Conformity to the Death of Christ

by Evan H. Hopkins

#/"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit" (John 15:8)./# Practical holiness is put before us in the Scriptures under the figure of fruit. But what is fruit? It is the deposit of the sap; it is the final result of all the inner activities of the tree-the outcome of the hidden life, which, beginning with the root, passes through the stem into the branch, and finally manifests itself in bud, blossom, and fruit. When the fruit is formed and ripened, the great purpose of the tree's activity and growth is reached; the life has completed its cycle. Fruit illustrates that side of the spiritual life that is sacrificed for the good of others. "A fruit-bearing tree lives not for itself, but wholly for those to whom its fruit brings refreshment and life. To make glad the husbandman is its object, its safety, and its glory" (Andrew Murray). Practical holiness therefore is not something that has to be manufactured. Something more than even a perfect pattern is needed in order to be conformed to the image of God's Son, for holiness is no mere question of imitation. "Christ's life unfolded itself from a Divine germ, planted centrally in His nature, which grew as naturally as a flower from a bud. This flower may be imitated; but one can always tell an artificial flower. The whole difference between the Christian and the moralist lies here. The Christian is an organism, in the center of which is planted by the living God a living germ. The other is a crystal, very beautiful perhaps, but it lacks the vital principle of growth" (Henry Drummond). Practical holiness, then, is not something that begins by doing, but by being. What, then, is the Source of all practical holiness? Regeneration is essential in order that the fruit should be good, but the new nature is not the source. It is Christ Himself. God is the Spring of life. "For with You is the fountain of life" (Ps. 36:9). It is Christ living within us. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). It was this that Christ promised in the fourth chapter of St. John's Gospel. "The water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (v. 4:14). Think what it is we really possess, if Christ is in us. We have Him, in whom all fullness of life actually dwells, in whom infinite resources are stored up for our use. All power, all grace, all purity, and all fullness, absolutely everything to make all grace abound towards us, in us, and through us, are stored up in Him who verily dwells within us. Since this is so, why do not all Christians abound in fruit unto God? The reason is that though we cannot add to His infinite fullness of life and purity and power, we may be hindering the manifestation of that life. One of the most serious hindrances is unbelief. This lies at the root of every other hindrance. The weakness and failure we have known arose, not from lack of power in Him who has made us His dwelling-place, but from the lack of trust and confidence in Him, which He is ever demanding of us. We have limited the Holy One by our unbelief. The condition of knowing the power of His resurrection lies in "being made conformable unto His death" (Phil. 3:10). The true life, that which triumphs over sin and does not cease from yielding fruit, is a life that springs up out of death. There is a deep spiritual meaning in those words of the apostle, which we fail to grasp at first sight: "always carrying about in the body the dying"-or the putting to death-of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body" (2 Cor. 4:10). Death is here put before us as the condition of life. The continual manifestation of the life depends upon the constant conformity to the death. Death means separation, and life means union. By being brought more and more into alignment with Christ's death unto sin, we become more and more thoroughly separated from its service and defilement. It is not merely separation from sinning, it is a separation from the old self-life. The great hindrance to the manifestation of the Christ-life is the presence and activity of the self-life. This needs to be terminated and set aside. Nothing but "the putting to death of the Lord Jesus Christ" can accomplish this. Conformity to His death means a separation in heart and mind from the old source of activity and the motives and aims of the old life. All that God requires is that we should fall in with those conditions which are essential for the removal of the hindrances. Let those conditions be complied with, and at once the life springs forth spontaneously and without strain or effort. Our part consists in getting down into the death of Christ; His part is to live out His own life in us, just as the waters spring forth from the fountain. Where Christ thus dwells in unhindered activity, there will be steady growth, perpetual freshness, and abundant fruitfulness. And this assimilation to the dying Christ is not an isolated act, but a condition of mind ever to be maintained, and to go on deepening. "Arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin" (1 Pet. 4:1). Let us be sure that we are not seeking to partake of His life without going down into His death. May not our mistakes in the past, and our lack of spiritual vigor, have arisen from failing to see the power of the cross in the matter of sanctification? Many, having come to the crucified Christ, having seen the cross in its atoning and justifying aspect, assume they have now passed beyond it, and entered into living union with the risen Christ. But if we have succeeded in making our meaning intelligible, we now see that this "putting to death of the Lord Jesus"-the essence of His cross, if we may use the expression-is that which we have to carry about within us always, as an abiding condition of mind, since we need a constant and maintained separation from our old self-life. This is not a matter effected once for all. Willingness to die to sin with Christ is a truer evidence of the soul's advance than anxiety to be filled with His life. It is only thus we are brought to understand the true significance of both baptism and the Lord's Supper. In the one we are buried with Him into death once for all; in the other we become assimilated to that death more and more-we are brought into closer fellowship with the mind of Christ crucified. The cross of Christ is therefore not only the place where we find the new life, but also the place where we lose our old life. "The putting to death of the Lord Jesus" was the termination of that life which is "after the flesh," because our old nature was crucified with Him. To be brought into oneness with that death, to be so identified with it that we, so to speak, always carry it about, walking in a condition of continual deliverance from the self-life, and to find that the life of Jesus is being manifested in our daily walk. All spiritual privileges are conditional. The condition of "life abundant" lies in becoming a partaker of the mind of Him who died unto sin, to be armed with that mind. What we are required to do is to voluntarily submit to die; and this, not by direct efforts upon ourselves, but by a participation of the mind of Him who died unto sin once, and now lives unto God. It is as we become practically identified with Christ in His death, that all the hindrances to the manifestation of His life are removed. In no other way can they be set aside. Our own efforts cannot accomplish it; our resolutions will utterly fail in effecting it, and leave us in despair. But just as in the cross we find the power which sets us free from the authority of darkness and translates us into the kingdom of God's dear Son, so in that death also we possess the power that separates us from the self-life and keeps us in a condition of deliverance. From The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life. About the Author Evan Henry Hopkins (1837-1918) was born in New Grenada, South America, where his parents were temporarily living. He was educated in England and Australia, and planned to follow his father in a scientific career. But while working in Dorsetshire, a coastguardsmané─ţwho had himself become converted only the day beforeé─ţpointed young Hopkins to the Lord. He then studied at Kingé─˘s College in London, before his ordination as a deacon in the Church of England. Hopkinsé─˘ great and lasting ministry began after his marriage to Isabella Sarah Kitchin, when he became the first vicar of Holy Trinity in Richmond, serving that church from 1870 to 1893. In 1873, Hopkins heard Robert Pearsall Smith, an American Quaker, teach that sanctification as well as justification was by faith, and that there were promises made by God which needed to be realized which would completely change the Christiané─˘s life. Thereafter, from his pulpit and from the first convention at Keswick until his last Keswick Convention in 1915, Evan Hopkins was one of the leading teachers and exponents of the teaching that é─˙holiness is by faith in Jesus, not by effort of my own,é─¨ to quote Frances Ridley Havergal.