Have You Accepted Christ As He
In this last chapter, as indeed throughout this book, I am not attempting to pose theological clarifications. Rather to clarify life itself, lived in an actual day-by-day personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Literally millions of persons have "accepted Jesus Christ" as their Saviour, and in my mind there is no question but that He has done His part in the strictly personal transaction between Himself and each individual. Wherever a human heart is open to the invasion of Christ, He comes. The new birth takes place. But I can't help wondering how many persons have, from their side, consciously accepted Christ as He really is.
As I speak with Christians from all walks of life, I am constantly haunted by the idea that many of them have entered into some taught concept of what salvation is. This is good, but to me it lacks the dynamic of the expectant heart which opens itself to an eternal friendship with a God who has seen to it that He is discoverable to everyone.
Perhaps I can illustrate this way: When a man and
woman are married, it is not the marriage that gives them fulfillment, it is the joy of belonging to each other. It is the exchanged life. It is the tremendous potential that lies ahead in being able, at last, to live together. To share conflicts, agreements, little personal secrets, meals, bills, leaking roofs, new cars, failures, successes, tears, laughter, sandy beaches in summer and dreams before a fire in winter. The dynamic lies in being able to share each other personally.
In one sense, the marriage itself is an explanation of why they are at last able to belong to each other. To me, doctrines of the atonement and redemption, while necessary, are explanations of why we are at last able to be with God in the close, strictly personal relationship He intended when He created us.
Salvation is necessary, but the Saviour Himself is the dynamic. This may shock some persons, but I have seldom thought about my own salvation. I have been far too occupied with the Saviour Himself.
I realize that many who read this book will be those who have recognized their own disturbed symptoms in the preceding chapter. Some may be angry and rebellious and accuse me of describing their agony from a cold heart when I suggested repentance for their off-center attitudes. Some may be too disturbed to be able to take in what I said without extreme emotional involvement, which always blinds us to ourselves. Panicky, hysterical, depressed persons are sick emotionally. I have experienced genuine depressed moods myself and I have seen them in others. I did not write from a cold heart, but from a heart utterly convinced that if a troubled human being, alone or with the help of an understanding counselor, will expose his own heart as it is to the heart of Christ as it is, healing will begin.
In no way do I minimize the genuine suffering of those who feel unloved and who give vent to their agony by
demanding attention and pleading for love from another human being. The need to be loved is without doubt the strongest drive in the human personality. When through circumstances we are deprived of the love we need, we are driven in one way or another to demand it.
But love that demands love in return never receives.
And here is the necessity for learning of Christ as He really is! Accepting Him realistically is the key that unlocks the door to the dynamic of a balanced, basically undisturbed personality for everyone.
As we learn the nature of God, we learn the nature of love. As we expose ourselves to His love, we find we are untangling at the center of our trouble areas. When we let Him love us all He wants to, we find ourselves learning how to show others the love that does not demand in return. Love that does not defend itself. Love that carries no grudges. Love that never tires of giving itself.
There is "no variableness, no shadow of turning" in God's love. Nothing that anyone can do or say or think can in any way alter the intensity and constancy of His love! His heart is every minute, under all circumstances, turned toward us. All of us.
I am convinced that He longs over and loves the most hardened heart in Communist Russia or China. I am convinced that He loves and yearns over the most ruthless convict in the death row of any prison. And I am convinced that He loves them each one as much as He loves me.
We as human beings cannot imitate the love of God in our daily lives. It is not a difference in degree between human love and God's love. It is a difference in kind. Human love, at its very best, thrives on response from the loved one. God's love would seem to thrive on suffering! From the Cross Jesus poured His love down upon His murderers because they needed it so much.
Human love, at its very best, is too often dependent
upon moods. God's love "is from everlasting to everlasting." Human love, at its very best, is in some measure exclusive. We find it easier to love those who agree with us, or who come from our background. God's love is all-inclusive. It is as wide as the stretched-out arms of Christ on the Cross.
As the mother finds it in her heart to give special attention to her crippled or retarded child, so God gives special attention to those whose needs are greater than the average.
Jesus said, "Bless are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Dr. Cramer would paraphrase it, "Congratulations" if you have a serious problem, a gigantic heartache, a disturbed personality! God guarantees you His personal attention. Congratulations to all those who are in dire need! God has singled you out for comfort. And comfort does not mean He will give you a Bible verse that will temporarily calm you down. True comfort means that you can be changed, readjusted, matured, so that you will be able to meet life more comfortably.
