Christian Experience

What experiences should we expect and look for in our christian lives? Many christians  today look for emotional ‘highs’, but these are often followed by emotional ‘lows’, because they are purely human experiences, are not specifically christian, and can be found inside or outside christianity.

When one is born again he or she  soon find changes in their  desires, tastes, and enjoyments. These are welcome changes, which we know are not of ourselves, but the effects of the Holy Spirit working within. They confirm to us that we have truly fixed all our hope of  salvation in On Jesus Christ, and his substitutionary death on the cross in the place of sinners. We know that we are RightWithGod. These changes also confirm to us  that God has begun a work within us which is His alone, and which He will most certainly complete: “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will  perform it until the  day of Jesus  Christ (Philippians 1:6)”. It is the beginning of what the bible calls ‘sanctification’, in other words, being made holy. This work will continue until death, and will have its final completion when we  pass into the immediate presence of Christ in heaven, or when He returns to this earth, and He  receives us to Himself to be  with him forever: “Beloved, now are we the sons of  God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that  when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is  (1 John 3:2)”.

Let us now look more closely at these changes in desires, tastes and  enjoyments. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in  Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” It would not be possible in this short space to cover all that is included in the “all  things”, a few thoughts may help.

The born-again believer will  find that there are things which previously ruled his life, and held him in their, spell have less and less attraction to him: the company he kept, the entertainment he enjoyed, the lusts which tempted him and the ambitions that motivated him.  He finds that, although these things are still there in a less prominent way, they no longer satisfy, and he finds them less and less engaging some of them even repulsive. It is all beyond his understanding,  and all his attempts at explaining this are useless; except one: that God is working these changes in him. To reach this conclusion is a massive, difficult and humbling experience, but there is great peace, relief, and even joy in reaching it.

It greatly helps, that new desires and satisfactions take the place of the old. The new desires are, firstly;  reading the bible with the conviction that it is the word of God where the christian finds his own experiences mirrored, especially in the book of Psalms,  located right in the middle of the bible;  secondly there is the  enjoyment of  the company of the  people of God; thirdly there is the inexhaustible pleasure  of  learning more of christian truth by reading the bible, listening to good, biblical preaching, and reading good christian books; fourthly, although we will always have to battle against the lusts which continually move within us as long as we are in this body, we find ways of dealing with these things, mainly by avoiding the places, company, reading material and  entertainments which give occasion to these lusts. We are involved in the battle against indwelling sin: a sure sign that we are true christians.

There is also the great and very important area in christian experience, of new longings. We shall look at these next week, if the Lord will.

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False and True Profession

The words which precede this parable in Matthew 7: 24-27, are indeed solemn. Jesus is pointing out that there are many who profess to be under the Lordship of Jesus, even addressing Him, “Lord, Lord”, and have done wonderful works in His name, to whom Jesus will say, “I never  knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”(verses 21-23). They hear the word of Christ in the gospel,  they are attracted to the christian life and  they make a profession of faith in Christ, but they have never come under the Lordship of Jesus  Christ. They are not, and have never been, RightWithGod through Jesus Christ and His finished work. We might call their relationship to Jesus Christ as an ‘arm’s length’ relationship. They want all the benefits of the christian life, the salvation, and the many privileges  that go along with it, yet they are not saved. What is their position? Does this mean that no one can be really sure of their salvation? No, it certainly does not.

The problem is  that they have not built on the right foundation. Jesus, as often, uses a common illustration to explain spiritual truth. It is not that they began well, and lost their way. He says that they were wrong  from the beginning. They had built their hope of salvation on sand, instead of on rock. What does Jesus mean by this illustration? He means that when they sought salvation, they did not connect with the real truth about themselves. What was that? It was that, in their natural state, they were under the condemnation of God because of their sins. This was not just a broken friendship which simply needed to be made up. This was a state of continuing sin and rebellion against God and His holy law. It was not just that they became sinners along the way because they sinned, but that they habitually sinned all the way because they were sinners by nature. This is a hard truth for proud man to swallow. This is the rock of truth which all must dig to and connect to if they are ever to get RightWithGod. The result is that many do not want to dig deep into their own sinful hearts. It is hard, painful and humiliating to do so, and it brings us to our knees before the God, the Great Judge of all whom we have offended; it makes us all feel that we are the  chief of sinners, and that our standing before God is a wretched and miserable one. However, this rock of  truth also brings us to appreciate the amazing remedy that God has provided in sending his Son into this world  that He might suffer and die on an accursed cross, not for the righteous, but for sinners, even the chief of sinners.

