How May Christ Become a Living Reality to the Soul? Concluding Series of Replies

 •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 9
J. T. Mawson
Concluding Series of Replies.
Answer (5)
Our steamer was expected to reach a certain small coast town on a West India island about daybreak, for the disembarking of passengers, and we knew that we ought then to see one of the most beautiful sights that nature could present. A high range of mountains, shading away from bright green at the foot into a deep purple at the summit, reared their heads against the glorious blue of a tropical sky, while waving at the base of them were the feathered palms as of some fabled land, and all the picturesque surroundings of a lovely bay. We were up betimes waiting for the morning to break over the eastern waters; but when at last it did appear, we saw not the landscape that we had expected, for a heavy bank of cloud hid those mountains with their gorgeous colorings from our view.
Those who had not seen them could scarce believe that they were there, and if they had not been indelibly photographed on our minds, we too should have questioned their reality, so that even to us, being thus obscured, they were but a memory. It is often thus with the things of God; the clouds from the world arise to obscure the bright prospect, or the foul miasma of the flesh wraps the soul in its embrace, then the sense of the reality of these things passes away, and the sweet serenity and calm of the uplands give place to the restless fever of a soul out of communion with God.
Things nearer at hand remain in view — perhaps the fellowship of Christians, or some service undertaken in the brighter days — but the joy, the charm, the reality are gone, everything seems out of focus, for Christ is not seen as the great central Object throwing everything else into its right relation. Then the question arises as to the reality of these things, for no things are so unreal as divine things to the soul out of communion and under the cloud of what is temporal. It may be the memory remains to increase the unhappiness, but Christ is not a present living reality.
Under such circumstances what is to be done? There is but one way of escape, and that is to seek the presence of God. We may go to Him assured that He is more desirous that we should live in the power of divine things than we can be, moreover He, who brought us into them at the beginning, is the only One who can restore the joy of them to us when that joy is lost.
If we fear Him we shall go to Him, and the fear of the Lord is the first necessity of our lives, every mystery is made plain to those who fear the Lord, for the secret of the Lord is with such. It is in His presence, away from the deadening influences of things temporal, that we hear His voice, and we must pray the Psalmist prayer, “Be not silent to me, lest if Thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit” (Psa. 28:11<<A Psalm of David.>> Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. (Psalm 28:1)). If God’s voice is not heard, and we are not in exercise, we are like the un-quickened multitudes that know not God.
The World
In the presence of the Lord we get a right estimate of the world, and our souls respond to His judgment about it, as given us in the Scriptures.
The Word of God is most insistent and emphatic as to the world. Jesus said of it, “It hated me’ (John 15:1818If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (John 15:18)). He also said of His own,” I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:1919If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15:19)), and, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:1616They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)). Paul, by the Holy Spirit, said, “The princes of this world... crucified the Lord of Glory” (1 Cor. 2:88Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:8)). John said, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:1515Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)). James said, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:44Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:4)). It is evident then that we cannot find our delight in worldly pursuits and in the things of Christ at the same time. We cannot hug the world and know the reality of divine things: there is no co-mingling between them, and on our part there must be, there can be, no compromise. To adopt such an attitude will be to be thought eccentric, and indeed if our souls find their center in Christ, we shall be eccentric to the world, for it hated Him, but we shall be concentric to all in the circle of the Father’s love, for the Father finds all His delight in His Son.
The world is but a vapor that shall pass away with all the lust of it, even as the clouds that hid the mountains disappeared before the advancing day; when this comes to pass in actuality, then shall Christ stand out in His inherent and eternal beauty before the admiring eyes of a universe. But in the presence of God our faith judges the world even today, and this clears the vision so that those things which are invisible to carnal eyes come into full view, and are the greatest realities of the life.
The Flesh
No Christian loves “the flesh,” and there are times when the soul’s hatred of it is most intense, and the agony of being overcome by it almost more than can be borne; and yet victory comes not. The reason for this is often that underneath all the desire after Christ, there is the reserve of some part of the life, or some time in the day, for self and gratification of the flesh. Augustine in his confessions tells us that he used to pray “O God make me pure, but not just now”.’ and many another heart has had that secret thought and desire even if the prayer has not risen to the lip.
There are three things the remembrance of which will help us:
1. The flesh is the great rival to the Spirit whose delight is to occupy us with Christ.
2. It will always mar our enjoyment of Christ’s things.
3. All the time spent in it is lost time.
But neither the world nor the flesh will be truly judged by our occupation with them, or even by a close investigation of their godlessness, nor shall we turn from either because we have suffered loss at their hands.
It is when there is borne upon our souls by the power of the Holy Spirit what the cross of Christ means, that we shall be able to say, “The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:1414But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galatians 6:14)), and that we “have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:33For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3)).
For this we must go to God: in His presence our thoughts will give place to His, and grace, power, and mercy, will be given for a walk of separation from the evil things, and the joy of the knowledge of Christ as the risen and exalted one who loved us and died for us, will be a great and present reality.
