The Christian Experience Simply Put
As with Jeremiah, the same can be said of every sensible sinner:
“The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: and with longing kindness have I DRAWN thee.”
It is from this everlasting love that God moved to save such wretched sinners. As he said of Ephraim, His work is the moving cause of salvation:
“I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: TURN THOU ME, and I SHALL be turned; for Thou art the Lord my God. Surely AFTER that I was turned, I REPENTED; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth”
If one would look closely at the order and arrangement of this text, one should be able to see the Christian experience laid out consistently with what every quickened child of God has experienced. First, God moves in the quickening of sinners, giving them eternal life. He applies the law, thus chastening him for sins, and the sinner now desires that God turn him. He cannot turn from what he is by nature. So he begs God to turn him. He recognizes the effectual work of God’s Almighty power as necessary: “Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned!”
There is no dispute here. If God turns a man, that man is turned!
The reason he is turned is because the “Lord is my God.”
God is GOD, and He surely can turn whomsoever He will.
But what follows next?
“After that I was turned, I repented.” That is totally reversed from the order modern religions teach. They teach that if you would but repent, God then would turn you, or let you turn yourself!
But that, simply put, is contrary to experience. Since a man is born “dead in trespasses and sins,” he is unable to turn himself, and also unable to evangelically repent. But when God turns him he most certainly will repent, for repentance is God’s work too!
“Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for TO GIVE repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”
Again, upon the report of Peter to the church at Antioch, the church rejoiced and “glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).
Paul rebuked natural men for “not knowing that the goodness of God LEADETH THEE to REPENTANCE” (Romans 2:4).
Are you then a feeling sinner?
Has God chastened you to feel as if you were a stubborn bull unaccustomed to the ox-yoke?
You just cannot do good, but are condemned for not doing it?
There is solid comfort here if the answers to these questions are “Yes.”
One of the earliest declarations of our Lord Jesus was this:
“I will have mercy, and NOT sacrifice, for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to REPENTANCE.”
Why would our Lord reject sacrifices?
Sacrifices were commanded of Israel. The reason is to display His MERCY.
And how is His mercy displayed? by calling SINNERS, rather than self-righteous folk, to repentance. The Lord “delights in mercy.” It is one of His sweetest attributes, or characteristics. If He made salvation, whether faith or repentance, to be conditional, then the “righteous” would have it.
Ten thousands times no!
He made it a matter of His own sweet mercy!
He does the chastening; He does the turning; He gives the results: repentance; and He does it to and for sinners!
What solid comfort this is to a believing sinner.
No wonder the saints love to sing of His free grace and mercy!
While “repentance and remission of sins is to be preached unto all nations,” it is never to be predicated on creature merit. Christ is the Savior of sinners; not repentance or faith the savior of sinners. All of the above flows from God’s everlasting love and loving kindness. We now move to the topic as it is applied to experience.
The one prerequisite for all Gospel benefits is spiritual life within an individual.
Without spiritual life, he cannot believe.
Without life, he cannot evangelically repent.
Without life, he cannot know he is a wretched miserable sinner.
Without life, he cannot “hear the joyful sounds” of the Gospel.
Without life, he cannot mourn over his sins. Without life, he cannot see any real need for Christ.
Without life, simply put, HE IS DEAD, SPIRITUALLY.
Life, then, must precede all these things “which accompany salvation.”
And, from whence comes this LIFE?
Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:3). Or, “Ye must be born from above” (center margin.)
As in John 1:13, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of GOD.”
It makes perfectly good sense to an informed Christian. Your father and mother brought you into this world. They were natural, and so are you. Bovines have calves, but goats don’t. If you are ever to be spiritual, you must have a spiritual birth. Your Father must be spiritual. So you come into this new life by a spiritual begetting and birth; and whoever begat you and brought you forth unto spiritual life, is your spiritual and heavenly Father! For the God of all grace to give this life to one, that life must be in Christ’ seed, for it is the “incorruptible seed, the word of God that liveth and abideth forever” (I Peter 1:23), that begets one to eternal and everlasting life. And this life has always been “is hid in Christ in God.”
But of concern by many poor sinners is the question, “Am I His or am I not”?
Are there any indicators by which one may find comfort?
Yes. Jesus said, “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, HATH EVERLASTING LIFE” ( John 5:24).