O what  joy,  what peace, what relief, what easing, what gladness of heart is experienced by the sinner who sees the perfect suitability of the sacrifice of Christ to cover him when he stands before God on the day of judgement.

And what woe, what misery for those who have not faced up to the truth regarding themselves, and have built on the sand of pretence. In the storm of judgement day, they will be swept away to a lost eternity.

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Gethsemane

While on holiday I found  my thoughts turning much to Gethsemane.  I read the four accounts, each with their own particular emphases several times. Up to that time my understanding of Gethsemane was based largely on Jonathan Edwards’ explanation.  Edwards makes the very important point that there had to be a Gethsemane before the cross. This was so that the Man, Christ Jesus,  would know, with human knowledge, the fullness of  what was in the cup that He was to drink on the cross.  It is inconceivable that the Father would send His Beloved Son to the cross, without revealing to Him the full extent of what He was to bear. Christ was not taken by surprise on the cross at any point, even when He cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” That is fundamental, because of the mutual love that existed between the  Father and the Son: a love which was never at any point modified from what it was from all eternity.

However, as I contemplated this, some of the phrases describing a change Christ’s demeanour, even before He prayed, I was forced to think more deeply about this change. In Matthew we read, “He began to be sorrowful and very heavy (26:37)”. In Mark we read, ” He began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy (14:33)”.  Was this something quite new in the Lord’s experience? I concluded that it was not. Jesus was the Sin-bearer from His birth. The shadow of the cross was over His whole life. Before His birth, it was revealed, “He shall save his people from their sins”;  but His human awareness of the burden He carried as the Sin-bearer became greater throughout His life, as  His “hour” drew near.

I came to see that Gethsemane was more than just a preview of the cross, although it certainly was that; but it was a foretaste of something more:  more than all physical suffering, or even mental and emotional suffering. He was now tasting the hardest thing of all that was to come upon a human being, the experience of a human being being forsaken by God. This was the sense of sorrow, heaviness and amazement that came upon Him. He cries that, if possible, the cup that He was now tasting of might be removed; but He prays with full submission, “not my will, but thine, be done”. There is no answer. Heaven is silent. Silent, but certainly not uncaring. Luke gives us this, “There appeared unto Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in and agony he prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22: 43,44)”.

All this, not for the righteous, but for sinners. Indeed a multitude that no man can number, will most certainly and surely, and without possibility of lapse, be saved, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied ( Isaiah 53:11)”. Woe, woe to them that will not bow the knee, abandon their self-righteousness, and humbly receive this great provision made by God for sinners. In hell they will receive the wages of sin. They will know the sorrow, the heaviness, the sore amazement in full for all eternity. The invitation has gone out and continues to go out, “Come, for all things are now ready”.

 

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Holiday Post. Assurance of Salvation.

Sorry for lateness. Perhaps I am getting too much sun, causing me to  forget important things. Anyway below is something to chew over till I get back home.

Quote from J C Ryle

“I would not desire to make one contrite heart sad that God has not made sad, or to discourage one fainting child of God, or to leave the impression that men have no part or lot in Christ, except they have assurance.  A person may have saving faith in Christ, and yet never enjoy an assured hope, such as the Apostle Paul enjoyed. To believe and have a glimmering hope of acceptance is one thing; to have ‘joy and peace’ in our believing,  and abound in hope, is quite another. All God’s children  have faith; not all have assurance. I thing this ought never to be forgotten.”

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