Answer (6)
J. Wilson Smith
If Christ is no reality to a man it would be well for him to ask himself the question, “is Christ aught to me? Is His name anything more to my mind than a sound which I have been taught to venerate? Have I ever been brought into such contact with Him that I have consciously received blessing at His hand? Have I proved, in a truly sensible way, that He has touched and enriched my soul?” Let this inquiry be first answered.
Then it may safely be said that, in the experience of the true Christian, there are varied degrees and measures and unfoldings of the Lord to him. He may pass slowly perhaps from the time when he said in pride of heart “All of self and none of Thee,” to the time when, by grace, he prayed: — “Some of self and some of Thee;” and then to that when, by that same grace, he cried: — “None of self and all of Thee.”
This, indeed, is the blessed climax, and suggests to us the words of Paul: — “Nevertheless I live, yet not I.” In his case, “self”, (and what a mountain of evil is “self” I) had been morally displaced by the Lord Jesus Christ, who had become his life in true practical reality. Yet the same climax may, and should be reached by all.
But just as there is continuing advance from the time when the first beams of light irradiate the eastern sky, until the hour when the sun reaches its zenith in the heavens at noon of day, so there may be, and must be, progress in the Christian’s apprehension of Christ.
The bride in the Song of Solomon begins the path of such progress by saying: “My Beloved is mine and I am His” (ch. 2:16). Her initial apprehension is her own wonderful possession: — “He is mine!” What a sense of reality is here!
But then, after a while she says: — “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine” (ch. 6:3). This indicates growth — her possession is not so prominent now as the dawning apprehension of the thought: “I am His.”
Finally she declares: — “I am my Beloved’s, and His desire is toward me” (ch. 7:10). Here self is lost in the consciousness of His satisfaction in her.
How forcibly real and simple is the knowledge of Christ! and in this line no experience can be of greater value. Was it not with this in view that the great apostle of Christianity bowed his knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and prayed (as in Eph. 3) “that He would grant them according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith” [thus becoming to them a living bright reality as the abiding tenant of their affections] “and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge”; so that, while they loved Him, they might learn more fully His love to them — a love beyond knowledge.
This is the great study, and object, and aim in Christianity: and, on account of it, the four inspired Evangelists wrote their separate descriptions of Him who was everything to them — their endless theme and story — till they finished by saying that the world itself could not contain the books which should be written. For this glorious reality, apostles lived and suffered and died; whilst today in the apparent wreck of everything divine, we are sustained in triumph by the Spirit-given consciousness of a living, loving Christ on high who is everything and in all!
Answer (7)
H. P. Barker
Let your thoughts travel for a moment round the whole circle of your Christian friends. Then fix them upon the one whom you esteem more than all the rest. Perhaps this will be the dear servant of Christ who was used of God for your conversion. May be it will be one who has been a great help to you in your Christian life; or possibly a godly parent who has many a time prayed for you and with you.
Imagine that you are staying for a time under the same roof as that honored friend of yours. One night, after he has retired to his room, you hear a sound as if he were talking to someone. And so he is. It is his voice in prayer that you hear; he is talking to God.
You cannot but hear what he says, and your attention is riveted when you catch the mention of your own name. Your friend is praying about YOU !
And how he pours out his heart in earnest supplication on your behalf ! He seems to know all about you, your daily trials and struggles, your temptations and failures, the pressure that sometimes seems almost too great to bear, and your lack of strength to carry life’s burden. He speaks, too, of unknown and unsuspected dangers that surround you, and of snares that Satan sets for your feet. And he mentions your earnest longings after the things that are true and good, your desires for closer communion with God, and your feeble endeavors to serve Christ.
In connection with all these things your friend prays for you, earnestly, beseechingly, importunately, mentioning your name again and again.
What you hear fills you with comfort. You say, “I am sure God will answer the prayers of His dear servant,” and you realize the immense blessing of having someone to offer “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man” on your behalf.
But now transfer your thoughts from your friend to your Savior.
Your ears cannot hear Him, but He is interceding for you as really as if they could. He mentions your name; He knows all about you. He has watched your faltering footsteps and has encircled you with His protecting care. He loves you more than tongue can tell. He died once, for love of you, and would be willing to do so again if it were necessary. Day and night He thinks of you. He is nearer to you than any earthly friend can be, and His intercession is mightier than any that such can offer. Does not the thought of this cheer and encourage you?
Sit down quietly for a few minutes and think. Close your eyes and say to yourself: “My Savior is thinking of me. He is interceding for me in Heaven. He never takes His eyes off me. He loves me tenderly, faithfully and forever.”
Then get down on your knees and talk to Him as if your eyes could see Him. He hears every word that you say.
And when you rise from your knees I venture to think you will know what it is to have Christ as a living reality to your soul.