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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What It Means Be a Christian # 6

What It Means Be a Christian # 6

What Happens When We Become Christians

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 fact - 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 eye. There is that little fragment known to most: "The pure in heart ... shall see God" (Matt. 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 in 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 not 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.

Man By Nature Dead to God

But the Bible goes further still. It says that man by natural birth is lacking in yet another thing, which corresponds to his - may I use the phrase? - biological existence, his life. We have a biological existence which we call life. Now it is a very significant thing that the New Testament puts two different words over two different classes of people. It uses one word (bios) for natural life, but it never uses that word of the life of the Christian. For that it uses an entirely different word, with an altogether different meaning. What the Bible says is that man by nature not only lacks the functions of his spiritual senses, but even lacks that which corresponds to his natural existence - life. In a word, the Bible says that man is dead; not only blind and deaf and insensitive to God, but dead. "Death passed upon all men" (Romans 5:12), says the Word of God. By nature man is dead to God.

Dead to the Meaning of His Own Existence

And he is dead to the true meaning of his own existence. Man by nature does not know why he was born, why he has a being. We have all sorts of accounts of his being - wild explanations and excuses, shelving responsibility, and so on, all proving that he is entirely dead to the real meaning of his own existence. He makes the best of it - and sometimes it is quite a good best that a man makes of his life; but, after all, when set in relation to God and in relation to eternity, he does not know why he is alive, why he has a being. He is dead to that. He is dead to eternal and heavenly things and values. What a futile and hopeless thing it is  to talk to man by nature about the things of Heaven and the things of God! He looks at you, he gapes at you, he does not know what you are talking about. That belongs to a world with which he is just not acquainted. It is something foreign, far off, and he is utterly bored.

He may be a very good man from certain standpoints, a very educated man. He may be occupying a position of high esteem and respect among men - he may even be a very religious man. There was such a man who came to Jesus, an outstanding specimen of the best product of humanity outside of Christ; but over him was suspended one big question mark. He was full of interrogations - "How...? How...? And Jesus said, in effect: 'Well, it is no use talking to you about heavenly things at all. You do not belong to that realm; you are just dead to that.'

Now, is that true? I said at the beginning that you can put everything to the test. This is not a statement of abstract Christian doctrine. This is a statement of fact which is verifiable. Some of you may be actually knowing the truth of it now, in your own experience. Many of you did know it in time past, but, thank God, you know it no longer. According to the Bible, man is dead. It is useless to speak to a corpse - you will get nothing back. As far as the things of God are concerned, man makes no response. There is no correspondence, no interchange, no communion, no fellowship possible. That is what the Bible and human experience say as to man's condition by nature.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7)

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