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Thursday, October 25, 2012

What It Means to be a Christian # 6

What Happens When We Become Christians?

In these talks, we are seeking to be preeminently practical. That is, we are not occupied with the presentation of Christian doctrine itself. Christian doctrine will be here, but we are not interested in presenting the doctrines of Christianity in the abstract, important as they are. What we are concerned with is that everything shall be practical and experimental, and capable of being immediately put to the test.

There is, of course, a difference between the facts and truths of the Christian life, and the explanation of them. That is, it is possible for all the facts to be present in the life without the person concerned being able to explain those facts. It is a part of our present business to try to explain the facts, and to challenge as to the facts. Now, any explanation of the Christian life should be corroborated by the experience. That is, it ought to be possible for you to say, "Well, I could not have explained it like that, but I know exactly in my experience what you mean - that does just express my own life." So that the explanation must be born out by the experience: the experience must corroborate the explanation.

Let us, then, consider what happens when we become Christians. We shall spend some of our time in seeking to get behind this matter of becoming a Christian, to get to certain other facts - facts stated or revealed in the Bible, and true to human experience.

Man's Relationship With God Dislocated

When we come to consider man as we know him, man by nature, the first thing we find is that his relationship with God is completely dislocated. We say "dislocated," because we believe what the Bible teaches: that things were all right once, and they have gone wrong. If for the time being you prefer to waive the word "dislocated" and substitute "severed," you may do so. We shall probably at least agree that things are not in order between man and God. The relationship between man and God is in a broken-down condition. This is the fundamental fact. The relationship is disjointed; it is in a state of strain. There is distance between man and God. The relationship, or perhaps we should say "non-relationship," is a very unhappy thing: it is altogether unproductive; there is nothing coming from it. It is barren and desolate, quite unfruitful. With many God does not seem to matter, and is quite ignored.

But that is more or less neutral or negative. In most cases the situation is much worse than that - it is positively antagonistic. Man is in a state of antagonism to God in his nature, and often in his mind, in his attitude, and in his reference to God; there is a state of conflict, there is suspicion in man's mind as to God. A great deal of resentment exists in many human hearts. And we can go further - for the Bible goes this far - and say that in some cases, perhaps in not a few, there is even hatred in the human heart for God. We meet that sometimes. So that is the first act - the relationship between man and God is chaotic, broken-down, dislocated or disrupted.

Spiritual Faculties Which Are Not Functioning

That is not all. We need to get inside of that and go further. Man has a set of senses belonging to his spiritual being which are not functioning - a set of senses which correspond to his physical senses. The physical senses, as we know, are: seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling. But man has another set of five senses which are not physical, but which belong to his inner man. They are the counterpart of those five physical senses, and in man by nature these other senses are not functioning. The Bible speaks of all these senses in a spiritual way in relation to God.

The Bible speaks of a "seeing" of God, which is not physical at all; it is not with the natural eyes. There is that little fragment known to most: "The pure in heart ... shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). That is certainly not a physical matter.

Again, "hearing". There is a spiritual hearing of God which is not audition through the natural or physical ear. It is something in the heart. It is not the hearing of an audible voice, but it corresponds to that in a spiritual way. People are able to say they have heard the Lord speak to them, but they never heard anything with their natural ear.

"Tasting?" Yes, the Bible says: "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8), and no one thinks that that is a physical matter.

"Smelling?" - that seems to be difficult, perhaps. But we know what we mean,without any physical factor coming in, when we say that we are "scenting" something. We go into a room and somehow we detect that there is "something in the air." People have been talking, and when we go in we see embarrassment on their faces, and they suddenly become quiet and look at one another, and we "scent" something. In an analogous way, we know that it is possible to sense the presence of God. There are thus a whole set of spiritual faculties which, when they are in proper order and function, serve to relate us to God; and in the natural man, the unregenerate man, those senses are not functioning at all. There is no "seeing" God, in that way; there is no "hearing" God speak to him; there is no "sensing" or "feeling" God - it is a tremendous thing to feel God, not with your hands, but in an inward way. There is no "tasting that the Lord is good" in the natural man. All these things are out of order - and yet the Bible speaks of them a very great deal. The Bible teaches, and man's condition corroborates, that, where God is concerned, man is blind, man is deaf; man is numbed, has no feelings, is insensitive to God. Is that not so? That is a true description of anyone - it may be you who are reading these lines - who has not had a definite Christian experience. You do not see God in this way, you do not hear God, you do not feel God, you do not sense God; God is unreal, remote, far away, if He is at all. You do not know Him.

It is no real contradiction of the above and of what follows when we say that in most cases - very, very few exceptions exist - there is a consciousness of the existence of some supreme Object demanding recognition. Our point is that there is no fellowship, understanding, knowledge, or living relationship with God.

`T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7 - "Man By Nature Dead to God")

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