THE WICKET GATE
Chapter 1.....When is Anyone a Christian?
"There is a new creation whenever a man comes to be in Christ." 2nd Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 17. (Moffatt.)
WHAT is a Christian? When does a person become a Christian? Are all Britons Christian? Is England a Christian country? Can you be a Christian without knowing it? Are you ever a Christian without your consent? These questions will not be answered directly, but every reader should be able to answer them from the Word of God. Dr. Moffatt's translation directs us at once to the issue. If a man is " in Christ " then he is " a new creation ". No man is a new creation until he is " in Christ, " and no man is a Christian until he is in the new creation. Not everybody even in England is in the new creation. There is an old creation as well as a new one. Every man and woman in the world belonged at first to the old creation. That is our heritage by human birth. When we are born we are born into the old creation; when we are born again we are born into the new! We are members of the old creation by life from our parents; we are members of the new creation when we receive life from Jesus. No person is in the new creation by human means. We are in the old creation without our knowledge or consent, we are only in the new creation by our own personal understanding, desire and faith, a faith directed to the Head of the New Creation, even Jesus Christ Himself.
You will notice quite clearly that the issue is bound up in Christ. To be " in Christ, " is to be in the new creation, to be without Christ, " is to be without God and without hope". (Ephesians ch2. 12.) If any rest his relationship with God upon any other consideration or upon some consideration additional to this he asserts that which is not according to New Testament teaching. If I am lost eternally it will not be because I was not in the Roman denomination but because I was not "in Christ". If a Romanist is saved eternally it will not be because he was in the Roman denomination but because by the grace of God he was "in Christ". The Christian is a person "in Christ" and only such persons as are "in Christ" are Christians! When a person is in Christ he or she has been subject to a creative act of God. Many things will be changed in his life but these do not constitute him a Christian. He is a Christian because by an act of God he himself, his own innermost being, has been re-created. Therefore for every human being the supreme issue is to be " without Christ, " or to be " in Christ." How then does anyone become a member of the new creation? What steps does one take to be " in Christ?"
The answer is quite simple: before you do anything be quite sure you understand clearly and unmistakably what God has done. No individual ever was a Christian until he knew at least something of what God had done.
will be a good word to commence our study. Follow Paul's thought in the same chapter in Corinthians. " All things are of God, Who hath reconciled us to Himself." We have all found it difficult at some time or other to initiate reconciliation: things have gone wrong, we are conscious we have done the wrong; we want to put the wrong right, but we find it difficult to speak or to write. That is our position with God. Reconciliation implies a rupture; and there is a rupture between God and ourselves. You may not be conscious of that rupture but that is not the point. God is clearly conscious of it and that is much more important. It means that the rupture is there whether we know it or not. "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God " (Isaiah ch 59. 2). The rupture between you and God being clear to God, He has taken steps concerning it. God initiated reconciliation before any human being knew of the rupture and indeed before man had sinned. The Divine ministry of reconciliation is set forth in Jesus Christ." God sent forth His Son into the world to redeem us," (Galatians ch4. 4) and that was accomplished in the death of our Lord.
There are no greater words in the whole realm of literature, and no greater and more staggering truth in the universe than the concluding verse of 2nd Corinthians, chapter 5, -"Him Who knew no sin He (God) made to be sin for us." "Made sin" - Who shall fathom the depths of such a declaration? (Isaiah ch.53-6) puts it vividly when he declares: "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way and the Lord hath laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all." This then is God's ministry of reconciliation. He Himself has laid upon Jesus the iniquity of us all. He Himself made Jesus sin! You and I cannot lay our sins on Jesus; that is impossible. " I lay my sins on Jesus, " is a beautiful hymn, but no human being can do it. How God did it, how God made Jesus to be sin, we do not know, but the Scriptures declare He did! This then is God's gracious approach to us. He desires us to understand that when Jesus died on the Cross, He died because, in the depths of Divine mystery God was laying upon Him in death, the iniquity of us all. You are invited to contemplate this spectacle of Calvary, to give due considera-tion to God's interpretation of it. Taking the Scriptures as they stand we may ask: Was this reconciliation necessary? Has God misunderstood us? Is there in man any rebellion against God? Has God made a mistake in involving His Son in the shedding of blood when there was no need for it?
In the solemn contemplation of the cross the sense of sin, as perhaps never known before, will be established in the heart, unmistakable and real, causing the conscience to quiver: "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned." (Psalm ch51. 4.)
will now be the word. It means that we are recognising that the rupture between ourselves and God is a fact and for that rupture we are responsible. Conviction of sin is wrought in us by God in two ways. In actual experience God brings the conviction of sin to us by making us to see some outstanding sin in the life and then through that gateway of truth to make us see that sins proceed from a sinful nature, from a rebel will and a heart that loves sin and hates righteousness. All this will come upon the conscience in greater or less degree as we consider the deep mystery of the One made sin for us in death. This is repentance toward God and it is a unique repentance. Some people repent because of the unhappy plight into which their sin has brought them, and some towards a priest or confessor. Many repent in a casual way with the rest of the world, being no worse than others. Others repent in the recital of a creed and forthwith having declared themselves miserable sinners proceed to live precisely the same kind of life as they have done before. But repentance toward God is a repentance wrought in the heart of man as he looks upon the smitten body and the shed blood of Jesus and sees the awful rupture between the Father and the Son in death, the measure of the awful rupture between God and man.
