Be Ye Enlarged
by Charles J.B. Harrison
(First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, Vol. 31-3, May-June 1953)
"Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own affections... be ye enlarged."
"O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open." 2 Corinthians 6:11-13
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5.
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3 17-19.
The Apostle is writing to the Corinthians with a very full heart, and at this point he is touching the fact of straitness or spiritual limitation among the people, and behind all that is burdening the Apostle is that one deep concern of the Spirit for the enlargement, the greater fullness spiritually of the children of God, and surely this finds a response in our hearts. We are conscious of the smallness of our measure, how cramped we are, how limited is the flow of Divine life and love through all our lives. We are people whose life, instead of being a flow, is often a feeble trickle, and, apart from any overflow or outflow to meet the thirsty land round us, how often our own consciousness is of unsatisfied need. We have very little ourselves. I am putting this as a general condition among the saints, a sense of - 'Well, why am I so shut in? Why is there not a breathing freely in the air of heaven as a normal experience? Why is our spiritual measure so very very limited, our knowledge of the Lord so limited, our delight in Him so flickering?'
And we all have the battle with the excuses for our smallness. One excuse is that we are limited because of our sinfulness. Well, I cannot get past the fact that I am sinful and I am a failure, and therefore there is a constant struggle which is never really at an end. There is a measure of defeat in life all the way along; there is a sense of being under things instead of above things, and that so it must always be! Is that the sort of attitude that we so easily take on? That is me and my measure; others may go on and be full, but with me, I must accept limitation, I am little spiritually and probably always will be! And the Apostle is meeting that kind of attitude. He is saying, 'You are straitened in yourselves, it is you yourselves who are the cause of the limitation; be enlarged!'
Or is it an excuse concerning other people? Is the excuse that by reason of the circumstances or associations into which I have come, my life is cramped? Somehow my life cannot expand because this or the other thing or circumstances are constantly quenching my spontaneous life which would so love to come out into fullness and greatness and liberty; but no, I am always conscious of being damped! Well, our circumstances are the Lord's will; He has put us here; but there is no liberty, there is no enlargement! Listen to the Apostle's answer: "O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us" - 'ye are straitened in your own measure of affection; it is your own heart that has become cramped. You are blaming someone else, but it is yourselves, you are cramped and limited in yourselves. You can be enlarged, you can be expanded and be according to the measure that the Lord desires!' "That ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God" - that is His measure.
Well, now, that is just in outline the kind of concern with which the Apostle is occupied, that there is not the glory of the Lord manifestly among His people - there is something that is holding in limitation the Divine life in the Church, and each individual may be saying, 'Well, for certain reasons I cannot help it. I am limited: this is the matter and that is the matter!' - and the Apostle is setting all that aside. He says, 'You are limited in your own affections - there is something in yourself that is the cause of the trouble - it is your own fault!'
That does not sound kind, but I believe the Lord is saying to me, and will probably say to us all, 'It is your own fault!' There is no excuse: the Lord's heart is enlarged, the Lord's heart is large toward us with fullness, with abundance. He is not withholding; He is pouring forth to fill up every lack of ours. He is waiting for us to avail ourselves of that which He is pouring out to us all the time.
HINDRANCES TO ENLARGEMENT
(a) Conscience of Sin
Very briefly, we may touch on just three things which are our own fault, for which we are to blame, that prevent the enlargement for which we all long and for which the Lord is longing. The very first cause of limitation is conscience of sin. We read in Hebrews 10:2: 'The worshippers, having been once cleansed, would have had no more consciousness of sins". The first cause of all other limitation is conscience of sins - a clouded conscience, a lack of positive assurance as to righteousness, some ground left for the Accuser. Paul says: "I... exercise myseIf" - I work hard at it - "to have a conscience void of offence toward God and men always" (Acts 24:16). 'I am constantly at this thing, because on this everything else will hinge. Not a cloud between me and the Lord must ever be allowed to remain'. If Satan once besmirches your conscience, your development and increase and enlargement is closed down. Once the sin question becomes unsettled, heaven ceases to be open. The windows of heaven are closed, and we are all shut in on ourselves; we become suspicious of one another, because heaven is not open. Once the conscience is clear, the light of heaven floods in.
How many problems have we when we are in the joy of the Lord? We cannot think of them. The moment the joy of the Lord goes, they all come up again. Satan is out to break that joy in the Lord, until we are surrounded by problems, and by despair under the weight of them. The Christian life of a saint can be a positive burden because this matter of conscience is never settled. Satan is always saying, 'You ought to have done this! What does that other one think of you? Where is your joy?' We have got to learn to meet it, meet it with the provision the Lord has given us. We have it in the 22nd verse of Hebrews 10: "Let us draw near... having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience"; and the responsibility for that rests with us. The Blood has been sprinkled - that is God's side; but we have to appropriate that for our own conscience. We have to come with whatever the cloud is, whatever the accusation is, whatever the thing is that is causing heaviness, and say, 'Lord, I bring that to the sprinkled Blood and I take its efficacy for my conscience - an absolute cleansing of the whole sense of guilt or failure or sin, or the accusation that comes to me from the sense of others' opinions'.
