How May Christ Become a Living Reality to the Soul?

 •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 8
On several occasions recently questions akin to the above have been put to us by young men. The questions are a cause of thanksgiving, for they denote a yearning of soul after the Lord and His things, akin perhaps to that which possessed the heart of David when he cried, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God” (Psalm, 42:1-2).
We might quote from such letters of inquiry did our space permit;, letters which whilst giving, as we have said, cause for thanksgiving, yet also bring sad thoughts, for we find that some are inclined to question whether after all there is reality in Christianity, and whether the acceptance of Christ does make any difference in the life. The superficiality and increased worldliness of many who profess Christ, and the terribly deadening effect of the widely spreading “new theology” doctrines will account for much of this, but it behooves all those who love the Lord in sincerity and truth to look to their ways.
In this connection we venture to quote from a contemporary magazine the words of one who seems to have touched the spring of things. He writes: —
“Eyes are fixed upon each one of us who names the name of Christ. They are eager eyes, hungry eyes, the eyes of imprisoned and perishing souls; and while those observers may make no comment, they are asking within themselves: ‘ Does it make any difference in one’s life?’
“What answer do they get to that question as they regard your life and mine? What are they reading day by day, and what conclusion are they reaching? The answer will be found in the answer to that other question: Unto whom are we living — unto self or unto Him?’
“Living unto Him is the normal, and hence the happy and fruitful life for them that live.’ The believer is in Christ.’ His interests are where Christ is, at the right hand of God.
“To live for self, to go on in the old ways, to be making provision for that old man’ with whom God could do nothing — and whose corrupted nature brought the Prince of Life under the power of death, even the shameful death of the cross — to seek gratification among the perishing things of a dying world, is to them that live’ an utterly abnormal existence, which can yield only disappointment and loss of peace in this life, and of rewards in that which is to come. Moreover, abiding in Christ is the condition of fruit-bearing (John 15:4, 54Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:4‑5)); and even if it were possible for a living one to find gratification, sustenance, and occasional pleasure in a dying creation, the consciousness of the waste and unprofitableness of such a life would rob it of all real joy.”
So much for those who are established in the knowledge of the Lord. We will seek now to help those whose desire is expressed in our title, and in order to do so as effectively as possible, we offer reply to the question raised in the words of several contributors.
Answer (1)
W. B. Westcott
The historical fact of Christ — that He lived and died — is generally admitted today.
Speculation and argument as to the nature of His Person, and the value of His life and death, are as numerous and contradictory as ever, but few persons doubt that He was actually on earth.
An historical personage, however, great as he may be, does not in any way affect my heart or draw out my affections. I may admire his life — as it is recorded for me — and even try to imitate it, but there the matter ends.
With Christ, however, it is different. There have been thousands who have laid down their lives for Him, and at this moment there are tens of thousands who love Him more than all beside.
The reasons for this are simply that He lives and that He loves. Caesar is dead, Mahomet is dead, Napoleon is dead, but Jesus lives.
This is the great fact to lay hold of if we wish Christ to become a reality to our souls. Christianity does not consist in a creed, nor a collection of sayings, but in a Person known and loved, whose present influence is seen in the transformed lives of men regenerate.
It is wonderful to consider that in the world today there are living numbers of men and women whose lives are controlled and whose ways are ordered by a Person they have never seen! This would be entirely visionary and sentimental if such people were not assured by evidence completely trustworthy that this Person is Real, and Living and Mighty.
This knowledge they have gained from the Book that speaks so fully of Him, and which has been interpreted to them by the Holy Spirit, whose mission is to make Him known.
How then is the Lord Jesus Christ to become a reality to me? In the same way in which many a heart in heathen lands has learned His preciousness. They believed the report of His greatness, His love, and the value of His precious blood, and thus their hearts were won. Never had such news fallen upon their ears before, and the wonder of it filled their souls. Let us in these favored lands — upon which the sun of the gospel never sets — sit down and meditate, as though the truth were new to us, upon the life and death, the resurrection and the glory of the One who died for us.
One sentence in itself would be sufficient to amaze, to captivate, to thrill the heart.
Listen! “ ... The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Eternity itself will not give time enough to enter fully into the meaning of these wondrous words. Say them to yourself — if you would have Christ become a reality to your soul — as you walk along the street, as you stand behind the counter, or in the shipyard or the factory. And ever bear in mind that He loves His own to the end, and that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever — yesterday, when He died for you, to-clay, as He lives for you, and to-morrow, when He comes to take you to be with Himself forever.
“Who is this me?” said Martin Luther, referring to the text above-quoted; “Christ delivered Himself up for me; yes, for me, who am such a wretched and miserable sinner. Say me’ with all thy might, print this pronoun me,” me,’ — for the word is written for thee — print this pronoun indelibly on thy heart, and thou hast the gospel of Christ.”
If I would have Christ to be a reality to me I must be assured that I am a reality to Him — in other words that He takes a personal interest in me — in my salvation, in my pathway, in my service.
To reason thus will not fill me with a sense of my own importance, but will cause my heart to overflow with praise to the One who, though so great and glorious, condescended to notice, to love, to die for, even me.
Very helpful, too, will it be to form the habit of taking the Lord Jesus Christ into my confidence about everything that interests me. Nothing is too minute to tell Him of, and no one is so true, so wise, so loving.
Needless, perhaps, to say, I cannot company with Christ, and realize His presence, apart from the Holy Spirit. Therefore is it of all importance not to grieve the One who dwells within me. If I sin, a shadow falls at once upon my spirit, and the Lord withdraws. Confession, then, is a necessity if I would be restored, for it is written “without holiness shall no man see the Lord.”
