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Saturday, April 29, 2017

What It Means To Be A Christian # 9

What It Means To Be A Christian # 9

And so, if He has all Divine intelligence, and we are in His school, living with Him, keeping fellowship with Him day by day, we shall grow in this intelligence, which no natural man has. We shall be growing in knowledge, growing in understanding, growing in ability to grasp the things of God, which no man, apart from the Spirit of God, can understand. I want to lay emphasis upon that. It is the Holy Spirit Himself. I  know that Christians as such believe in the Holy Spirit - the majority of evangelical Christians believe in the Person of the Holy Spirit. They put the article there - the Holy Spirit - whereas others speak of 'Holy Spirit.' It is a part of our Christian faith to believe in the Holy Spirit as a Person to have some knowledge of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, His work and His power. And yet there is among Christians a lamentable lack of understanding of what it means to have the Holy Spirit really dwelling within. This is disclosed and manifested by the very fact that they can sometimes act and speak so contrarily to the Holy Spirit without seeming to be checked up by Him. It is truly astonishing how many Christians can speak in a manner in which the Holy Spirit certainly cannot acquience, and yet seem to be quite unconscious of the fact that the Holy Spirit disagrees with them. Many Christians can believe lies about others, and repeat them, and yet never register the Holy Spirit's disagreement. There is something wrong here in regard to the practical expression of the indwelling Holy Spirit - for He is the Spirit of truth.

Now the true Christian life means that wherever the Holy Spirit is in disagreement with anything that we say or do, or with the way we say or do it, we should be aware of it. At once we should register - not a voice, but a sense: the Holy Spirit saying, in effect, 'I do not agree with you - that is wrong, that is not right, that is not true, that is not kind, that is not good, that is not gracious.' There is a very great need for the reality of the indwelling Spirit to be expressed. It is not that the failure to recognize and sense and discern means that the Holy Spirit is not there; it simply means that, if it is like that, we are not walking in the Spirit. There is something needed on our part by way of adjustment.

But, coming to the positive side, the true Christian life can be, and should be, like this. With the Holy Spirit resident within, when you or I say or do anything with which He does not agree, we know it at once. We have a bad feeling right in the middle of us, and we do not get rid of it. We have to say, 'Evidently I was wrong in what I said, or did. Lord, forgive me and put it out of the way.' If it has done someone any harm, well, let us try to put it right. That is a life in the Spirit. It is very practical.

That is what happens when we become Christians. It begins like that. The beginnings are very simple. If you are still quite young in the Christian life, you surely must know something of this in simple ways. Perhaps you go to do something that you used to do, and something inside you says, 'Oh, no, not now - that belongs to the past.' That is a simple beginning, is it not? If you go on, you burn your fingers - because you are alive! If you were dead, you would do these things and not feel them. Because you are alive, you are sensitive.

Yes, that is what happens when we become Christians. It is very simple; many of us know about it from experience. But it is important for the many who are coming to Christ in these days, who are at the beginnings of the Christian life, to know really what they have come into, really what has happened to them. They should be able to say: 'Yes - well, I could not have explained it, I could never have put it into words or defined it; but I know what you mean. That is true to my own experience.' But, you see, it is something more than just feeling. We need to understand, we need to be intelligent about these things. may God make us intelligent Christians - Christians who are going on in life-fellowship with His Spirit within, and growing all the time. God forbid that any young Christians, reading these lines,in five, ten, or twenty years' time should be just where they are now. That i not necessary because of course - praise God! being born again is not the end of things - it is only the beginning!

The Divine Purpose and Principles Governing The Christian Life

It is most important that we should be alive to the fact that the Christian life is governed by purpose. The thought of 'purpose,' indeed that very word itself, is much in view in the New Testament. Most of us are familiar with one statement relating thereto: "To them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). Unfortunately it is usually cut in half and only part of the first half taken: "all things work together for good." We might go on: 'to them that love God"; familiar, but that is not the whole statement, which adds: "to them that are the called according to His purpose." Then we have another word, not so generally known: 'Foreordained according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11). Again, "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:11). Yet once more: "according to His own purpose and grace" (2 Tim. 1:19). These are sufficient at least to indicate that 'purpose' is a governing idea in the Christian life: that we are not saved just to be saved, we do not become Christians just to be Christians. That is only the beginning of something; it is with a view to something very much more in the thought and intention of God.

You are asking, 'Well, what is the purpose?' There are many things said about it in the Scriptures, which we cannot stay to site just now. Without going into great detail, when all things said about it are gathered together, there is one thing which includes and covers them all, of which they are all just parts. The Divine purpose is all-inclusively set forth in a clause in one of Paul's letters: 'till we all attain ... unto the...fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). We are going to spend a little time in looking into that, but you will instantly  recognize that that makes Christ very great. Surely, if all the Christians that have ever been and are and will yet be called with the purpose of attaining unto the fullness of Christ - and the number is just countless in all the centuries, in all the generations since the first Christian - if all this vast, uncountable number are called with that same calling, the fullness of Christ, then Christ must be very great indeed.

Yes, and the Christian life must therefore be something very great. If it takes its character, its meaning, and its dimensions from Christ, then the Christian life corresponding to Christ must be a very great thing. It must necessarily be something progressive. No Christian at any time in their experience or history here on this earth can ever say that they have reached that end. It means that the Christian life is one of progress and development. It is all moving toward that ultimate fullness. So we find in the New Testament that the Christian life is set forth in three distinct phases: we are Christians, we are becoming Christians, and we are going to be Christians. These three phases are indicated in the original language of the New Testament by three different tenses of the verb.

I believe it was Bishop Handley Moule who was traveling on one occasion, and a Salvation Army lassie entered the same compartment as he. When they had got settled and on the way, he was, I believe, actually a Dean at the time,but of course wearing his canonicals - she interrogated him. "Sir, are you saved?" Whereupon the kindly old scholar looked at her and said, "Do you mean ..." and then he quoted the three Greek words. He quoted the word meaning "I was saved," and then the word meaning "I am being saved," and then the third word which means "I shall be saved." Of course, she was completely bowled over! It was perhaps a bit hard on her, poor lass: of course she did not know what to say; but it led to a very profitable talk about the beginning, the growth and the end of the Christian life.

Well, there it is in the New Testament. We were saved, we are being saved, and we are going to be saved. We were accepted in Christ, we are growing in Christ, we are to be perfected in Christ. Christ, then, is spread over the whole life of the Christian, from its beginning, through its continuation, to its consummation. That is a statement which needs no laboring.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 10)

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