awakened, being born again, darkness, discerning the spirits, encouragement, eternal life, exhortation, experience, experiencing eternal life, fellowship, Fellowship with God, God's love, Jesus Christ, light, Oneness, Paul Schuberth, Satan, sin, T.A. Sparks, the new self, the old self
This is not a new post. I put this article as a featured blog entry before all others on my home page since after rereading, I just found out that this writing expresses now, more than one year later, a lot of what I have been going through since then. As for publishing new and inspired blog posts, I will have to wait for Him to inspire me once again in the days ahead, whenever that may be. 😉
Lately I began to wonder when this seemingly endless process of dying to self finally would be over. To be completely honest with you, I had given up any hope of ever seeing His light again, just as the apostle Paul said here, “… we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor 1:8-9 ESV) Just now as I checked the context of these verses, I saw some encouragement I unintentionally had ignored before. Paul wrote there,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” (2 Cor 1:3-7 ESV)
The apostle told us here that we all have to go through the same sufferings. However, if we endure these God-ordained pains, we will be able to comfort those who are afflicted by God, too. In fact, we can only share this particular comfort we have received from God in our own afflictions before. If we have not received this kind of comfort, we have nothing to offer others which is both precious and helpful in God’s eyes. And someone who has never shared in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings will not be able nor inclined to comfort another one, either. Quite the contrary, such a one will remain a self-seeker who tends to rule over others instead of serving them. What I found so encouraging above was verse 7 in particular that speaks of Paul’s confidence regarding those who suffer according to God’s will. He knew that these would certainly be comforted by God, either directly or through their more experienced brethren.
So, back to my first statement where I still wondered when this special sort of suffering (dying to self) will be over. What hit me last week was a rather short quote from T.A. Sparks where he had raised the following questions and had answered them without delay. He wrote,
When did we die? When did you die? There is a sense in which you never die in yourself, you die only in Christ. That is when you died. Christ’s death is your death.
It was so encouraging for me to read that it is not about coming to the end of my old self (which never seems to happen, either). Instead, it is simply about being transferred from one realm to the other, from the old creation and nature into the new one. IN Christ we have eventually died Christ’s death, or rather, we share in His Death He died on the cross for us. But oh, how long it needs to really be able to enjoy eternal life IN Christ on a permanent basis!! Yet when it happens, it has all been His work. Even, it was already finished on the cross. Nonetheless, we need to experience the fact of Jesus’ cry ‘It is finished!’ ourselves, today, in our time. And we cannot get there unless God by His grace bestows this heavenly birth on us from above. But finally we will see that the following is all true. Paul said,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17 ESV)
Regarding the term ‘eternal life’ I found another quote by T. Austin Sparks the day before yesterday, which offers a seemingly simple explanation of what experiencing ‘eternity’ for us might mean. Sparks said,
Then you know how often in the Word this life is called eternal life. “My sheep hear My voice”, said the Lord Jesus. “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:27,28). This life is eternity of life. You see, it has no beginning, it is not something of time — that is the first Adam. The last Adam — out from eternity, passing through time on into eternity, timeless life…
What sprang out on me was the remark about eternal life having NO beginning, like the Eternal God, the I AM who has no beginning and no end. Eternal life, thus, has nothing to do with time, with death (we shall never perish!), and with all those normal limitations we are confronted with every day. I assume many of you have experienced situations in life where you forgot about time completely. Whether that happened when you were a child playing unconsciously of itself and you were oblivious of time and space, when you were in love for the first time, or when you observed an impressive phenomenon of nature. The list is not finished…
Well, since eternal life has no beginning, be prepared… you might experience it any time soon. 😉 Oops… it seems as if I had been my own ‘prophet’ once again since one day after having written this part before the ‘Oops’, I had another amazing experience with God again. In fact, I have felt quite sick for some days now and for two days a very strong headache has kept tormenting me too. After a not so long night’s sleep, I awoke quite early today and could not get back to sleep because of this hammering headache. Instead, I tried to pray which did not help for a long time, either. As I got up from bed I suddenly thought, “Oh, what was this??” The only thing I could sense was that I somehow observed my body while getting out of bed. However, that was not the normal and limited ‘Susanne-awareness’. Indeed, there was someone (something?) that looked somehow out of me and watched me doing what I was doing. Hmm… you might think now that I am incapable of explaining THIS properly and you are right. It is impossible to describe experiences of ‘divine consciousness’, of ‘oneness with all creation’, or of near-death experiences (if you have not read it as yet and like to read more, cf. for instance My Testimony). But what all these experiences have in common is that they give us a foretaste of eternal life. You might have read about such overwhelming and supernatural occurrences from people all over the world, no matter which religion they believed in. Yes, even atheists experience such elevated states of mind!
But what I saw today is that these experiences MUST have an end as long as there is still darkness inside of us. We need to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit until all that was dark before has completely dissolved in His light. Only then we will see Him as He really is. Only then our heart will be so pure that we can enjoy God’s presence everywhere and anytime, no matter the circumstances. The only way to get there is to endure God’s scrutinizing light that makes us share the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings and the power of His resurrection, too.
Apropos fellowship, this morning my Catholic kitchen calendar reminded me with a Bible verse (1 Jn 1:7) about the WHY we cannot have fellowship with everyone. In fact, we are all called to love God, our neighbors and ourselves. That is true. And you might know that our old nature is not able to do so since it is a limited version of our real self. We truly need to be born from above in order to possess divine qualities and to be able to love our enemies with an unconditional agape love. If we have fellowship with God and Jesus in the light, we can also have fellowship with other saints who walk in the same light (1 Jn 1:3,7). But take note, we are not called to have fellowship with the darkness which is Satan’s realm. Instead, the apostle John told us,
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:6-7 ESV)
Walking in darkness means to cover our sins and to present us as if we were righteous on our own. Dear brothers and sisters, as for having fellowship with one another, we need to be completely honest and transparent toward one another because we need to expose our inner darkness and our deep heart wounds. This is anything but easy (it is painful!!) and it is even impossible for our old nature that loves to wear a mask in order to look better before others and to not be hurt again. So, before we earnestly seek fellowship with another believer which makes us share God’s glory too, we need to get aware that our old self will be stripped from all selfishness and self-righteousness during this process of “iron sharpening iron”. Being made one with God and one another means that finally there will be no separate self any longer. There where were two separate beings before, there will be one new and unified being that shares the same heart and mind (God’s!). Yet our God-given individuality won’t disappear at all. Quite the contrary! We can only become who we were created to be if we are being made one with God and with one another in the Body of Christ.
In closing, a special thanks to my husband Paul Schuberth for inspiring me regarding the title. Actually, I thought I was more or less done with my article yesterday (which was not true), 😉 yet I could not find a heading which I liked at all. As my hubby suddenly came into our office, I asked him to suggest a title although he had no idea what I had been writing about. Paul only said, “Awakened!” and I knew at once that this word was God’s idea. Isn’t it funny how God sometimes acts? 🙂