I use the term “scientist” in this blog to describe a Christian(s) who possesses a modern mindset that focus’ solely on intellectual ascent as faith. While not admitting it to themselves or anyone else aloud, they really believes that any subjective Christian experience is superstition rooted in Charismaticism on the one hand or Roman Catholic Mysticism on the other. It is the product of the modern scientific worldview that has been recently brought over into the Christian Faith. Pre-enlightenment Christians (including the reformers who were at the dawn of the enlightenment) who believed in a Spiritual World beyond our own would not have understood how we ever reached this conclusion. Nor do I believe that they would recognize much of what goes under the banner of evangelical Christianity as distinctly Christian. I believe they would rightly see it for what it is, a thinly veiled deism rooted in a materialistic understanding of the World. A man-made religion with the fear of man as it’s cornerstone not the Son of God.
In part one of this series we called ourselves to consider whether or not we really believe in a spiritual realm. If we are scientists and materialists we really don’t. All there is, is all that we can see. Life is empirical. If I can’t hear it, taste it, touch it, smell it, and see it then it isn’t. This belief has come from the science lab not the Scriptures. Reformed Christians in particular tend to shy away from subjective experience believing falsely that it is either rooted in Charismaticsm on the one hand or Roman Mysticism on the other. We tend to be very academic. This has had a devastating effect on the church’s ability to pass the faith from one generation to another. As our children grew up in a scientific world we fed them a science-like faith made up of propositional doctrine only (I said only). And since our claims can’t be empirically proved but MUST be subjectively experienced (think “you must be born again”) it has been discarded as superstition no matter how well organized our statements of faith have become. The belief that there is another world and that the spiritual realm can be experienced by the Christian in this life is of paramount importance. It is the antidote to the plague of the scientific that has come upon us. The tide will never be turned by academics. Love good reformed theology. Read good reformed theology. Know propositional theology, I do. But love and know God more. He is a being not a set of propositions. Propositions are important for our understanding of salvation and growing in faith but God saves and sanctifies by His Spirit. His Spirit applies the objective truth of the Word subjectively and really to our whole person.
In part two I tried to get very practical. I basically asked, “What is the real center of your life?” What does your life revolve around as the planets do the sun? Was it communion with God daily and weekly? If not, then Jesus really didn’t have the “pre-eminence”. In order to give Him His proper place in our life the Christian needs a very important device, a day planner. I’m kidding. But not really. Discipleship and Discipline have the same root. Disciples of Jesus live intentional lives following Him daily. Intentionally scheduling our communion with God is a first step to building the discipline of communion into our lives. Once we begin to frequent the Throne Room of God the place grows sweeter to us and we find that our scheduled communion over flows the banks of our soul and floods the other areas of our life with His Presence. Truly believing that there is a spiritual Mt Zion (Hebrews 12:22) is one key, but frequenting Mount Zion is another. Communion with God in the Spirit is an indispensable part of the Christian life. If Christians would give a one-tenth of the time to communion with God that they give to church growth strategies much of what ails the modern church would fall away. No amount of strategy is going to get people to take up a cross and follow Jesus to an execution. But if they once could experience His goodness and beauty they’d do it in a second.
Now I’d like to delve a little further into what occurs in the life of a believer when he/she begins to commune with God on a frequent basis in order to know Him as a being. First God honors their faith by revealing himself to them.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Faith lays hold of the Throne of God and one of the aspects of Biblical faith is that the believer is convinced that God rewards those who seek Him. But rewards them with what? Cash? Cadilacs? No. Himself. He reveals himself to those that seek Him. The Psalmist had come to know this truth. He says, “The Lord is my portion;” (Psalm 119:57) The first blessing then is that God in the Holy Spirit comes to human persons and fellowships with them. They experience Him one being to another. I’m not going to describe it. I have had no visions and I hear no booming clear voices. But man was made in His image. We are not animals. There is a part of us that is like Him to the extent that it can know Him. Because of it unregenerate persons are without excuse because they can perceive His existence, goodness, and Godhead through the observation of Creation but choose to suppress the truth in a grand lie. If unregenerate persons can know He exists, regenerate persons can know Him in much more than just by observable theistic evidences. Giving a head nod to the evidence of God’s existence or to Jesus’ historical resurrection is not knowing God. It is knowing facts about God. The Bible tells us that we can know Him as one person can know another person.
John 14:18-23; 26-27
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
The Holy Spirit’s dominant role is to reveal in a subjective way that Jesus is Lord. That Jesus has life. That Jesus gives life and peace to human persons. That the Bible is true. That God’s Law is Holy. All the ancient creeds referred to the Holy Spirit as Jesus did, with a personal pronoun. The Scriptures ascribe being to God in Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and these terms are in general relational in nature. The key for the Christian to understand is this, that a personal knowledge of God comes to us in the same way all true interpersonal knowledge comes to us. Through prolonged discourse and personal interaction with another person. In this case that person is THE PERSON, the Fountain of all persons. A Spirit that in some mysterious way you yourself are uniquely created in the image of, and that has given a spiritual life to you that not all men possess.
The second thing that occurs in the believer’s life is that we become aware of our sinful selves. That’s not a bad thing, though admittedly it can bring some difficulty into our lives. The difficulty it brings is trying, like forged metal releases scale (impurities) when hammered on an anvil, so does the heat of the Lord’s Presence cause our impurities to come to the surface to be hammered away on the anvil of communion. The more we come to know God the more we desire to be like Him, while at the same time, the more we also realize that we are not like Him. The rabbit hole of our impurities is deeper than we ever imagined.
When one becomes a believer in Christ and surrenders to the work of the cross he is surrendering to essentially two works. One is the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The second is the subjective work of the Holy Spirit to form us into the image of Christ himself. Both involve the Cross, one is a glorious moment of objective judicial clearing, being made completely innocent before God’s bar of justice. The other is a refining process that lasts the whole life through but that is worth every minute. It brings us the satisfaction we were created to have but that we lack because of the effects of sin. Humans are unhappy because they are fallen. They are both guilty of sin and unrighteous in life. Redemption is a clearing of our guilt and the forming of our life into a righteous one, not perfectly, but in actuality. This is difficult because of remaining sin but it is truly satisfying because righteousness is what we were created to be and do.
Communion with the Divine is where humans are changed, not in the class room setting.
2 Corinthians 3:18
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Doctrine is good and accuracy in theological truth is to be sought after, and if we are to be successful as a student, accomplished. But doctrine, if it is rightly understood, should bring you into greater personal experience of the Divine. If it just makes you a better apologist, or if it causes you to spend significant time on the internet arguing about the Faith with other people in the Faith who are 98% the same as you in all the dogmas, then you might have an intellectual obsession that you’ve confused with faith. If that’s the case, it could be a millstone around your neck.
Communion with God is where He reveals himself to you, and connected to that, He also reveals you to you. There you find the image you are to be formed into. There you will find, if you dare go there unveiled (without works of the law that you have done) that the heat (forge) you need and the solid object (anvil) you need to be hammered (Word) on to remove the impurities out of the iron of your being are both one and the same, God himself. For iron to be purified and shaped it has to come into contact with both.
Blessings! Look for Communion With God: Overcoming Resistance Part 4 next week