Neglect of prayer, hasty and careless reading of the Scriptures, slothfulness or undue activity in service, a sectarian or bitter spirit, indulgence in some harmful habit, worldliness — these are some of the things that make Christ alien to the heart He fain would fill. And yet —
“Still sweet ‘tis to discover, if clouds have
dimmed my sight,
When passed, Eternal Lover, towards me,
as e’er, Thou’rt bright.”
One thing must be emphasized as a sine qua non’ in connection with our question.
I must be much alone with Christ, if He is to become a reality to me. Service, the communion of saints, the general meetings for prayer or worship — none of these can be substituted for the quiet hour in which the Lord Himself speaks to me as no one else can do.
Answer (2)
W. Bramwell Dick
Let us open our Bibles at Acts 7, where we read of a man to whom Christ was a living reality. Stephen had trusted Christ, he had preached Christ, and now he was about to die for Christ’s sake. Surrounded by his enemies who clamored for his blood, they “saw his face as it had been the face of an angel (ch. vi. 15), though he did not know it. With no uncertain sound he presented the truth till they winced and winced again. The critical moment arrived, every man took stone in hand to hurl at God’s honored servant, but for an instant they were held in check, while he “full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into Heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold I see the Heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God” (ch. 7:55-56.) What a sight! Is it any wonder that, after that, he kneeled down and prayed for his foes; and while they might claim that they murdered him, the Holy Spirit records — “he fell asleep.” Thus it was with one who died. Now let us see how it worked out in one who lived.
Witness of Stephen’s death was a young man called Saul. He had seen how, with Christ as a living reality, one of His servants could die, soon he was to learn how, with Christ as a living reality, he should live. Arrested by a light which blinded him to this world ever after, he heard a Voice that dulled his ears to every sound of earth; he saw the face on which Stephen gazed, and at that moment the citadel of his life was captured, his heart was won, and his experience has been well expressed in the familiar lines: —
“I have heard the voice of Jesus,
Tell me not of aught beside;
I have seen the face of Jesus,
And my heart is satisfied.”
From that day the Lord Jesus Christ was everything to him. Probably the world labeled him a monomaniac; he was a man of one idea. His desire was to live Christ (Phil. 1:2121For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)); to preach Christ (Gal. 1:15-1615But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Galatians 1:15‑16)); and that in his converts Christ might be formed (Gal. 4:1919My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, (Galatians 4:19)). Thirty years after conversion, after experiencing vicissitudes and trials such as no other servant of Christ ever had, stripped of everything in which as a natural man he might have boasted, incarcerated in a Roman prison, he wrote to the Philippians, “To live is Christ” (1:21); to depart is to be “with Christ” (1:23); in chapter 3 he reviewed the past and wrote, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (vs. 7). Contemplating the present, we find him pressing on that he might know Christ (3:8-9-10); while looking on the future he told them he was looking for Christ (vss. 20-21).
Here we have a sample man to whom Christ was a living reality. Right across his history from conversion to martyrdom may be written CHRIST, for in him Christ was expressed. In looking, then, at his career, we have the answer to our query. The Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of God, the mighty Conqueror of Calvary, the Rejected of earth, the Accepted in Heaven, the once Thorn-crowned, now crowned with glory and honor, led him captive; the great love that led Him to die for the chief of sinners, filled and thrilled his whole being. He whom God had enthroned in glory, Paul enthroned in his heart; he surrendered every crevice of it, he gave him the key of his whole future existence; and he brooked not for a single moment anyone or anything that threatened to rival Christ’s place in his affections.
Someone may remark: “But he was an apostle.” He was; we are now considering, however, his experience not as an apostle, but as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is open to every true Christian who reads these pages. Christ, then, will become to us a living reality, as we get to know Him where He now is; as we realize that He who fills the throne of God, and will shortly occupy the throne of the Universe, claims the throne of our hearts; and as we unreservedly place ourselves under His blessed rule.
This is not accomplished by a series of pious resolutions, nor by a process of lopping off or giving up; it is gained when we “swing the heart’s door widely open,” and “bid Him enter.” Then everything unsuited to Him is displaced; He fills and He satisfies. Then, whether the maid in the kitchen or the mistress in the drawing room, the tradesman at the bench or the employer in the office, the obscure tract distributor or the better known gospel preacher, in any and every sphere, Christ is a living reality, and we become living “epistles known and read of all men” (2 Cor. 3:22Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: (2 Corinthians 3:2)).
Shall we bend our knees, close our eyes, and conscious that no eye but His is upon us, and that no ear but His hears us, say: —
“Just as I am — Thy love, I own,
Has broken every barrier down:
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come!”
“Just as I am — of that free love
The breadth, length, depth and height
to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O, Lamb of God, I come!”
“Just as I am — by Thee set free,
That Thou mayest now become to me,
A living, bright reality:
O, Lamb of God, I come!”
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Never was there a lock of soul-trouble yet, but what there was a key to open it in the Word of God. For our pain, here is an anodyne; for our darkness, a lamp; for our loneliness, a Friend.
A cripple on the right road is surer of the prize than a racer on the wrong.
Holiness is practical orthodoxy, and should walk hand-in-hand with doctrinal orthodoxy.
The great guardian principle of all conduct in the Church of God is personal responsibility to the Lord. No guidance of another can ever come in between an individual’s conscience and God. In Popery this individual conscience is taken away.
Your testimony now is to be enjoying Christ for yourself, and not to be looking at your testimony to the saints. As you enjoy Christ for yourself, saints will find it out, and that will be your testimony to them.
There is always energy in the Spirit. He is the untiring Servant of the Lord’s glory, and if we are led by Him “dull sloth” and lethargy will be cast aside. We are exhorted to walk in the Spirit, not rest, or sit still, but “walk.” The Spirit would move us onward and upward toward the goal, with the love of Christ holding the soul in its almighty grasp.