That is good evidence. Notice that it did not say that if you believed that you would receive everlasting life.
He is showing one that he already has everlasting life!
“Faith is the substance of the things hope for; the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Paul spent much of his time in the seventh chapter of Romans on this very subject. It is worth reading many times over.
Are you alive, or are you dead?
Perhaps your comfort can be found there.
“I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, SIN REVIVED, AND I DIED.”
Have you been there?
Again, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that I do.” Has he described you yet? By his own experience, the fact that he did those things which he otherwise would not do, he had a witness that the law was good. But he also realized something else. If he was actually doing those things that he would not do, then something else was doing it. And that something else was “but sin that dwelleth in me” (Romans 7:20).
Are you with him yet?
He explained it further, saying: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Romans 7:21). If he has reached your condition, then take comfort that these give evidences of spiritual life within you.
With the commencement of that spiritual life within one who was previously dead in trespasses and sins, there also begins a spiritual warfare. Comfort can also be found with that experience, even if it a trying experience.
“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would”
Is this clash of positive and negative forces in you?
That would be good news, for surely if the Spirit is not within one, that description would be invalid. It is a mark of God’s living children.
We have presented the work of Christ for sinners, as well as the Father’s sovereign decree in salvation. When viewing the experimental work within the child of God, we are expressly concerned with the Holy Spirit’s work. Jesus promised the Spirit as a Comforter, saying:
“I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide WITH you forever, even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth WITH you, and shall be IN YOU.”
Now there is a contrast made here. The child of God has the Spirit of truth, whereas the world does not. We would not conclude that everyone with a head-knowledge of the five points of grace is saved, but we can say that if they love and cherish such precious truth, then grace is dwelling within them.
The living child of God has an “infirmity” in praying. The world can say a “prayer” at a football game, beer joint, sick bed, or anywhere and at any time they wish. But the infirmity in prayer makes a child of God totally dependent upon God, even for his prayers.
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
In your experience, are you there?
Is your prayer-life easy and at any time?
Or must you wait for the unction of the Spirit to indict your heart before God?
Such individuals are “poor in spirit,” and our Lord promised that such were “blessed” already. Simply put, being poor in spirit is an evidence of one’s blessed state.
Is that your present state?
Then take comfort in it.
Another good test of one’s sonship may be by looking within with the most basic and honest examination:
What are my values?
What are those things I really honestly prize deep within?
Well, you might say, “I prize righteousness and as Lot, am vexed daily by the unrighteousness of the wicked.”
How is that weighed by the Lord?
“Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness. . .”
Is that what you are saying?
You hunger and thirst after it. If you do, again, our Lord said you were “blessed” already. It too, simply put, is an evidence of one’s sonship. But the Lord’s answer should be of even more comfort. That is, “for they shall be filled.” You’ll never attain it in your flesh, or outward man, in this present life; but in the spiritual creature within, that “inner man,” you have a perfect righteousness imputed to you by the faith of Christ Jesus. His righteousness is yours and that by a free gift of God.
That is as “full” of righteousness as one can be!
There is another precious work within God’s people that can be of comfort to a living trembling sinner. God’s people invariably mourn over their sinfulness. It is one of the most cutting of their experiences. They are “dead to sin,” but find that sin is not dead to them. It confronts them daily, and is the most troubling experience to test their faith. Sin dwells within their flesh, and sin grieves their spirit without. Sin is ever present with them, which gives them no rest day or night. Their rest can only be in Christ Jesus and His sustaining presence. They do, unlike the happy-go-lucky man-made “Christian,” mourn over their awful condition in the flesh. But here, too, the Lord’s words are of great solace:
“Blessed ARE they that mourn: for they SHALL be comforted.”
So again, simply put, mourning over sin is an evidence of one’s blessed state. It is from this condition that the Lord promised they would be comforted, for He is ever their strength and shield. He delights to help those who mourn and in comforting them, He thereby proves His love for them.
So, dear “Theophilus,” (“Theophilus” means: “a friend of God” in the Greek), may you find your comfort in the Lord and the precious work of the Holy Spirit within. There is your rest, which remains for the people of God. Christ is your Sabbath, or rest, and you enter into that rest, when you cease from your own labor as He ceased from His. May the eternal God graciously bless you and all His elect people among whom you live.
By Stanley C. Phillips