*** This article is an expansion and continuation of an original piece published on LifeBrook back in November, 2010. Parts Two and Three are to follow during early March.
As we deepen our spiritual practice, one of the most accurate ways to gauge our progress is to measure our sensitivity to our surroundings. Are we becoming more mindful? Are we able to discern patterns, themes, and the presence of the Divine in ways that we couldn’t before? Are we generally more alert to what is coming in through our senses? Especially, are we better able to see the genuine needs of others and respond in ways that are both effective and empowering? The ways in which we answer these kinds of questions will reveal much in terms of our overall progress on the spiritual journey. Wayne Teasdale, in his book A Monk in the World tells us:
The person with a contemplative attitude, whose life is shaped by its demanding discipline, shows a wonderful sensitivity to everyone and everything. It is a sensitivity born out of an awakened capacity for union with God. Everything, every person and situation, becomes an occasion for communion with the mystery in the silence of the heart. Alert, attentive, receptive and responsive, the contemplative person is awake to the possibility of communion with the source in every action.
Alert – attentive – receptive – responsive – these descriptive terms used by Wayne Teasdale accurately portray the presence of a mindful, spiritually mature human being. In essence, as we mature we are becoming increasingly aware of the ways and wisdom of God. Moreover, we are better able to accept, internalize, and manifest that wisdom in our daily lives. If we are not becoming beings that consistently exhibit these holy characteristics, something is amiss in our spiritual journey and it is important to discover the problem and rectify it.
I have found that Christian meditative practices in general and the varied methods of contemplative prayer to be excellent tools, enabling an individual to come to a receptive, open state which allows one to hear or feel the leadings of the Holy Spirit. The more sensitive and discerning we become in these matters, and the more skilled we become at finding and resting in the Sacred Silence, the more clarity we can possess when it comes to recognizing the communication and wisdom of the Indwelling Christ.
When the Master walked the earth he did not do so as an autonomous agent. Instead, he spoke, taught, and acted only as directed by the voice of his Father, stating clearly that “I can of myself do nothing” (John 5:30). Repeatedly, Jesus spoke to his disciples on this theme of divine dependence. Over and over he emphasized that his life was not his own. Instead, his life was a clear vessel through which his Father lived.
Whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19)
I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30)
I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. (John 8:28)
In relation to his teachings, Jesus was very direct regarding the source of his message. He even went so far as to say that the Father not only told him what to say, but how to say it!
For I do not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. (John 12:29)
Although some theologians have lofty speculations as to the nature of the intimate nature of the relationship between the triune aspects of God, in my mind this remains a mystery. The fact that it is a mystery, however, in no way makes it any less true or significant. What is important is for us to realize that it is precisely this kind of divine intimacy that Jesus now expects to have with us. Just as he was intimate with the Father and spoke only as directed by the Father, Jesus now indwells us and wants to live through is just as the Father of Lights lived through him. Whenever I contemplate these mysteries, I am reminded of the Master’s words in the great prayer of John 17:
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you who sent me (John 17:20-21 NLT).
After praying that all disciples throughout the ages be blessed with the same kind of intimacy that exists between himself and the Father, in the next verse Jesus speaks clearly about how this is to be manifested:
I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me.
In these verses scripture reveals that we now are related to Christ in a way that he was related to the Father. “I am in them and you are in me.” Putting this together with what we discussed earlier about how Christ lived his life on earth as an open channel through which the Father could live, the implications for our lives should be clear.
We should live our lives as open channels through which Christ may live on earth. When Paul talks about the church being the “Body of Christ,” he is not speaking symbolically. In a very real way each of us, as believers, serve as a body for Christ. It is not enough that we strive to imitate Christ or ask ourselves what Jesus would do. We need to become open, receptive, and willing vehicles that the energy of Christ can use to establish his kingdom right here on earth, right now.
For the first disciples there was a special moment when everything changed in terms of their relationship with both Christ and the Father. And subsequently, it was an equally special moment for all believers that followed. Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola provide a vivid description of this moment in their book, Jesus Manifesto:
The glory of the gospel is that we who are fallen, tarnished, and marred have been invited to live our lives in the exact same way that Jesus lived His life: by an indwelling Lord.
Let’s go back to resurrection day. It is evening. Jesus appears to ten fearful men in a sealed room. He penetrates the door and stands before them.
The Lord bids them peace, and then He takes a deep breath. As a resurrected, life-giving Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ breathes into these men the wind of God’s own life.
Behold we show you a mystery: Just as God the Father lived in Jesus, so now God the Son will begin to live in these ten men. The “only begotten” has now become “the firstborn among many brethren,” and God is now the Father of these disciples.
Leonard and Viola make the point that from that moment on things underwent a powerful transformation in the lives of the disciples. Whereas before Jesus breathed this divine life into them they were operating under their own power, afterwards they lived in the same manner that Jesus lived – “by the power of an indwelling Lord.” In other words, just as we discussed above, these early disciples became living vessels through which the Master continued to live. The authors then state the clear point of all this:
What the Father was to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is to you. He’s your indwelling Lord. When the veil of the temple was ripped from top to bottom, He got out and we got in……………Because all the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell in Christ, the Father and the Spirit are also pleased to dwell in you. As amazing as it sounds, the entire Trinitarian community has taken up residence inside of you……You, then, are the victim of a divine conspiracy. You have become the habitat of the living God.
The Living God now has his residence in each and every one of his children. Our job is to arrange our lives in such a way that we can become more aware of and sensitive to the voice of the Lord as he speaks to us in whatever way he chooses. I have found that the Master speaks in myriad ways – sometimes I discern his presence while resting in the Sacred Silence while at other times he might speak to me through holy scripture or the work of spiritual writers. There are times he speaks through the actions and words of others and I have also found that some of his clearest messages come through the media of the natural world.
To be continued……..
(c) L.D. Turner 2011/All Rights Reserved
- Spiritual Maturity: Sensitivity to God’s Ways and Wisdom (lifebrook.wordpress.com)