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Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Is A Christian? # 5

1. Something Absolutely Personal (continued)

Then Saul came to realize that his inner history was all known to Christ. The other people could see what was going on outwardly. He was going in hot haste to Damascus. He had certain documents authorizing him to arrest Christians and take them bound to Jerusalem. He was doing his business with a will, and those other people would put it down to his religious zeal. But there was One above Who knew something else. He disclosed that knowledge when He said - 

"It is hard for thee to kick against the goad" (Acts 26:14).

So, really, he was like an ox harnessed to a plough, which, unwilling to go in a certain direction, and being goaded against its wishes, was letting out in rebellion, and kicking against the goad. What a different picture this was from what others would have had of him, and how different from what he was trying to make himself believe! But that One above knows things that we are not prepared to admit or accept. He sees through us, through all our pretensions and self-deceptions and resistance.

Saul was striving desperately to establish the falsehood of Christ and Christianity, but the truth was that he was not so sure of himself as he had hoped. Something had touched him, and it would have been fatal to his position if he had given that something a chance. So he had to gird himself up and resist with all his might. Inwardly he was kicking, in effect saying, "I don't want Christ! I won't have Christ! I am not going to be a Christian!"

Well, Christ is a reality, and sooner or later we shall have to have Him. There are different times and ways in which that may be.

We can have Him now, as our Lord and our Saviour, and, like Paul, enjoy a life of wonderful fellowship with Him and useful service for Him.

Or we might have Him at the end of our life, whether that be sooner or later. But that will mean the unspeakable regret and grief that we have no life of service to lay at His feet - an eternally forfeited life of fellowship with Him in the great purpose with which He is now occupied.

Or, alas, when this life is past, we shall have to have Him - not as our Advocate and Friend, but as our Judge.

God has determined that eventually "every knee shall bow" to His Son, but His desire is that it shall be as it was with Saul: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" This is what it means to be a Christian. But there is yet more in the words that we have quoted at the beginning of this chapter.

2. Christianity - Not a Religion, But a Person

"Why persecutest thou Me?" asked the glorified Christ. What an idea! Here was a man just going "all out" in religious devotion. So far as his reason was concerned (even if his heart had some lurking and bothering question), he was convinced that he ought to do this thing in the interests of religion. He was really a divided man inside, but in his zeal for traditional religion, and, as he would have argued, for God's sake, he was suppressing every question and relentlessly forcing himself on. And yet, all the time, he was working against God, against God's Son, and against Heaven! What a state of confusion!

Much could be said about this: as to the difference between being religious and being a genuine Christian; as to how it is possible for people to be passionately devout and devoted to what they believe to be of God - or for God - and yet to be rather obstructing His real interests by that very devotion. But we must resolve it all into one inclusive issue.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6)

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