Unless we know this about God's character, it is no wonder that we go on as though our "salvation" had to do only with some dim, distant entrance into heaven. It does have to do with our life forever in His presence, but it also has to do with our daily problems and personality twists right now.
If you are suffering under a constant irritation from the rough edges of your personality in an abrasive relationship with the rough edges of someone else's personality perhaps under the same roof with you congratulations! You automatically have God's full attention.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ was for all the world, but it was also specifically for you right now, in your circumstances. He laid His heart bare on the Cross so that you could find out His true intentions toward you. If you have accepted Him as He is eagerly awaiting
your willingness to let Him take you over in your trouble, you will begin to experience the comfort He promised. In fact, I don't think the Beatitudes are promises. I believe them to be statements of fact about the potential of the human life in harmony with the life of God under difficult circumstances.
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as He is, the pain you experience now, for example, because of the ungrateful behavior of your child, will not be less, but in it you will see the willingness of God to show you your child's personality disturbance as He sees it. You will see the willingness of God to show you your own personality disturbance which prevents peace, as He sees it.
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as He is, you will know already that He is, at all times, realistic. Entrance into the Kingdom of God, if we go in with our eyes open to the true nature of the King, is entrance into reality.
Over and over I speak with persons who have "accepted Christ as their Saviour" sincerely, and yet lug along with them heavy loads of guilt for old sins and mistakes. I do not question the salvation of these persons. But I do believe they have not accepted Him as He is. They have not really seen God as Jesus showed Him to be on the Cross. If we have accepted Christ as He is, we have also accepted His forgiveness.
One deep look into the heart that was torn open on Calvary shows us irrevocably that He is forgiving God. Turn the word "forgive" around, and it reminds us that here is Someone who loved us enough to give for us His very life! Forgiveness is a part of the very nature of God Himself. Just as love is. There is no love apart from forgiveness. If we still feel guilt, we are declaring God to be unloving.
To carry guilt brings great pain and suffering. And when we are in pain, we resent having our pain treated realistically. We prefer sympathy and mere words of
comfort. God does not mistreat us with this kind of easy pampering. He wants us to be healed. And so, to you who still carry guilt feelings even after you have linked your life with the life of Christ, He says, "If you cling to this guilt after what I have done for you, you doubt My love. I have gone all the way to show you what I am really like. Please look, my child. Please look!"
Obviously God came in the Person of Jesus Christ so that we could be reunited with Him for all eternity. But this reuniting begins now. Jesus didn't go about urging people to come to Him in order that they could be given an eternal insurance policy. This is part of it, but His emphasis is always on Himself. On His Person. He didn't declare, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me," so that orthodox Christianity would have a proof text! He said it because He knew that once men and women saw Him as He is, they would be unable to turn away from Him.
I do not believe that I will spend eternity in His Presence because that is one of the tenets of the orthodox Christian faith. I believe it because of what I have learned about the character of the One who said it.
I do not believe that if I will be honest with Him in the realization of my needs, He will be able to cope with the twists in my personality merely because I have read the Beatitudes. I believe it because of what I have learned about the nature and intentions of the One who voiced them.
I do not believe I am forgiven because of a theological statement about the atoning work of Jesus Christ. I believe I am forgiven because of what I have learned of the heart of the One who made the atonement possible.
My spiritual certainties are not due to some special religious agility on my part. They are due to my continuing discovery of what God is really like in Jesus Christ.
My prayer life is effective, but not because I am, by
nature, diligent. In fact, I find it just as difficult as you do to take time from a busy schedule. But my prayer life deepens and I begin to understand the meaning of unceasing prayer, as I continue my discovery of the nature of the One to whom I pray.
In her excellent book, Prayer Conversing with God, Rosalind Rinker writes, "Prayer is a dialogue between two persons who love each other."1
As I realize His love for me, I find myself returning my love to Him with no conscious effort on my part. He draws love from me because of what He is like. And when I love, I find myself longing to converse with my loved one. I pray because of what I know Jesus Christ to be like. I have found Someone who not only hears and understands, but who can do something about my situation, and my human nature.
