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A Gate And A Path
Recognizing a number of such phases in the life and experience of a believer, we note now a further fact, namely that, though these phases do not necessarily occur always in a fixed and precise order, they seem to be marked by certain recurring steps or features. What are these steps? First there is revelation. As we have seen, this always precedes faith and experience. Through His Word God opens our eyes to the truth of some fact concerning His Son, and then only, as in Faith we accept that fact for ourselves, does it become actual as experience in our lives. Thus we have:
- Revelation (Objective).
- Experience (Subjective).
Then further, we note that such experience usually takes the two-fold form of a crisis leading to a continuous process. It is most helpful to think of this in terms of John Bunyan’s ‘wicket gate’ through which Christian entered upon a ‘narrow path’. Our Lord Jesus spoke of such a gate and a path leading unto life (Matt. 7:14), and experience accords with this. So now we have:
- A Wicket gate (Crisis)
- A narrow path (Process)
Now let us take some of the subjects we have been dealing with and see how this helps us to understand them. We will take first our justification and new birth. This begins with a revelation of the Lord Jesus in His atoning work for our sins on the Cross; there follows the crisis of repentance and faith (the wicket gate), whereby we are initially “made nigh” to God (Eph. 2:13); and this leads us into a walk of maintained fellowship with Him (the narrow path), for which the ground of our day-to-day access is still the precious Blood (Heb. 10:29, 22). When we come to deliverance from sin, we again have three steps: the Holy Spirit’s work of revelation, or ‘knowing’ (Rom. 6:6); the crisis of faith, or ‘reckoning’ (Rom. 6:11); and the continuing process of consecration, or ‘presenting ourselves’ to God (Rom. 6:13) on the basis of a walk in newness of life. Consider next the gift of the Holy Spirit. This too begins with a new ‘seeing’ of the Lord Jesus as exalted to the throne, which issues in the dual experience of the Spirit outpoured and the Spirit indwelling. Going a stage further, to the matter of pleasing God, we find again the need for spiritual illumination, that we may see the values of the Cross in regard to ‘the flesh’—the entire self-life of man. Our acceptance of this by faith leads at once to a ‘wicket gate’ experience (Rom. 7:25), in which we initially cease from ‘doing’ and accept by faith the mighty working of the life of Christ to satisfy God’s practical demands in us. This in turn leads us into the ‘narrow path’ of a walk in obedience to the Spirit (Rom. 8:4).
The picture is not identical in each case, and we must beware of forcing any rigid pattern upon the Holy Spirit’s working; but perhaps any new experience will come to us more or less on these lines. There will certainly always be first an opening of our eyes to some new aspect of Christ and His finished work, and then faith will open a gate into a pathway. Remember, too, that our division of Christian experience into various subjects: justification, new birth, the gift of the spirit, deliverance, sanctification, etc., is for our clearer understanding only. It does not mean that these stages must or will always follow one another in a certain prescribed order. In fact, if a full presentation of Christ and His Cross is made to us at the very outset, we may well step into a great deal of experience from the first day of our Christian life, even though the full explanation of much of it may follow later. Would that all Gospel preaching were of such a kind!
One thing is certain, that revelation will always precede faith. When we see something that God has done in Christ our natural response is: ‘Thank you, Lord !’ and faith follows spontaneously. Revelation is always the work of the Holy Spirit, who is given to come along-side and, by opening the Scriptures to us, to guide us into all the truth (John 16:13). Count upon Him, for He is here for that very thing; and when such difficulties as lack of understanding or lack of faith confront you, address those difficulties directly to the Lord: ‘Lord, open my eyes. Lord, make this new thing clear to me. Lord, help Thou my unbelief!’ He will not fail you.
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