Saturday, July 21, 2012

Common problem of spiritual experience

Image from the Book of Kells, a 1200 year old ...
Image from the Book of Kells, a 1200 year old book. Category:Illuminated manuscript images (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell. 

How do we learn to worship God? 

Well, we worship the One above all others when we realize who He is.  

It was an awesome time a long time ago when I entered into life-changing spiritual experience while reading Charles Spurgeon's The Mourner's Comforter and, soon after, Clive Staples Lewis's autobiography Surprised by Joy. CSL told about when he came to realize that Jesus is the Son of God--during a ride to a zoo.   

C. S. Lewis's "experience" as he described it there opened my eyes to the fact that I was, in fact, already there. Not at the zoo, of course, but already in Christ by faith, that tie or rope or link, whatever you want to call it, that goes from a soul to God and that is stronger than the heaviest, tightest, and thickest tension wire across a wide crevasse, and far more reliable. Timelessly reliable. 

I had already thought that I was "almost there," almost accepting all of "it," which is a word for "all of what has to do with God as revealed" by grace and divine revelation--for me, words of Isaiah, that honorable and reviled prophet--and the gospel reports of Jesus' birth, life, and resurrection.
     God's Spirit does witness to our spirits that Jesus is the Son of God. We open the mind and heart to see that what God has revealed is true.
     "Spiritual experience" is unique to each person, as unique as the same mother is to each child she has. Yet, it has the same end for all, which is God, He who created us to know, enjoy, trust, and love Him forever.Death is the enemy, but the enemy overcome in Christ.I don't claim to understand all of this. With God, all things are possible.
     Because of all of this and more, we go beyond spiritual experience. We do more than talk about God. We talk to Him as quickly and more honestly than to any other; and we listen to Him, from the pages of the Bible and from our hearts, where He confirms or changes our deepening understanding. We do more than to cry "God, help me!," although that can be a real part of relating to God.

Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up with My righteous right arm" --Isaiah 41:10

He is the One who says, "Come unto Me, all of you that are weak and heavy laden," and "Behold, I stand at the door and knock..."  And, "...cast all your burdens upon Him, for He cares for you."
     All that is left for us is to be willing to step from within that experience into the presence of God who knows us, as the Psalmist wrote, from our beginnings and all of our moments and days (ex., Psalm 139). We are our real selves before Him, by faith, and He He loves the honest of heart. He can bear, and does bear, all our sins and weaknesses.   

The spiritual experience of gaining understanding through the writings of C.H. Spurgeon (including You may not realize it now, but you are at this moment in the love of God) and CS Lewis...that God speaks to us during everyday times, like riding to the zoo...led me to the Center, which is Christ. He is the source and destination of authentic spiritual experience.    

Spiritual experience, whether knock-down dramatic or surprisingly quiet, leads us to the main discovery, God and His revelation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
So, then,where is the common problem?

The common problem comes at focusing on our or others' spiritual experience, how "we" or "that other person" came to know Christ, what He did for "us" or "them" in that experience.

The context, the spiritual experience, shows the truth...Jesus Christ. The Person of Christ calls forth, from us, joy and praise!

Without worship, awe, praise, and trusting relationship with God...we have a problem of being stuck in "spiritual experience." There is more to see more clearly and there is more praise, honor, and yes, trusting obedience ahead, with Him. 

...God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces. If we do not, that only shows that what we are trying to love is not yet God--though it may be the nearest approximation to God which our thought and fantasy can attain.

God intends that we know Him beyond approximation and spares no love or pushing of us to get us there, as CSL wrote: to give us what we need, not what we now think we want.

On the best and worst days of our experience, God, through His Son, remains. He is far, far more than "spiritual experience." He is the Hope of the world, the Light of a darkening world, the Love above all loves, and the Comforter of all who mourn. 

Evil is as present today within people and the world as on the day when the perfect Son of God was crucified. We who trust the living, resurrected Christ mourn with those who mourn, who suffer and pray for the souls of all who experienced horrifying events. This includes the departed ones and their families, caught unawares in the early hours of yesterday morning in a an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater; this includes all who helped in the minutes and hours, even up to now, to come to the aid of those affected, and the family of the shooter. 

[Is there anything you would like to write or say to your friends or loved ones about your life and faith? I would want my loved ones to know that if ever some such evil (as the recent Colorado event) should end my life or injure me, not to let their thoughts dwell on the event or on imaginings about me in it; but to look to God, the Giver of Life, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom I worship from a grateful heart. I will be with Him in due time, in timeless eternity. The end of life in God's care is a beginning, and therefore gives reason to rejoice in Christ, even if the cause of the end, even death itself, might be very hard.]

Copyright (c)2012 Opinari Writers- Quotes in italics, above, are from the book The Problem of Pain as they appear in 21 July reading, "Reflection of the Divine Life," in a book of selections called A Year with C.S. Lewis (HarperOne press).

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