Addressed to the Reader, Living in a Confused Age
This is an age which claims many religious teachers; the reader has no doubt seen and heard abundant prophets and preachers saying, “Lo! here!” and “Lo! there!“, pointing to their idea of the truth. It does not take very long for the average enquirer into religious truth to turn away in disgust from all the pious sham, hypocrisy, and fraud abroad today. No doubt many of the worst of these prophets and preachers, so-called, have claimed to be Christians, followers of Jesus of Nazareth, perhaps the most talked-about “religious leader” of all, whose life and works is attested to in the New Testament Scriptures.
“How little, though, the Christian Church has practiced the simple, pure religion presented in the New Testament!” a reader of only average honesty and integrity might reply.
“And with so little to convince me there, why should I sacrifice so much to follow after something which seems to lack all the evidence of being good and true?” the same inquirer might continue.
But let’s think again. The presence of a multitude of counterfeits does not preclude the genuine article from being found. On the contrary, abundant imitations might point to something real which is being imitated.
“But what could that be? Where do I look?”
It is the conviction of this writer that amongst all the religious confusion in the world, a Man sent by God two millennia ago is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, was Himself the everlasting Word who was with God from the beginning, and was God. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, who gave His life a ransom for many, and rose again on the third day after His death on the cross, that whoever believes on His name shall not perish, but have life everlasting.
“Come now, you’re not going to try to pawn off this Jesus-talk on me now, are you? After you just admitted that all of Christianity has nearly nothing to recommend itself?”
It is also my conviction that Jesus can lead one of His children out of the confusion in Christianity – perhaps the greatest confusion of all – as well as out of the pandemonium elsewhere.
“But have any been so led?”
Yes. Perhaps they have been few, so few as to have gone almost completely unnoticed by most people, especially in this age. But they are there, and more importantly, He who leads them is there.
“But where does all this leave me? How am I to believe you? And if I were to believe you, what should I do about it?”
Excellent questions. But most people today do not look where there alone is hope of finding convincement. Reasoning, argument, pointing up evidence in history, haggling over doctrine, even poring over the Scriptures themselves, cannot be the key to a living Christian faith; neither are there any instant formulas which may be mechanically recited to achieve it; nor is it accomplished with a gush of emotion; but the way of truth is the path of inward and saving grace, so simple, so near, and yet almost universally overlooked. The following is an outline of what this means in terms which might apply generally to the life of any soul; of course, particulars and occasions for such movements of God’s grace will vary with individuals, as the Holy Spirit works where and how He wills.
The beginnings of Grace are wrapped in mystery, secrecy, and silence. God has hidden such from the wise and prudent. The soul becomes aware of a touch, a breath, not of earth, nor from man, so light and gentle that it is easy to overlook or ignore in its quiet beginnings. But on whatever occasion this first awareness of the Lord comes, Christ Jesus comes, just as He came outwardly in history, as a little baby laid in a manger; the world then perceived nothing of what had happened, and went on about its business, its pleasure, its politics, and its religion. But all heaven was moved to adoration. So are the first buddings of Grace in the soul. The darkness of ignorance and corruption within may be dense, but nevertheless a glimmer of Christ’s light shines, “the true light…lights every man that comes into the world…the light shines in darkness and the darkness comprehends it not.” And every man is held responsible for the use he has made of his measure of light.
Easy as it is to quench these small beginnings of grace, to drown the Divine Voice in sin, folly, or neglect, we do know that some here and there stop and ponder what has happened to them. Spiritual and eternal realities, once so dim and uncertain, begin then to stand out clearly before the eyes of the soul. It finds itself less absorbed with daily routine pursuits; silent waiting upon God, reading the Holy Scriptures, and the society of God’s people strengthen the pressure of the heavenly touch and the clarity of Christ’s voice. Secret thoughts are brought to judgment. Sin is felt to be sin and not a mere mistake. The evil in the world and in one’s own life is taken seriously. Day and night the hand of God may lie heavy upon the soul. Read Psalm 139 for the record of this experience. The gentle touch of the Divine Spirit on the human spirit has now become a pressure that cannot be ignored or easily brushed aside.
