OPEN LETTER TO THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
(And to anyone else interested)
In another article on this web site, Prayer vs God's Will, and in several of the Weekly Reflections, I explored the question of "Why pray if the will of God is already established?" But since we are admonished to pray "unceasingly", doesn't this imply that we, then, can influence God's will? Then consider what Christ told His inner circle: "I assure you, if anyone steadfastly believes in (relies upon) Me, he will himself be able to do things that I do; he will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father." (John 14:12.) How many of you share the disconcerting conflict I feel upon reading this? To elaborate, there are millions of people who profess to believe in, trust in, rely upon, and surrender to the Christ Personhood of the Divinity. So there should be millions of people who are doing greater things than Christ did during His incarnation on this earth! According to the above scripture and others like it, our churches should be powerhouses! Services should be incredible events with standing room only, just as Jesus had to sometimes talk to crowds of thousands from a boat off shore because there wasn't standing room for even Him!
So what's up? I've heard the rationalizations: The Holy Spirit doesn't work like that today; It isn't God's will; etc. The interesting aspect about all the reasons I've heard for the lack of spiritual power manifested in the daily lives of Christians and the churches is that scripture does not support them. Therefore, I reject these rationalizations.
My disturbance by my own coming short of fully actualizing the promises and assertions of Christ drives me to study why. Things that point to possible answers come from various sources. Francis Frangipane gave me some ideas. As illustrated in Parts 2 and 3 of the Weekly Reflections for November, 98 ("Thanksgiving and the Practice of Gratitude"), sometimes we need a fresh look at all too familiar scriptures.
Throughout the Bible the term "heaven" is used in different ways, which can cause confusion. Although a bit simplified, there seems to be three realms, all of which are described with the word "heaven". One is the abode of the Creator, the angelic entities and the redeemed human souls. (Of course, the Creator, through the Holy Spirit, and the angelic forces permeate all of creation.) Jesus alludes to this realm when He describes, "In My Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, for I am going away to prepare a place for you." (John 14:2.)
The term heaven is also used to describe an aspect of the creation, namely the sky. Psalms 19:1 announce that "the heavens declare the glory of God" and Genesis 1:7-8 records, "And God made the firmament and divided the waters…And God called the firmament heaven."
However, heaven is also used to describe a supernatural or spiritual realm just outside the consciousness of humans in which the lower "life forms" of the spirit world operate. The Amplified Version, which provides the various shades of meaning of words in the original language, explains: "We are not wrestling with flesh and blood, contending only with physical opponents, but against the despotisms, against the powers, against the master spirits who are the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere." (Ephesians 6:12.) The Satanic forces do not have access to the heavenly realm first described above in John 14:2. But we do!
Now here is where we come to the exciting point of all this background: Ephesians 2:6 states, "He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together, giving us joint seating with Him in the heavenly sphere by virtue of our being in Christ Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One." Please resist being nonchalant about this declaration! Note that it is written in the past tense. It doesn't say, "He will raise us up together with Him…"! It says He already did! In many Christian circles the word "rapture" is used to indicate the mass exodus of people re-born in the Spirit into the heavens, the realm Jesus described in John 14. This quote from Ephesians announces that this has already happened in an individual, spiritual sense. Our bodies are still trapped in the three-dimensional realm of earth, but our spirits are already seated "with Him in the heavenly sphere." But how come it doesn't feel like that? Galatians 4:26 declares, "But the Jerusalem above, the Messianic kingdom of Christ, is free and she is our mother." That's a powerful notion! Most of us strongly feel the presence of our mothers (and fathers) in our earthly lives, whether they are physically near or far away. But what about our mother Jerusalem above? Notice these scriptures, even in context, do not imply this realm is accessible only through physical death. Quite the contrary. So why aren't most of us overwhelmed by the presence of our mother Jerusalem? (Most of us are overwhelmed by the presence of our fears, worries, earthly obligations and hours and hours of television gluttony.)
Colossians 3:10 describes how we have clothed ourselves "with the new spiritual self, which is ever in the process of being renewed and remolded into fuller and more perfect knowledge upon knowledge, after the image, the likeness, of Him Who created it." Spiritual rebirth implies growing up. I don't respect the pop-psychology mantra of "discover yourself!" or "get to know the real you!" I would rather pay attention to who I am becoming. "Becoming" is a better description of the process of reality than "being".
One of the answers to the questions I posed at the beginning of this article rests in these remarkable words recorded in Hebrews 10:19-22: "Therefore, brethren, since we have full freedom and confidence to enter into the Holy of Holies by the power and virtue in the blood of Jesus, by this fresh and living way which He initiated and dedicated and opened for us through the separating curtain, the veil of the Holy of Holies, that is, through His flesh; and since we have such a great and wonderful and noble Priest Who rules over the house of God, let us all come forward and draw near with true, honest and sincere hearts in unqualified assurance and absolute conviction engendered by faith, that is by that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdomand goodness…" (Amplified Version.) Please digest the profound meaning and implication for us! Our spirits, as mentioned earlier, are already seated in the heavenly realm. Now, the scripture states "we have full freedom and confidence to enter into the Holy of Holies", to "pierce through the veil"! And the Satanic forces and armies of night cannot follow us there! The prospect of using this gift fully is overwhelming me.
How many of us are conscious of entering the Holy of Holies when we pray? If our prayers are said as a matter of social obligation, such as "grace before meals", they feel lacking in power. Then it is of no wonder why such prayers cannot help us actualize the promises of Christ that we would do greater works than He. To cultivate consciousness that heaven is nota far away "place" we can only enter after physical death, to be conscious that our spirits are seated in the heavenly realm already, that we can (incredibly) enter the Holy of Holies and be blessed and infused with grace, is to grow into Christlikeness and fulfill His promises.
The writer of Hebrews (5:11-13) relays his frustration: "Concerning this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull in your spiritual hearing and sluggish, even slothful in achieving spiritual insight. For even though by this time you ought to be teachings others, you actually need some one to teach you over again the very first principles of God's Word. You have come to need milk, not solid food. For every one who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness, of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought and action, for he is a mere infant, not able to talk yet!"
But he also encourages: "Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace, God's unmerited favor…" (Hebrews 4:16.) We can do that! What if we all did, as individuals and as a community? What if we took the time and energy and work to take these awesome gifts from God down off the shelf and used them to the max? Not doing that is to dishonor our very Creator.
I am writing this as a way of grounding and integrating my own research into spiritual practice. I can pray for grace and wisdom and growth, but that implies staying on this side of veil. Our spiritual teachers seem to be telling us to not stay put and wait for grace to come to us, but rather to go there. Our spirits are already seated there and so we have our "in". Perhaps it is a matter of better integrating our spirits with the "rest" of our beings so we can be fully present in the state of grace and live in that heavenly realm while still connected to our bodies. I believe it is a process that will enable us to manifest the promises of Christ in our earthly realm. It truly merits our attention and work. Christ did tell us to "Seek first the kingdom of God, and all else will be given to you." (Luke 12:31.) What a challenge! What a gift! It reminds me of a story I related in one of the October Weekly Reflections, that of the eagle who thought he was a chicken. Maybe our teachers would tell him to stop pecking the ground and other chickens, look up into the heavens, notice his spirit is already there, and go soar with it. I think that's what they are telling us.
~ John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Weekly Reflections © November, 1998
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