Oh, how the enemy raises up thoughts in our hearts as to what somebody else thinks! Usually they do not think that, but even if they do it does not really matter. The Blood is the only way through, and if the Blood is applied and we appropriate its perfect cleansing, other matters that need to be settled will come into true position. If there are things that need to be put right with other people, it is when we have a clear conscience toward God, it is when we have put things right with the Lord by the precious Blood, not while we are under condemnation, that the true adjustment will come. You will not get right with the Lord by trying to put everything right. You can spend your time chasing round to have a talk with So-and-so, to put things right - and usually it puts things wrong! There is nothing that will put it right but the Blood, I am certain of that. When you are rejoicing in the Lord and have no interest as to whether others are pleased or displeased, the Lord in your own heart will say, 'There is a matter that needs adjustment!' Then we shall want to go and get that matter put right, and in the joy of the Lord we will be able to see clearly where we are and what needs to be dealt with.
Let us begin with the Blood; let us have a conscience void of offence because of the sprinkled Blood - His righteousness, not ours. Do you see the subtle way we want to prove our righteousness? If we can prove we are right or get right with somebody, we will be all right. No, you will please God by faith in the Blood, and when you are happy in His forgiveness and righteousness, you will soon find that you must deal with practical matters, with a heart at rest. And so, if we want enlargement, we need to be very definite in our dealing with this matter of conscience - and of course it is a big matter. We read that, when Satan is finally cast out, when the heavens are cleansed of him and all his hosts, "They overcame him" (the Accuser) "because of the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 12:11 ). THE LAMB. Victory is centred in this simple little matter of the conscience, and as the battle grows more intense because His coming is near, we shall need more and more to know this weapon against the Accuser. Never 'take on' anything, but have dealings with Him about it and bring it to the Blood. It is vital. If only we could get this right into us, and be a people, because of precious Blood, always nigh unto God!
(b) Our Own Mind
Then, very briefly, there are two other things that limit us. One is the matter touched in Corinthians 10. You notice that the Apostle says, 'You judge of me as though I walked according to the flesh; you have an opinion about me, and the result is you are limited and cramped. It is you who have lost the joy of the Lord, not I. I have not lost it, I am quite happy; but you think something about me. Now, look here - our warfare is not after the flesh, but mighty through God to the casting down of strongholds!' Have you ever noticed the stronghold that Satan can have in your whole life because of your mind about somebody or something? Do you know that there are those who have lost years because of an idea about something? They have taken on an opinion or mind about certain people, and it has put them out of action perhaps for twenty or thirty years. Does not Satan laugh at that? Why? Because they have taken on reasoning, human reasoning or imagination.
There is only one way of emancipation; there is only one way to the overthrowing of that stronghold which is paralysing your life - and it may not even be an imagination about others, it may be an imaginary doctrine you have developed. You have ideas about the Word of God, about the truth; about what ought to be, because things do not come up to what ought to be; but it does not affect the things - it only paralyses your own life. You form a mind and close in on it - and Satan has closed it. It is a stronghold of the devil in your life, and that thing exalts itself against the knowledge of God. If you or I develop a mentality, our pet theory, anything - there is immediately a stronghold.
You will meet some people who are living by principle, and sometimes you touch life, but usually you touch death. The principle is not Christ; Divine principle operates by the Holy Ghost as you walk in the Spirit. It is not an idea that you fit everyone into - that is death. Once we are tied on to something, it is a stronghold, and you think it is your stronghold; but you will find it is Satan's, and he can get that into the heart of anything, he can get that into the most mature, once the mind closes down and says, 'We have an opinion!' Paul was flexible up to his last day, because he cast down every reasoning, every 'logical' conclusion, he was not going to be bound by them. His attitude was, 'I think that is so, but maybe I am wrong!' The way through is casting down these things. Do we want to be enlarged in the Lord? We shall have to come to Him with every idea ceasing to exalt itself or to have a place in our thoughts, and say, 'Lord, I cast this thing down, my own mind about things; I cast it down! I bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ!' Where is Christ? Why, this whole epistle is full of it - "Christ in you". It is the in-dwelling Lord who must have every thought in captivity.
(c) Lack of Positive Love
Then the last point - we can but touch it. "That ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints... the love of Christ." Whatsoever is not love does not hurt the other one nearly so much as it hurts us. However much we may feel we have a right ground, however much others may have injured us, if our reaction is something that is not the love of the Lord going out, our own spiritual life ceases growing at that point, our own life ceases to increase; and so the Apostle says to the Corinthians that his heart is enlarged toward them, he loves them, his heart is going out to them all the time. We not only need to have no difficulty or difference between us and another child of God - that should certainly be settled - but I believe the Lord wants something more than that. I believe He wants us to be positive in our love. Some of us are very convicted about that - not just putting up with one another, but going out to one another. "Love one another from the heart fervently" (I Pet. 1:22); that is a very acid test. We are quite willing not to have a really bad difference with somebody, but we can just keep quietly out of their way, and it is not that we do not love them - but that is all very cool. It is not like the Lord's love. I know we cannot work these things up, but I do believe the Lord would enlarge our hearts if we were willing. I believe He is saying to us, 'I am full of love, full of light, full of all that you lack; now, be enlarged, open your heart wide, and be what I am, by faith and by My grace!'
Come to the precious Blood and claim your inheritance of a conscience void of offence, and if there be thoughts and ideas that are holding you in captivity, be done with them and let the mind of Christ have you captive. Love one another largely, liberally, that we may all be enlarged. How true it is - "Give, and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38). May something of that be true of us.