Monday, June 17, 2024

The Ultimate Attainment: Union with God

Many great saints I’ve known, even in the Salvation army, many are retiring now, and they say that when they retire, they are grateful that God did not show them the entire path all the ups and downs because they would not have been able to handle the thought of it. But step by step, along the road, they handled it by God’s grace of not showing them what was ahead.

Similarly, we do not easily submit to all this burning up of dross within us. We do not naturally want the self to be leveled. We do not want to be buried with Christ in his cross and alive with Christ in His resurrection. We naturally resist the death of self.

“God wishes to make your soul pure. He purifies it by His Wisdom just as a refiner purifies metal in the furnace. Fire in the only thing which can purify gold. Again, the fire that consumes us—utterly—is His highest wisdom.” -Jeanne Guyon, p. 128

But look back to the moment when you first gave your life to Christ: “At that time you made an unreserved surrender of your being to God. Not only that, you surrendered yourself to all that God wills for you. It was at that very time that you gave your total consent to whatever God might wish to require of you.” -Jeanne Guyon, p. 131

I remember that moment back in 2012 when I called on the name of Jesus Christ. It was a miracle in itself. When we call on Jesus, it’s a divine moment I believe. God reaches down and invites us to call on the name of Jesus. In that moment we can, by His grace, call out. But, then all heaven waits in breathless anticipation: What will he do? I felt that moment. All heaven waiting. God waiting. Angels waiting. Silent.

I felt the draw of heaven, “call out.” And at that moment I said to myself alright, I’m going to do it. I’m going to cry out. Then I did. Jesus save me!

And the uproar of heaven at that moment, my goodness I felt it, the quaking, as all heaven rejoiced, the angels cried out in joy, another lost soul has called upon the name of Jesus Christ and found salvation.

Oh what joy in heaven over one sinner who repents! (Luke 15:7).

That began the journey. Now fast forward to 2021. I had been betrayed. My health was crumbling, serious stomach issues, barely functioning, lost hope, lonely, no friends, battling pride, battling lust, it was like all the gold within me had turned black.

“…when your Lord actually began burning, destroying, and purifying, you did not recognize that it was the hand of the Lord in your life. You certainly did not recognize the operation as something good. You had the very opposite impression! Instead, you saw all that beautiful gold in you turning black in the fire rather than becoming bright as you had expected. You stood looking at the circumstances around you that were producing all that tragedy in your life. You thought that all the purity in your life was being lost.”

That is the refiners fire, where God is molding us and shaping us, and removing from the impure elements from us.

1 Peter 1:7 ESV So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

In those moments, I have one response initially. The reaction I think is to run. Get out. I’ve been there many times. I’m out of here. Run! This refiners fire is too hot.

But very quickly, I decide against it. Which again is a miracle from God. Because I remember the miracle of faith in me and it remains there. I trust God. This is right, the pain and grief that is happening. So I stay.

Second, I will often attempt some drastic or intense action to defeat or overthrow the refining fire.

I get to work, I must visit a doctor, see a therapist, read a self-help book, manipulate the situation to escape the pain, I try to take control away from God, and force things to go my way. This fails again and again, if it is indeed God’s refining fire and not some controversy I’ve caused against myself.

If it’s not God’s refining fire and just some problem I’ve caused or some evil done against me, then I should get to work against it. But if it is from God, and refining, then I should not take action, unless God inspires action, at the appropriate time.

Don’t run, don’t attempt manipulative actions, just remain passive, draw into God’s arms and allow Him to do His work.

“So you see, God’s justice and God’s wisdom must come like a pitiless and devouring fire. That fire destroys all that is earthly. The fire destroys the sensual, the carnal, and all self-activity.” P. 130

We remain passive, we stand firm, we allow God to do His work on us. Don’t run friends. Don’t manipulate. Stay seated in the chair as the master grooms you.

There is a third concern though, we can run, or we can manipulate events to try to stop it, both of those we naturally avoid ,but a third danger is that we refuse to learn the lesson we’re supposed to learn.

I recall that God brought me to our spring campaigns to test me, I met this woman, and I decided to start dating her, but as I prayed, I knew it wasn’t God’s will. We did eventually break up. But it was very painful. Because we kindled emotions toward each other, because we both wanted a relationship so bad. But in the end, it was not God’s will. So about 6 months later, the Lord brought another woman before me, and said alright Justin, did you learn the lesson? Let’s see what you do this time. And only by his grace, I liked this woman much more than the first, but through prayer, and fasting, God helped me to know it wasn’t meant to be, by His grace, I did not engage in a relationship with her, though she was near me weekly for a whole year.

Often I worry we do the opposite, we refuse to learn the lesson, we keep repeating the bad behavior over and over, even though God has taught us how bad it is time and again.