Constantly, Christians are urged to witness for Jesus Christ. I have never understood the necessity for this urging. I fully understand the necessity for witnessing, but if we have accepted Him as He is, if we really see His nature, His intentions toward us, His heart how can we not talk about Him? I find that He walks quite naturally into almost any conversation. No virtue or special zeal is required of me. I am merely convinced of who He is and of what He is like.
I have no idea how many persons have met Christ through some word of mine. I do not keep myself whipped up into a bundle of taut nerves in an effort to win people to Jesus Christ. I have begun, at least, to see something of His intense desire to have them as His own. He makes the openings and, when He makes them, they are openings into hearts. Not mere opportunities for me to talk.
Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as He is are natural people at last. It has been said that once we have been invaded by the supernatural, through the Spirit of
Christ, we are, at last, truly natural. I believe this. I have experienced it. Those who have accepted Christ as He is are not tense and tired, nor tiring. The Christ-adjusted personality is calm and sure and contagious.
He did not say, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you sleepless nights and anxiety over winning souls." He said, "Come unto me... and I will give you rest." He did not say, "My yoke will drag you along at a break-neck speed and my burden will lay on you the responsibility for winning everyone you meet." He said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."
I have discovered, in my own life at least, that many more people are attracted to Christ since I have taken His advice and learned more of Him as He is. Human hearts resist pressure from another human being. But the Spirit of Christ moves quietly and deeply, with the sure motion of eternity. Only He knows how to open hearts to Himself.
I am aware that there will be many who read this book who have not accepted Jesus Christ at all.
Perhaps you are one of these. Perhaps, by now, you too have found reality in His words, "I, if I be lifted up... will draw all men unto me."
Perhaps you now want to belong to Him.
If you do, you can be sure that your desire to enter into this glorious relationship is His doing! Even the restless longing in your heart is inspired by Christ. You want Him because He has at last gotten through to you with the intense longing in His own heart over you, personally.
If you are aware of His love for you, if your heart has been stirred to respond to this love, your first conscious response is all that remains to be done. Right now, as you are, wherever you are, you can begin to respond to Jesus Christ. You may want to put it into words. You may want to cry out to Him, "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief!" You may want to tell Him in words that you have
seen the futility of living your life cut off from His life. You may want to express in words to Him your "godly sorrow" for your sins. This is a relieving thing to do. But if you are experiencing repentance in your heart as you are there with Him now, He knows it.
Perhaps you have never prayed before. Prayer is no particular art. It is merely talking to the One who has loved you from the beginning. You can feel at home with Him. Express yourself any way that seems natural to you. It is the intention of your heart that matters, and He knows your heart exactly as it is. He knows the depths of your need. The depths of your sin. And He knows the depths of your sincerity toward Him.
If you feel a desire to turn to this Christ of the Cross now, you can be sure that in you is already the power to do it. He has seen to this. If you feel an inward struggle, it will not mean that He is resisting you. He is love, and as love, He is always in motion toward you. Becoming a Christian has been described as, "shifting the central confidence of our lives from ourselves to the Person of Jesus Christ." This you alone can do. You can begin now, to rest your case all of it, with Him.
If only the word "yes" escapes your lips, that is enough. If only your heart begins to agree with Him, that is enough.
And when you accept Him, accept Him as He is, knowing that He has accepted you, exactly as you are. The moment you begin, by faith, to walk with Him, you can be absolutely sure that He has begun with you. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man will open the door, I will come in."
Any human heart who sees Christ at last as God Himself, with His arm stretched out on the Cross for love of us, has only to say, "Lord, thank You for having become forever personally involved with me. From now on, by
Your grace, I mean to be forever personally involved with You."
At this moment of turning, there begins eternal life.
There begins the integration of a once divided heart.
There begins the promised new life.
There begins the end of the lonely way.
There begins the strictly personal relationship with the One who Himself is the beginning and the end.
There begins the great adventure of discovering God as He really is in Jesus Christ.
There begins the transforming friendship with God Himself.
And, at this expectant moment, the invaded heart now hears and recognizes the Voice of the One who says, "I no longer call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is working out; but I have called you friends... You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you to go out and produce fruit and keep on producing, so that whatever you may ask the Father in My name He may grant you."
"I will certainly not cast out anyone who comes to Me."
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