THE RESPONSE OF FAITH
comes next. It is by this solemn shedding of blood that God reconciles me to Himself. Any judgments, offences, penalties that accrue from sin upon the sinner are by God diverted to His Son. I shall never have felt my sin so intensely as I do before this awful Sacrifice and yet I shall never have felt the mercy and love of God so keenly. Here is God stretching out His hand to me across the blood, across the blood of His Son. God declares that this shed blood atones for my sin. Can I believe God? Will I trust this Saviour in His saving act on Calvary for the eternal disposition of all my condition as a sinner? The real question will be: Dare I do otherwise? When once the conscience has been aroused to the conviction of sin in the sight of God, that salvation can alone bring peace, which is also in the sight of God. That means I look upon the work of God wrought out in the Person of Christ even unto death, and as a guilty sinner accept with repentance and humble thanksgiving this wonderful mercy and grace for me. I call Jesus, Saviour!
Results will surely follow : In the first place I know a deep secret. Every blessing comes from knowing what God has done, and then humbly and reverently accepting what He has done. Let the lesson be inscribed deeply on the heart. It is indeed a pearl of great price. Applying this truth I can now enter into some immediate blessings through faith. The first will be:
"Through this man is preached unto you forgiveness of sins" (Acts ch13. 38). Through this Man Jesus, and through no other man, no organisation, no denomination but through Jesus and Jesus only. Now the remission of sins is a blessing not to be missed. Until sins are remitted by God in the blood of His Son, not only is a man involved in their penalty but they continue to pollute his character. A sin, until it is remitted by God, continues its influence in time and throughout eternity in penalty, pollution and power and every man and woman proves that experimentally. No priest can do anything. His absolutions have no value. It is through this Man and this Man only that sin in its penalty, pollution and power can be entirely removed from the life. And here is the secret: whenever you think of your sin confess it, renounce it and thank God that Jesus died to bear away your sin. Always praise God for sins forgiven, just remember the secret. You know what God has done in Christ and you praise Him for it with a loving, trusting heart.
is another great result. " He that hath the Son hath the Life and he that hath not the Son of God hath not the Life." (1 John ch5. 12). Notice that the whole issue of life eternal is vested in the Son and not in any ecclesiastical organisation. He that is " in Christ" has eternal life. What is eternal life? It is the life that Jesus lives in heaven. It is a quality of life superior to human life in the same way that human life is superior to animal life. Supposing it were possible for you to speak to your dog and to offer him human life. You would expatiate upon its advantages over animal life. In the possession of human life one can read, enjoy music, contemplate beautiful pictures, and indeed the advantages are endless. But your little dog does not think so. He replies that he does not need to have this human life. He is known in all the road as being a delightful little dog, most refined, never quarrelling over bones, always seeing that his canine companions have their fair share, and, indeed he is in every respect much esteemed. Your little dog, you see, is thinking of himself in relation to other dogs and does not understand you are not proposing to make him a better dog, but to make him a new creation as a human being. There are many humans who make the same mistake. Whenever one speaks to them of salvation they think of their good works and what remarkable and outstanding folk they are, generally respected and esteemed. They do not understand that Christ died not to make them more respectable in the old creation but to make them a new creation. Men and women in whom there should be the present experience of eternal life wherein they should enjoy God and anticipate heaven and all its power and glory. When I receive Jesus as my Saviour and am reconciled to God, I also receive eternal life. It is the work of God wrought in Christ for me. I understand and believe, gratefully thanking God for eternal life in His Beloved Son. Finally, the blessing is
The rebel is reconciled, his rebellion is forgiven, and the judgment is remitted. But God does not leave it there. It is not merely acquittal; it is acceptance by God into the Divine family. We are redeemed that we might receive the adoption of sons (Galatians ch 4. 5). Having been redeemed by God's Only Begotten Son, I am brought into the same relationship to God as my Redeemer, whereby we cry " Abba Father." An eternal relationship is established which not even death itself can annul. Three things are operating in my sonship which perhaps I cannot explain, but which I know. What a wonderful love is the love of God to me! How much greater is that love now that I know how far away from God I was in all my smug self-righteousness, and how wondrous was His mercy in reaching right down to me! And what shall I say of the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me?
"My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine."
Words are altogether too inadequate as my heart meditates upon the blood that He shed, the death that He died for me. And with this love for God, so alien to my nature, a new awakening, indeed, is shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit. I am a new creation because through faith in His blood I am now in Christ. I am a Christian !
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, and by the grace of God I mean to be His!
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