continued prayer, dying to self, entering his rest, experience, faith, Flesh vs. Spirit, God's love, hope, Jesus Christ, light, near death experience, resurrection, spiritual power, spiritual transformation, T.A. Sparks, the new self, the old self, unconditional love
Many of you might have heard or read about some people’s near-death experiences (NDEs) which they described as having been pulled through a dark tunnel toward the light. Having had a NDE myself (see My Testimony to be headlined ‘1995 – 2008: Years of the Wilderness’), I would say today that the ‘tunnel’ stands for our old self nature that is closely related to our body and soul. When people have experienced a NDE and come back into their ‘old’ life, something inside them has changed completely. Although their old nature is still there, a certain amount of God’s light has been poured into their own spirit so that their purpose in life could be changed. From then on they ‘know’ that love and gaining (spiritual) knowledge about God is most important. All other goals in life they once had have become less and less interesting. Basically, they long to be and live eternally in this light that they have come to know for a short time only. They might also realize that it is all about spiritual growth now, about being fully transformed into the image of God’s Son (cf. Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18). Just recently I read a definition about this kind of spiritual growth. If we ask, “What does it mean to grow spiritually?” T.A. Sparks offers us an answer which is truly surprising. He said,
“Spiritual growth means that the spiritual strain goes out of our eyes, and our faces, and out of our voices, and that awful intensity, tenseness, goes. It is not a mark of spiritual growth at all. So let us get rid of false ideas about what it means to be a grown Christian. It means to be entering into His rest; we all need that.”
Entering His rest means to finally see and recognize Him at the end of the tunnel. As long as we are inside the tunnel, that is, as long as we are still captured by our own good and bad thoughts about our miserable old self (aka flesh) and about others, we only catch glimpses of His presence time and again. God and Christ may seem to remain blurry to our spiritual eyes until our heart has been purified to perceive God and His hand in all our circumstances (see Ps 11:7; Mt 5:8). But as soon as we have received God’s power to rest in Him despite all adversity, an immense change has taken place. Then we will no longer trust in our flesh and our old nature’s likes and dislikes, but we will solely behold Christ and His beauty, having arrived at that state of spiritual growth TAS spoke of above.
Indeed, an overwhelming supernatural transformation of heart and mind has occurred inside us without you and me knowing when and how all that has begun. This change has not happened from one day to the other. No, it has been a process, for sure. However, suddenly we see that we have lost any interest to look inside ourselves for salvation. We will have stopped trying to present a better version of our old self to others in order to convince them about our spiritual growth. Instead, we give up on our old nature completely. And eventually, when we have died and risen with our Redeemer Jesus Christ and received Him and His life in us, we behold Christ instead of beholding ourselves and are being changed into His image by doing so, even more and more every day. Not that we could ever behold Him on our own! As for all other blessings of divine origin, it must be God’s grace that draws us closer and closer. Furthermore, it is only God who can bestow this gift of continued prayer on us, since, praying without ceasing means nothing else than seeing the eternal God everywhere by abiding in Christ’s love permanently, too. And then we will finally also be able to really work effectively for Him. If we rest and abide in Christ, everything He will do through us will be exclusively God’s doing, given that we allow Him to guide us through His indwelling Spirit 24/7. The apostle Paul put it that way,
“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:19-20 ESV)
Without having come to know the deep love of Christ for us, no human being will be inclined to really obey God out of love. So many still try to obey His commandments out of the fear of punishment. Brothers and sisters, that is not the way it should be. Perfect (God-given) love casts out this sort of fear and replaces it with childlike faith and unconditional love for our Creator. May God help us all to get there.