, as by a law or moral gravitation, upon our sinfulness---the pains and the pleasures, the cares and the ease, the crowd or the solitude, the blame or the praise, with which the Tempter works on our already tainted will. In all this we see our failure and our need.

'Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.' Here is that by which we can be more than conquerors. Take our sins at the worst; this can subdue them. Take our surroundings at the worst; this can emancipate us from their power.

The Lord Jesus Christ is Himself a Fact. He was, and being what He was, He is. The Christ of the Prophets, Evangelists, and Apostles is. Sure as is the existence now of His universal Church, as the observance of the historic Sacrament of His death. Sure as the glad verification in ten thousand lives today of all that the Christ of Scripture undertakes to be to the soul that will take Him on His own terms. So sure, drawn across all oldest and all newest doubts of man, lies the present fact of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus is to me the living Christ, speaking to my inmost heart here and now. He is present with me each day in my daily life. He takes up these words which the first disciples placed on record in their gospel narratives centuries ago, and makes them His very own. He is His own interpreter as he speaks to my heart, saying, 'Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' He says to me each day, 'I am the Bread of Life.'

Then it is a fact that man, in the mercy of God, can put Christ on. He is not far off. He says to us, Come to me. He unveils Himself as literal partaker of our nature. He shows Himself to us as stricken and smitten, our Sacrifice of Peace, our Righteousness through faith. He is prepared to take, with regard to our will, a place of power nearer than all circumstances, and deep in the midst of all possible inward traitors; a power Divinely personal working in us, resources not our own for purity, and peace, and victory, which are just in their essence this---the living presence of our Lord, as our source of life, our origin and cause of patience, of unselfishness, of strength for steadfast and prosaic duty, of every new desire and will to work for Him, and for our fellow men. Personal touch with Him, personal committal of self to Him, personal use of Him---here lies the talisman for actual power, and for the service which is freedom and command.

As we all know, this part of the verse that arrested St. Augustine. it brought him over the line into the Kingdom of God, and he was one of the greatest forces in history.

It may not be easy to understand how these words came to have such an effect. It looks as if a change of nature were something we could achieve by an act of will. Many of us have tried that kind of thing. We have got up in the morning saying to ourselves that for today we will remember that we are Christians and act in that way. But it is rather artificial, a bit of a strain, and it breaks down. There is something lacking. The naturalness and simplicity of Christ-possessed living is absent. And sooner or later we fall back into the old impatience and selfishness.

St. Paul does not mean that 'putting on' Christ is effortless. It takes thinking and praying; and often there is a struggle to make and a battle to win. Yet we must not forget that Christian living is a fruit. It is the fruit of the Spirit--- the product of an indwelling life. It comes from a central spring within the heart. But that Spirit is a gift. There is not another way of getting it.

The power of Christ within us is His gift. And the one condition on which He gives it is that we will receive it. We must be sincere and ready to follow where the spirit leads. We must do what Augustine had to do, and make a clean cut with sin so far as that lies in our hands. But the way into the power of Christ is very simple. It is just by trusting Him. It is by accepting the fact that His power is ours.

It may be our difficulty is that we find it hard to trust. Even here He can meet our need; for faith is His gift. Though we have nothing but our need, we need not fear to come to Him. For even the power to receive His power He is waiting to give us. The neediest of us can begin there, and the victory is sure. 'I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.'

In Christ, timothy. maranatha

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