What is this refining fire doing in you? It’s slowly eliminating self in all it’s manifestations, greed, pride, ego, manipulation, control, selfishness, self-seeking, lust, and bad attitudes of the heart.

For what purpose exactly? To destroy you? To delete you? To replace you with a carbon copy of Jesus? No.

God is not trying to remove you. He’s restoring you, to the person you were always meant to be, someone fundamentally plugged into God. Someone who functions in union with God.

Yet God will also leave thorns in your flesh, to keep you humble as well, so you don’t become prideful and one day say, “Who is the Lord?”

“God allows defects to remain in the dearest of His saints so He can preserve that saint from corruption and hide him in the secret of His presence.” -129

That isn’t sin he leaves, he won’t leave adultery in you, so you keep sleeping around on your wife, and you can say well that’s my thorn in the flesh. No. But it may be some temptation or mental health issue or physical health issue or weakness in you, that keeps you humble and reliant on God.

You are of value. Death to self is not annihilation of your soul. Death to self is removing the chains of your dependence on yourself and rebuilding you in a way in which you are connected to God and focused on His will.

Star Trek reference, becoming a Christian is not becoming a Borg drone, where you get assimilated, your true self is destroyed, and you become a drone doing whatever the hive mind tells you. That’s not Christianity.

Becoming a Christian is like being a lamp who discovers the plug to receive power to light up. Becoming a Christian is like being an orphan bird who never knew she could fly, and finds her nest, reunites with her mother, and her mother teaches her to fly.

Becoming a Christian is like being a caterpillar, and you know you’re meant for something more but you could never do it yourself, but the transformation, the cocoon turns you into a butterfly. And you fly free. You are no longer a caterpillar, but you are still you.

The best example I can give is from my own life. I sat in my broken-down room day after day, year after year drinking, doing drugs, writing stories, going for walks, biking to get booze, making money, to spend on bad things, chasing women, and exploring dark realities.

Now today, I am very different. I still write stories, but they are not selfish stories about self, they are stories about God and His kingdom and mysteries. I’m still me, still a writer, but it’s now pointed toward the good.

I used to go for walks and bike rides to get booze and pills. Now I go for walks and bike rides to experience the beauty of nature. Same thing, pointed in a new direction.

I used to make money to fuel self. Now my money is used for meeting my needs, and tithing, and giving offerings for God’s kingdom.

I used to chase women. Now I married one woman whom I love. Still have sexual desire, but it’s reoriented to fit into God’s way of doing things. It now obeys His instructions.

God does not destroy our soul. He changes our soul to function as it was always intended to: in Union with Him.

As we yield more and more to the refiners fire which is purifying the gold of our soul, we learn to yield more and more to God. Submit to Him. Let Him lead our lives.

“…at this point you begin to yield yourself up to the impulses of the divine Spirit until you are totally absorbed with Him. You are in total concert with His will in all things- at all times.

This is union. Divine union. The self is ended. The human will is totally passive and responds to every movement of God’s will.” -p.133

We’re at the end of the book, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, last chapter, so of course, Madam Guyon reminds us, “I need not warn you, this is a process that, indeed, takes a long time.”

Do I think a lot of us are at this point? No I don’t. But by God’s grace we will get there. This is a journey, a pathway we walk day by day.

The mistake I see many Christians make though, is as they cross the hills and the valleys, the forests, and cabins of this deep journey toward union with God, at some point they give up, and build a cabin and stop on the road. They don’t go any further. They make some excuse for why they can’t really be bothered to draw nearer to God than where they are at now. Don’t get stuck on the road.

Believe that you can know God more deeply than you do today.

And if your “self” has gotten in the way, which it often does, and we say, well I don’t want to go any further. Pray about this. And ask God to help you pick up your bag and continue further down this glorious road of union with God.

If one thousand Christians went all in for God, and all the way on the road to maturity, deep connection with God, it would shake the world, it would change the united states forever.

We see revival circle around heroes who were totally submitted to God, William Booth, John Wesley, Charles Finney, George Whitefield, Smith Wigglesworth, John G. Lake, and on and on the list goes.

It doesn’t take someone larger than life. St. Francis Assisi even said, if God can use me, he can use anyone. He wasn’t special. He was just someone that decided God would have everything of him.

Go onward, toward ultimate perfection, which is union with God, where God really has all of you, and you are indeed dead to self, and alive to Christ. The self-centered self-controlled life is gone, and your entire will, your seat of decisions is entirely linked to Christ, you are dead to self, and alive to Christ, in how you make choices, you are entirely centered on Christ, and self no longer has control.

What is the end purpose of all this? Enjoyment of God.

