Christ in a believer's heart will act the same as He acted in Galilee and Judea. His disposition is the same now as then. He was holy, righteous, compassionate, meek and humble then, and He has not changed. He is the same wherever He is found, whether it be at the right hand of God or in the nature of a true disciple. He was friendly, loving, prayerful, kindly, worshipful, self-sacrificing while walking among men; is it not reasonable to expect Him to be the same when walking in men? Why then do true Christians sometimes act in an un-Christlike manner? Some would assume that when a professed Christian fails to show forth the moral beauty of Christ in his life it is a proof that he has been deceived and is actually not a real Christian at all. But the explanation is not so simple as that. The truth is that while Christ dwells in the believer's new nature, He has strong competition from the believer's old nature. The warfare between the old and the new goes on continually in most believers. This is accepted as inevitable, but the New Testament does not so teach. A prayerful study of Romans 6 to 8 points the way to victory. If Christ is allowed complete sway He will live in us as He lived in Galilee.
That Christ actually inhabits the nature of the regenerate believer is assumed, implied and overtly stated in the Holy Scriptures. All the Persons of the Godhead are said to enter the nature of the one that engages New Testament truth in faith and obedience. "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). And the doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is too well known to need support here; everyone that is taught even slightly in the Word of God understands this. Whatever God is, the Man Christ Jesus is also. It has been the firm belief of the Church from the days of the apostles that God is not only manifest in Christ but that He is manifest as Christ. In the days of the Arian controversy the church fathers were driven to put the teaching of the New Testament on this subject into a highly condensed "rule" or creed which might be accepted as final by all believers. This they did in the following words: The right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man. God of the substance of His Father, begotten before all ages: Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world. Perfect God and perfect Man. . . . As the reasonable soul and flesh is one man: so God and man is one Christ.
It is a rare mind, I suppose, that is much concerned with the conduct of God in those distant realms that lie beyond human experience. But almost everyone has wondered how God would act if He were in our place. And we may have had moments when we felt that God could not possibly understand how hard it is for us to live right in such an evil world as this. And we may have wondered how He would act and what He would do if He were to live among us for a while. To wonder thus may be natural but it is wholly needless. We know how God would act if He were in our place — He has been in our place. It is the mystery of godliness that God was manifest in human flesh. They called His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with us. When Jesus walked on earth He was a man acting like God; but equally wonderful is it that He was also God acting like Himself in man and in a man. We know how God acts in heaven because we saw Him act on earth. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, 'Show us the Father?'" (John 14:9). As glorious as this is, it does not end there. God is still walking in men, and wherever He walks He acts like Himself. This is not poetry but plain, hard fact capable of being tested in the laboratory of life.
God always acts like Himself, wherever He may be and whatever He may be doing; in Him there is neither variableness nor shadow of turning. Yet His infinitude places Him so far above our knowing that a lifetime spent in cultivating the knowledge of Him leaves as much yet to learn as if we had never begun. God's limitless knowledge and perfect wisdom enable Him to work rationally beyond the bounds of our rational knowing. For this reason we cannot predict God's actions as we can predict the movements of the heavenly bodies, so He constantly astonishes us as He moves in freedom through His universe. So imperfectly do we know Him that it may be said that one invariable concomitant of a true encounter with God is delighted wonder. No matter how high our expectation may be, when God finally moves into the field of our spiritual awareness we are sure to be astonished by His power to be more wonderful than we anticipate, and more blessed and marvelous than we had imagined He could be. Yet in a measure His actions may be predicted, for, as I have said, He always acts like Himself. Since we know, for instance, that God is love, we may be perfectly sure that love will be present in His every act, whether it be the salvation of a penitent sinner or the destruction of an impenitent world. Similarly we can know that He will always be just, faithful, merciful and true.
The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to restore the lost soul to intimate fellowship with God through the washing of regeneration. To accomplish this He first reveals Christ to the penitent heart (1 Cor. 12:3). He then goes on to illumine the newborn soul with brighter rays from the face of Christ (John 14:26; 16:13-15) and leads the willing heart into depths and heights of divine knowledge and communion. Remember, we know Christ only as the Spirit enables us and we have only as much of Him as the Holy Spirit imparts. God wants worshipers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. It is inconceivable that a sovereign and holy God should be so hard up for workers that He would press into service anyone who had been empowered regardless of his moral qualifications. The very stones would praise Him if the need arose and a thousand legions of angels would leap to do His will. Gifts and power for service the Spirit surely desires to impart; but holiness and spiritual worship come first.