John the Baptist said “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
For Christ to increase, I must decrease. This is the whole point of the Christian life. It is
“…Christ in you, the hope of glory” Colossians 1:27
We saw in God’s Victories Look Like Defeats that the human Self is a powerful force. The Adamic nature is strong and naturally Self-ish and self- absorbed. Followers of Christ contain His righteous nature in our mortal bodies by the Holy Spirit. Simultaneously we still have the Adamic nature, or the Flesh, within.
The cross dealt with our sins once and for all through Christ’s substitutionary atonement, and once we have repented of our sins and put our faith in Christ, we are justified before God.
However God deals differently with our sin than with our Self.
Positionally we are crucified with Christ. The believer is now to “reckon (them)selves dead to sin and alive unto Christ”. It is now no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me. This is a spiritual fact and something we need to receive by faith. But at the same time God is dealing with our flesh over the course of our lives by working His Son in us experientially. This is the process of sanctification.
It is not God’s desire after we are born-again that we would stay spiritual babes, stunted in growth. Rather it is His design to bring us to a place of enlargement. Or, to put it another way, it is His will to enlarge His Son in us and to bring us to maturity. It is only through the impartation of the divine life of Christ that we are enlarged and there is no enduring enlargement apart from Him.
However, in preparation to receive the impartation of the divine life of Christ our flesh needs to be “straitened”. (I have previously written on this subject here). Every time God wants to bring us to a new place of enlargement we first go through a straitening or confining process. Primarily the means God uses to straitening our flesh is the cross – affliction, suffering and trial. We probably all know the metaphor of the empty vessel. The emptier the vessel, the more of Christ that can fill it. But how is the vessel emptied of Self?
I love this old-fashioned word “straitening”. The KJV uses this word and I don’t think any other translation can beat it. It means to constrict, pinch, restrict, squeeze, confine, distress, compress. A “strait-jacket” in its purpose to confine and restrict gives a good picture of this word.
Jesus said: “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” Luke 12:50
We see that Jesus Christ Himself went through a straitening process in His sufferings and ultimately His death on the cross. He was straitened. He was God wrapped in human flesh yet His eternal divinity was compressed into the limitation of humanity.
“This limitation could be removed only by the baptism of dying on the cross. Then the unlimited divine eternal life within the Lord Jesus could be released.” The Experience of Christ, Witness Lee
So why did the Lord of Life have to be straitened?
He was straitened so that we could be brought to the place of enlargement.
It was through His death that His divine Life was able to be released and imparted to us limited human beings. He interceded for us by becoming a human-being like us. He was confined, restricted, distressed and squeezed for us so that we could be brought to the place of enlargement by partaking of His divine life.
“Verily, verily I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” John 12:24
It is only through the impartation of the divine life of Christ that we are enlarged and there is no enduring enlargement apart from Him. This is God’s purpose and He is working in us every day to bring this to pass. Afflictions, trials and suffering have a divine purpose – to straiten our flesh. Not to repress our flesh, but to deal with the stubborn, wilful Self that resists the Holy Spirit.
Christ was straitened so that the Divine Life could be released and imparted to us. We are straitened in order to empty the vessel of the Self-life so that we are able to receive the impartation of the Divine Life.
If you are going through a period of straitening, restriction or confinement don’t despair. Rather be encouraged: Know that God is preparing you, His vessel, at this time to receive a greater impartation of the life of His Son. Simply allow the Potter to work with His clay, He knows His art.
More on this subject in the Next post…. The Way to Bear Fruit