Once we are reborn in Jesus Christ, which is justification, and then submitted to God in our will, which is sanctification, which is to be dead to self and alive to Christ, then we are free to find our ultimate eternal purpose: Enjoying God in new and amazing ways for all time in paradise.

There are two positions that I’d like you take, the first is what we’ve been talking about already, to allow the human will to be guided by the Divine will at all times, that is to be led by the Spirit. (Yes, this is truly possible, we can really be led by God at all times.)

Second, is the mindset of simplicity, that God is all. It’s the mindset of total trust, trust as a child trusts a loving parent. In this childlike mindset of simplicity, God is all, we will not be tempted to tinker with God’s word to make it fit our desires, and we will avoid pride as well, which is the sin of Satan, to refuse to accept God’s word and truth as written, and to rebel against it in the heart.

You may think well I don’t do that. Any scripture you reject because you don’t like it, or because it doesn’t fit your theology, or because you can’t emotionally handle it, it is because you have not come to the scripture as a child, you’ve come as one judging the scripture, submit to it instead, as a child, accept it as God’s heart.

One thing I like to remind myself of is this: If I find a scripture I don’t like, I must be wrong. That is submitting the self to God.

You’re probably thinking about someone else right now, someone you believe is wrong about a particular scripture or theological issue, stop that. And look at yourself. “Well, I’m not wrong about anything.” Yes, you are. What scriptures am I ignoring? What emotions am I allowing to twist the scripture?

Simplicity, God is all, approaching as a child, and Spirit-led, self is led by the divine will.

If we keep those two tools in our belt on this pilgrimage road of union with God, then we will always continue on toward the final summit.

But remember this truth: “No one can put himself into union with God. It would not be possible, no matter how great the effort. The soul’s union with God is something God alone does.” -p.136

So could we really push harder and harder down the road of death to self and alive to Christ? No we could not. Paradoxically, on this road which we walk, only God can initiate, sustain, build, and consummate divine union with Him. God acts on us, as we seek Him. We can’t force it to happen through human effort. As Jesus said, human power is of no use at all.

From John 6:63, “63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[e] and life.

“63 What gives life is God's Spirit; human power is of no use at all. The words I have spoken to you bring God's life-giving Spirit.” -GNT

We humans so quickly return to the flesh to seek God, but all this must be done in the Spirit, step by step, at God’s leading and in God’s timing.

That’s one stumbling block, self effort. Another is stopping on the road and settling for something less. A final stumbling block is pride. Pride would say this is just a bunch of mystical nonsense, and reject it outright. I’ve seen that many times. Our pride rejects it before we even open the door to it. That’s why again, we must approach as a child.

In conclusion, let’s summarize the journey itself. The start of the journey is salvation, we receive Jesus Christ as savior, and we begin our journey to know God deeply.

Many Christians stop there, I got salvation, I’m good, I’m done, and that’s wrong, and dangerous, because the scripture says not all those who say to me lord lord will enter eternal life but only those who do the will of my father in heaven.

Then again what if we really are led by God in our lives, but we’re a fairly average Christian, who honestly loves Jesus and does His will, but we never attain to the level of a John Wesley or a William Booth does that mean we’re going to hell? Not at all.

But the door is open to a deeper walk. What pushes us forward in the journey is the sense that I can go deeper with God. I can seek God more deeply.

And from one point of glory to another we grow in our walk with God. Year by year, through rivers, across dry plains, through deep dark forests, up into the mountains, plateaus, and heights, we grow and grow, until we reach the consummation of the journey, that is, union with God, the self no longer controls us at all, we are led by the Spirit of God, God is all to us, with childlike faith, and so we continue on, until one day, the ultimate end goal is met, when we reach heaven, and find perfect union with God there, forever, which is, enjoyment of God forever, in new and beautiful ways.

Review of Main Points:

1. Part of God’s grace is not showing us all the future steps on the journey

2. God enables us to call out to Jesus for salvation: But the choice remains with you if you will cry out or not

3. God enables us to be slowly changed over time (sanctification) bur we have the choice to be taught by it or reject the learning

4. God will leave a thorn in our flesh to keep us humble and reliant on Him

5. God is not trying to destroy your soul or who you are, but bring out your true self in Christ

6. Avoid the danger of stopping on the journey out of the desire to preserve the old self

7. Revival circles around great heroes of the faith who were entirely submitted to God (God had all of them)

8. Embrace a two-fold mindset: Simplicity, God is all as a child views a parent, and entirely allowing the divine will to guide your will (choices)

9. Paradoxically, we can’t force ourselves into union with God by trying harder, God initiates this deep union with God

10. The final goal in union with God is: Enjoyment in God in this life and for all eternity