How May Christ Become a Living Reality to the Soul?

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" (Ps. 42:1-2).

We might quote from such letters of enquiry 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 behoves 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 — to self or to Him?'

"Living to 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 15:4-5); 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."

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 colourings 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" (Ps. 28:1). If God's voice is not heard, and we are not in exercise, we are like the unquickened 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 15:18). He also said of His own, "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 17:16). Paul, by the Holy Ghost, said, "The princes of this world … crucified the Lord of Glory" (1 Cor. 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 2:15). 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" (Jas. 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 centre 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 vapour 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 Ghost what the Cross of Christ means, that we shall be able to say, "The world is crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14), and that we "have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 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 as and died for us, will be a great and present reality.