The soul thus exercised sooner or later approaches a crisis. Will it withdraw itself from under the hand of God, or will it abide the deepening pressure? Those who welcome the judgment of the light, the piercings of the sword of the living Word, now experience that the pressure of the Divine hand becomes a decided hold. Various names have been given to this crisis. The name “conversion” is as good as any – it can be found in Scripture. The Creator was in the incarnate Christ the Redeemer, and becomes, in the inworking Spirit, the Regenerator. “Converted” men and women are those who have taken the way of repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. No longer considering themselves self-sufficient, they yield to God to hear Him, and trust Him to speak the truth. Then they can read the Holy Scriptures aright, with the eyes of faith; the Holy Spirit, the one true interpreter of Scripture, becomes their guide. They appreciate and trust, therefore, Christ’s death for them. They see clearly that he was not only wounded by their transgressions, but for them, and that by his stripes they are healed (see the prophecy of Jesus’ atoning ministry in Isaiah 53). He is more than a Teacher or a beautiful Example to them. He has become a personal Saviour. The Gospel is more to them than good advice. It is the very power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.
Now all is changed. The Grasp of the Divine hand becomes an actual Possession. Christ “gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify us unto Himself a people for His own possession.” It becomes apparent that the outcome of the crisis was only the beginning. Yielding to the Divine pressure, a soul experiences that Christ’s people are “made willing in the day of His power”. They open the door with a glad heart. Their Saviour is their Lord also. He now takes control of the mind and the heart. He subdues the unruly passions, the roving imaginations, the inordinate affections. Putting to death the work of sin in the flesh, one knows the joy and blessedness of yielding up unto the Grace that has so long laid siege to the soul.
We are told in the book of Revelation that the end of all the ways of God is the bringing in of new heavens and a new earth in that day when Christ Jesus shall return with power and glory., when the evils which destroy this life will themselves be destroyed forever; there will no longer be sorrow, pain crying, and death. And the tabernacle of God will be with His people, and He and they will dwell together in undisturbed fellowship forever and ever. But this Kingdom is not merely a future one, for that New Jerusalem is built already in an inward, spiritual manner in the hearts of all those in whom Christ Jesus reigns supreme. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature (or creation), behold all things have become new.” He lives under new heavens, he walks on a new earth. He has a new uplook and a new outlook. He has been “renewed in the spirit of his mind.” And the tabernacle of God comes down into such a life. Christ dwells in his heart through faith. The possession becomes an indwelling. The Father and Son love him and make their home with him. Christ says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” The table of the true Lord’s Supper is now spread within. Thus from the humble beginning of a gentle touch has come the fullness of a blessing. And it is thus that the Lord’s become His disciples, prepared to be faithful in all things, even unto the path that their Master trod.
“Frankly I don’t understand that religious stuff.”
And you needn’t, right off. Grace is something to be lived, not merely learned in the head.
“Where did you get all that stuff anyway? I asked you a simple question and you waxed religiously eloquent. What for?”
I claim no originality, either for the content of this outline, which is a simple expression of the Truth as it has always been received by God’s people, and the basic outline itself, which is borrowed from a short work written some time ago by one of those sincere believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, one of the genuine, humble, if now somewhat overlooked members of God’s true Church, or gathered people in His name, of which I spoke before.
I went into such detail in order not to deceive you. Christian faith is simple indeed, but that does not mean it has no substance or on-going reality. It is not a quick, one-time experience, easily forgotten and soon discarded. It fills an entire lifetime – and more.
“Who are you, and why have you written this paper anyway?”
Jesus said to His disciples on the night He was betrayed, “Henceforth I call you not servants, for a servant knows not what his lord does; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my father, I have made known unto you.” Such as are His Friends have the burden to make known those things which He made known. There are such Friends today, who gather still in His Name, and this paper is meant to encourage the disappointed souls to come down to simplicity – to the stature of a child – to be willing to begin where God begins with them; to be tender towards the tendering touches of His Grace; that they too may become His Friends.