We have an easy time dealing with people who perfectly agree with us and always understand what we mean. Ahem, ahem, seriously… do such people really exist?? 😉 Is there anyone but God who understands everything we might tell them and knows these dark and hidden areas inside our hearts we do not even know ourselves? I assume we all might feel more comfortable with those people who agree with us or who appreciate us even if we disagree. Yet it appears to be more difficult when we have to do with human beings who like to debate or fight over who is right. God who knows our problems created a heavenly condition of which Jesus spoke as He prayed,
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (Jn 17:20-24 ESV)
We read that we need to believe IN Christ (which is not the same as believing that Jesus exists). Also, we must have heard the Word of Christ preached before which does not necessarily mean through reading or hearing biblical words, although this can be the case. Primarily we must have perceived God speaking to our very hearts so that we receive faith in who Jesus really is, i.e. the Son of God. As an indispensable presupposition of experiencing this divine oneness with one another, we need to have shared His glory, too, as Jesus told us. Well, how do we become one with one another, eventually? To put it more simply, one could also say that as soon as we have become one with God in the fellowship with Jesus and our Heavenly Father, we will be able to become one with one another as well. The apostle John described it that way,
“[T]hat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that [y]our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 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 1:3-7 ESV)
The main reason for me to write about these things lies in the fact that the Lord lately made me aware of two different dangers regarding this oneness with God and one another. We know that becoming one does not just have to do with agreeing on an intellectual level. There is a heart level involved, too. Intimacy with God is so much more than knowing a bunch of impressive and true facts about Him as the apostle Paul told us here.
[W]e 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)
Here comes danger #1. It is easy to find people, especially women, who claim to love God and Jesus in particular since He is a man. In most cases when you hear someone talk or write about loving God, we need to test their obedience toward God’s commandments so that we see whether their statement was true. These feelings they express can be a mere expression of the soul. And feelings come, feelings go, as you might know… As for me, I can say that I cannot love God. Whenever there is only a spark of a ‘loving feeling’ toward God in my heart, it is because God was the author to kindle a fire in another trial where I thought God seemingly left me alone in the dark valley of the shadow of death. In fact, if we find someone in the midst of a trial and they still obey God, if they are meek-minded and humble AND praise God although they are suffering, we might have found a true believer. So, let us not be deceived by our natural ‘good feelings’ which are always self-centered and point to our own goodness and our great experiences with God. Humble believers will always point to Christ, not to themselves. Also, let us not despair if our ‘bad feelings’ get the edge on us at times. These are only ‘feelings’, not the truth. Satan loves to intimidate us by threats that make us doubt God’s goodness and he is allowed to rock our own convictions, aka faith, we seemed to have been so sure of when our feelings were better.
Danger #2 does not only consist in a false oneness which has been based on good feelings of the soul, it is a danger that is much worse if we give into these temptations Satan suggests. Having been put to the acid test myself after I had realized the bad consequences of a ‘spiritual movement’ where this seemed to have happened, I lost my former prejudices and arrogant attitude since I have come to see how easily we can confuse God’s leading and Satan’s subtle suggestions. In the case I just hinted to, there was a man who most certainly had initial intimate experiences with God. Reading his descriptions, I felt they were true. Therefore I was not that suspicious, let’s say, about 1 ½ years ago. The only thing I sensed back then in my own spirit was a whiff of awkwardness when I got aware of distinct descriptions of divine love with God and with one another as well. These awkward feelings turned into real embarrassment yesterday as I checked out another blog (not the case I described before) where someone rather unashamedly boasted of their alleged intimate experiences with Jesus. Brothers and sisters, you know that I hint to experiences of divine love at times, I also say that agape love includes our bodies who are to be fully sanctified by the Holy Spirit so that we can enjoy God on all three levels (body, soul, and spirit). Or as John put it, “that our joy may be complete” when His love has been perfected in us. Indeed, danger #2 is to focus on these feelings in our bodies so that we are more and more drawn away from Christ who MUST BE the foundation of everything we do. When we are tempted to create fellowships with other believers apart from God’s leading and try to share with them what God has only given us, but not them as yet, we might fall into similar traps Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians chapter 5. For this reason, I want to close with Paul’s admonition here.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Cor 5:9-13 ESV)
Also, we should heed what Jesus told us as He warned in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (Mt 7:6 ESV) Some things we experience with God in His unseen kingdom of the Spirit are not meant for the public eye. May God show us what it means to become both beholders and guardians of His Divine Beauty in all its mysterious breadth, length, height, and depth (see Eph 3:18). Amen.