~ The Jesus Depth Finder ~
Basil of Caesarea (329-379 AD) wrote, “When the mind is no longer dissipated across the world through the senses, it returns to itself; and by means of itself it ascends to the thought of God.” This is true only of those of whom Jesus said, “If you make My word your home, you will indeed be My disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32, Jerusalem Bible). Otherwise, the mind that is no longer dissipated across the world through the senses goes crazy.
That’s why most people adamantly avoid tace (keeping silent), quiesce (keeping tranquil) and solitude. Just an hour in a room of no talking, no sound and no light constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” for most. Rather than the mind “ascend[ing] to the thought of God,” it descends into an abyss of boredom, fear, loneliness, and the taunts of personal demons created by a lifetime of trauma, battering, painfilled memories and regrets of roads taken and not taken.
Christ and the prophets spoke much on poverty, both physical and spiritual. Denying the mind of its physical senses plunges it into poverty. If it is a poverty akin to the suffering of millions of people in our world today who literally have only dirt to eat, that mind will share in that kind of suffering. However, those who “have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16b) will not only welcome but eagerly pursue the Lord’s injunction, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24, NIV) and so can remain silent and alone in quietude as the mind “ascends to the thought of God.” Theirs is a holy poverty of no sinful passions and desires, creating a vacuum of poverty in their recesses of spirit. In this state of being they “know that I am God,” a knowing that is the most esteemed above all treasures. Consequently, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
Apostle John writes, “God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12b). The apostle Paul asserts, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV). Furthermore, he says that Christ “gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18b), and “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20a, NIV).
These are truths in which I stand and they are very easy to quote and write about. Many readers will nod affirmatively, thinking “Yeah, this is great stuff, praise God!” But now, I want to “be still” with you.
Speaking for myself, and knowing many of you are with me on this, I admit an existential frustration with myself in the face of Scripture. God’s love is not in complete fullness in me; I am not a totally new creation although I am in Christ; although Christ does live in me, so do I, not having been fully crucified with Him; and although I have spent many weeks at a time totally alone with God immersed in the exquisite wonder of His creation and cherished it with all my being, a week or two in dark, quiet isolation would not propel my mind into a continuous ascent to “the thought of God.”
This self-reflection does in no way chip away at my absolute conviction of the truth of holy Scripture and the words of God. I am then left with the penthos (abiding sorrow of my sinfulness) of how Scripture describes the Christian in contrast to what I am. This penthos is deepened by the proclamation that Christ “gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Given the abiding Christ and His grace, incomplete as it seems and feels, I am to minister as a reconciliator of God and humans. How is that possible when I fall short of a full divine reconciliation as described by Christ and the apostles?
There are some well-intentioned
people who would bring me spiritual consolation for my personal angst…It’s
a matter of faith; don’t rely on feelings; it’s a process; the fullness
of God and reconciliation will come after physical death; etc. One can
find support and opposition in Scripture for all these and others. With
kind respect, I wish not to be consoled from penthos nor the disparity
between what is written and what is actually lived. The angst or Godly
distress, as St. Paul puts it, is good for my spirit, for it impels me
with greater zeal toward that complete crucifixion of self with Christ,
without which I cannot be fully His. This is “suffering for His sake” since
it was for our sakes He emptied Himself into human servantship, suffered,
died, resurrected and infused us with
His Holy Spirit.
A metaphor struck me as being useful in reconciling this disparity. I thought of a long stretch of flat water on a river I often canoed and kayaked. The chart indicated varying depths from ten to a “hole” of one hundred feet. From the surface I could see no difference. The canoe or kayak behaved no differently and required no changes in handling. Although the river presented no difference to me, the depth differences were critically important to the river. They would determine its behavior downstream, its response to rain and wind, the kind of aquatic life it could nurture, its erosion impact on its banks and thus its direction over time and many other things.
I also thought of apples I would sometimes pack on such river trips. The rigors of the environment would take its toll on some apples, making them look brown and soft in some places. A quick slice with a knife would reveal the nutritious, white, juicy healthiness beneath the surface and I would eat with delight. They were pure down to the core, despite surface bruising. A few, however, were, as they say, rotten to the core and useless to me. The apple near the core was what mattered.
Christians are like rivers and apples. If the “old unregenerated creature” keeps popping up, requiring daily or even hourly forgiveness, he must not only still be alive and well, but close to the surface. The “Christlikeness” does not penetrate too deeply.
We need a Jesus depth finder. How deeply can we penetrate our natures and still find only Jesus? Is this what Jesus was talking about in His story of the seed sower? Some plants looked pretty good, until an environmental challenge hit them, because there was no depth in their roots. How hard can challenges, persecutions, and violations penetrate my life, how deeply can they force their way into my soul and still encounter only Christ, He who lives in me instead of my crucified self? Perhaps that is why the inspiring people of God welcomed and sought such penetrating suffering in the name of Christ.
Anyway, I don’t really know, speaking for myself. I do know, however, I am not Christlike to the core of my heart. And I want so much to be, and love Him more than I do. That’s my fervent prayer.
The Scriptures do describe the Jesus depth finder. That, however, we’ll leave for another Reflection.
Click here for the conclusion, More on the Jesus Depth Finder.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © August 24, 2002
Responses are welcome at: Reflections@prayergear.com
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