What It Means to Be A Christian # 5
The Incarnation of the Lord Jesus - continued
Well, all this is the setting of the Christian life; this is the background of a Christian. Is it not immense? We struggle for words in order to try to set it forth, it is so great. All I can hope to do is to leave an impression on you. I cannot explain, I cannot define, I cannot set it out, I cannot convey it; but all this, which is so poor an expression, surely, surely, should leave at least an impression upon us. We should at least grasp this - that a Christian is set in an eternal background. It is a wonderful thing to be converted and to become a Christian; it is blessed to be saved; but oh! our conception and experience of the Christian life is such a little thing compared with God's thought. We need to get the eternal dimensions of the significance of Jesus Christ as the setting of a Christian life.
Christianity does not begin when we accept Christ. By accepting Christ we are placed right back there in the eternity of God's thought concerning man. We are brought into something that has been from all eternity in the intention of God, and, as we shall see later, linked on with a realization unspeakably wonderful in the ages to come. To become a child of God, to be born again, however you may define or explain it, is to come right into something that is first of all not of time at all - it is of eternity - it is not just this little life here on earth; it is of Heaven, it is universal in its significance. It is a wonderful thing, beyond all our powers of grasping, to be a Christian. If we could only get some conception of the cost of our salvation, the cost of redemption, the cost of recovering the lost inheritance; the cost to God, the cost to God's Son - the awful depths of that Cross; if only we could get some idea of this, we should see that it is no little thing to be a Christian. It is something immense.
What I have said has not been outside the Word of God; I have been keeping closely to the Book. I have not turned you from passage to passage, but there is a vast amount of Scripture behind what I have said. All that I have given you, and more, is in the Word of God. And the important thing is that what I have said can be put to the test - it can be made true in experience, now, in this life. That is just the wonder of it: a truly born-from-above child of God knows within himself or herself, 'This is true; this is why I have a being; now I have the explanation, and much more.'
Now if this is true, if all that is the meaning of being in Christ - and I put the "if" by way of argument - what an immense challenge it is to be a Christian, and what a terrible thing it will be not to be in Christ. What an immense thing it will prove to be, not only in this life, but more, infinitely more, in the ages to come, to be in Christ!
If there is one reading these lines who is not yet in Christ, it is a challenge to you. You are not dealing merely with your father's or your mother's beliefs or faith. You are not dealing with something that you call "Christianity," or with your own conception of a Christian, which may be all wrong, faulty, or at most inadequate. You are dealing with a vast thing, an immense thing. May God help you, from this contemplation of the setting of the Christian life, to reach out, if you have never yet done so, to embrace God's gift. If we know what it is to be in Christ, let us make sure that we are set upon knowing all that the Christian life means, that we are not going to be content with a little Christian life, with anything less than God's fullness for us; and if we have a lot of experience and knowledge, let this all lead us to a new determination that we shall not stop short anywhere of God's full and ultimate intention in apprehending us in His Son.
What Happens When We Become Christians?
We are seeking to be preeminently practical. That is, we are not occupied with the presentation of Christian doctrine in 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 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 borne 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.
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. That 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.
(continued with # 6)