agape, becoming one, church, ecstasy, eros, experience, God's love, heart, homosexuality, intimacy, love, Martin Luther, Michael Clark, Michael Lazio, prayer, prayer of love, resisting temptation, spiritual power
If we still lived in Old Covenantal times, we could easily enter God’s house of prayer today by attending a church meeting in a visible building. Of course, I do not deny that Christians in churches do pray, too, but I want to clarify which prayer our prayer life should mainly consist of in New Covenantal times.
As Jesus cleansed the temple by driving out the merchants who sold animals and those who changed money, He surely made them angry. Shortly afterwards, the Jews certainly thought that Jesus was insane when they asked Him,
“What sign do you show us for doing these things?” (Jn 2:18 ESV)
and He only answered,
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn 2:19 ESV)
Today we know more than the Jews at that time because we have the Bible and read there that Jesus was “speaking about the temple of his body.” (Jn 2:21 ESV) Since we are all Jesus’ brothers and sisters, Paul reminds us that we, too, are (to be) God’s temple. Paul asked the Corinthians,
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20 ESV)
A bit further above, the apostle utters two amazing statements. He says, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” (1 Cor 6:13 ESV) and “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (1 Cor 6:17-18 ESV) [Colored emphasis mine]
It is interesting to see how much success churches have had in the past with directing our thoughts legalistically merely to the sins – here sexual immorality – by simultaneously neglecting the context. You can find it everywhere in extremely legalistic circles where you can only hear about what you are NOT allowed to do and which kinds of people ought to be excluded from church membership. But have you ever heard why sexual immorality is so often mentioned in the New Testament? Did anyone tell you what made Paul speak rather often about it? What might have been his reasons to do so?
Well, he surely did not so because he wanted to exclude someone from fellowship. Basically, Paul’s gospel message had to be preached to the Gentiles who mostly were not familiar with the Jewish Law and did not know what God told the Hebrews about sexual immorality and related kinds of “misbehavior”. The Gentiles were not to keep the Law but merely to do what Peter said here,
“Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20 ESV)
Certainly, today we are not in danger of being confronted with those other sins mentioned above. What remains is only abstaining from sexual immorality. Hmm…again…why? If you remember those verses I highlighted in 1 Cor 6:17-18, here they are without the rest of that Scripture once again,
“The body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body. He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”
Becoming one spirit with the Lord means nothing else but knowing God. God’s Love (agape) is often referred to as knowing God in the Bible, for example here.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (Jn 17:3 ESV)
“…we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” (1 Cor 8:1-3 ESV) [Colored emphasis added]
With regard to the meaning of the word know, i.e., becoming ONE in an erotic sense, I’d like to point to one of Michael Clark’s responses on his own blog where he aptly explained it (cf. http://awildernessvoice.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/two-or-three-intimacy-in-christ/comment-page-1/#comment-1597).
Indeed, the Church has always had her theologians who knew the meaning of the Greek word γινώσκω (ginōskō) as becoming one in the flesh. That is no mystery in itself. The mystery begins when we experience that God’s love exceedingly transcends all our hopes and imagination. Jesus was as the first human being on earth who was already one with His Father – in the Holy Spirit.
As for our human spirit, it is not only “the mind” as some might think. Our spirit is also deeply connected to our soul and our body. Therefore, when God makes us one with Himself by pouring Christ’s Spirit into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5), we may experience that God’s love not only satisfies our souls, but also our bodies in a way that makes us, finally, free from any sexual desire regarding the flesh (see Gal 5:24). That means, sexual immorality is no longer a temptation for those who have been empowered by God to walk in the Spirit continually. Just for clarification, it is not so that God would free us by taking away what every human being might need, instead, He gives us something better than this because oneness in the spirit includes our WHOLE being (body, mind, and soul) which will be completely satisfied by God’s overwhelming love.
Now we may assume why Jesus was not married, the apostle Paul, and others later, those mystics for example who founded monasteries and could easily live a celibate life as their every desire had been fulfilled by God Himself.
Alas, esp. the RCC made a rule out of something which was God-given and forced priests to live such a life, too. No wonder that they often failed unless they KNEW God. As for homosexuals, it is the same today. Whether we give attention to the liberals who say that it is okay to live a homosexual life or to the conservatives who try to “change” homosexuals by condemning their desire of which they cannot be freed unless they have experienced Christ’s love themselves, all these attempts of “redemption” by ignoring our heart’s desire to be perfectly loved are simply approaches of the human mind that does not know God’s overwhelming agape love – yet. There seem to be only two possibilities in church when Christians do not know God: Either preachers promote living a licentious life or they crush those poor people sitting in the pews with the Law which no human being can fulfill. None of these alternatives will ever work and draw people closer to God. Instead, believers remain captured either in acting out or on denying their desires. However, only God’s Spirit can fulfill our EVERY desire, for it is written,
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps 37:4 ESV)
“[…] O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Ps 63:2 ESV)
[The bride says] “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” (Songs 7:10 ESV)
By the way, Martin Luther translated the word “desire” (in Ps 37:4) with “lust” [„Lust“ in German] which could make the true (spiritual!) nature of our intimate love relationship with God a bit more clear, too.
Finally, back to prayer….. 😉 I like to call that prayer where God meets my heart’s desires when I am alone with Him the prayer of love (aka as “worshipping God in Spirit and Truth”, cf. Jn 4:23-24). There I may meet God, the lover of our souls (i.e. spiritual bodies), and enjoy His loving embraces. Furthermore, I receive His love while praying in order to share it afterwards with those who do not know Him that well – yet…..
As a confirmation of what God has shown me in those many years I have been blessed to “know” Him, I’ll give you an excerpt from Michael Lazio which I found yesterday on the net.
Why would Jesus refer to His house as a House of Prayer?
First of all, Christ himself was a house of prayer and he was teaching his disciples to become one by modeling this for them when He continually withdrew and was talking with His Father and drawing strength from that intimate relationship He had in heaven. This same intimate relationship is one we can have because Jesus Christ came and hung on a cross to pay the price for us with his life, a perfect sacrifice shedding His blood for the forgiveness of all of our sins (John 3:16-17) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
Remember, the Father in heaven sent His Son, Jesus Christ to be born of the virgin Mary, through the Holy Spirit, as a child to live with a real earthly mother, father and family and experience life as we know it. Think about it this way. As a child you have an intimate relationship with your earthly father or mother and you want to be around them and you depend upon them for certain things like food, clothing, a home to live in, and all the good things you like and need. Well, even though Jesus had those earthly parents, He came from heaven and longed for the intimate relationship with His Father in heaven. Prayer was that connection of intimacy that He left behind when He came to earth. He was modeling this for His disciples, and for us to follow, as He restored the relationship for us with the Father by His death, burial and resurrection.
There was such a longing in Jesus’ heart for heaven even though he lived as a man on this earth. Philippians 3:20 puts it this way, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the thing Jesus longed for while He was here upon the earth because He came from heaven and knew He would be returning there upon His resurrection. So, you see, even though we live on this earth and live out our lives here, as we give our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ to become Savior and Lord we then also become citizens of heaven as we are restored to our Heavenly Father.
Michael Lazio, Senior pastor
Bethel House of Prayer
(You can read more here http://bethelhouseofprayer.com/about/what-is-a-house-of-prayer/)