Spiritual Experiences – There’s Something Deeper.
One of the coolest lines ever sung to or about Jesus rises from the spiritual “I Will Arise and Go to Jesus”. It begins, “I will arise and go to Jesus. He will embrace me in His arms. In the arms of my dear Saviour…”. And then, “…O, there are ten thousand charms.” And it’s important to note that this wasn’t cradled on the floor of a jamming praise and worship time but amidst the horror and suffering of slavery. Not goosebumps or out-of body states, but life situations that strip one of hope down to the bone give rise (To spiritual experiences? Maybe. God does what He wants.) to intimacy whether experiences come or not. What we miss in between burning bushes, seas parting, visions, earthquakes and Moses and Elijah doing a prophetic karaoke of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” on the Mount of Transfiguration is that biblical people often went months, sometimes years, in between spiritual experiences. Experiences fade but intimacy digs and drinks from deeper wells of everyday life.
In Exodus 33:11, Moses leaves the tent of meeting to return to Israel in the wilderness. The cloud of God’s presence has lifted. It’s an empty tent. But He has been there. And that’s enough for Joshua who never leaves the tent. He’s not hanging out to get a good seat for the next show when God comes down in fire by night. That Yahweh stirred the cords and fabric of this place was enough…whether there’s a next vision or not. Gods we make up don’t hold us like this even if we call them “Jesus”. But this “Matthew-Mark-Luke-John” guy who claimed to be God and Saviour of the world raised from the dead is quite different. The events of the New Testament occurred roughly two thousand years ago and today 33% (2,229,951,315 and counting rapidly in some corners) of the world follows Him. Why? Truth, in part. This is bedrock stuff; it doesn’t fold or collapse on us because we struggle or feel like it isn’t true. But there’s more.
There’s Jesus Himself (He is risen, you know. The Easter thing.) He indwells our personalities through the Holy Spirit Whose breath rises and falls under every breath of our own even when we think He has gone, given up or lost us. We may go years, maybe a lifetime, without visions and dreams. But Jesus Christ has stirred the frayed cords and worn fabric of our lives. And it is more than enough. Sadhu Sundar Singh, a twentieth century evangelist/mystic, sat talking with some Hindu intellectuals (People with enough power of thought to blow a battleship out of the water.) who asked him,”What did you find in Christianity that you could not find in Hinduism?” “Jesus Christ,” came his simple reply. ” Well, yes, of course. But what drew and held you, what compelled you to make this shift in your thinking?” Again, “Jesus Christ.” We talk about Jesus being in us but what does that mean? Where is that? In the ongoing discussion/argument, my vote comes down on the mind. The rest of the human body is already full of spleens, bones and things that already do stuff. A few years ago I went deaf in one ear and a doctor who treats Ozzie Osborne, half the Rolling Stones and other rockers couldn’t fix it but He did put me through my first MRI. The specialist brought in the pictures, made some explanatory hearing related comments and walked out. For the first time in my life, I stared into my own brain and the mind encased in it. My first thoughts ambushed me. Instead of thinking, “Okay,cool” and moving on or falling back into the mopes over being deaf in one ear, I just grinned and said, “So there You are!” I could almost see His fingerprints on the window sill and His coffee mug on the shelf. And it was enough. I’m grinning as I write. It still is.
Christ in us; the hope and foretaste of glory (all the beauty, holiness, love, truth and power of God in one enchilada) poured over us in the Spirit like syrup on pancakes and soaking deeply into every atom, nerve ending and enterprise. This intimacy, beyond but not excluding experience, stands as the real craving of our heart. Turning spiritual experiences (those we’ve had, desire or lust after) into a temple and then moving in will actually kill our appetite for real spiritual intimacy, for real following Jesus Christ. People on both sides of the cross get cheated. J.I. Packer notes, “We need to frankly face ourselves at this point…We can state the gospel clearly and can smell unsound doctrine a mile away. If anyone asks us how men may know God, we can once produce the right formula…Yet the gaiety, goodness and unfetteredness of spirit which are the marks of those who have known God are rare among us.” These are the ones who know that in Jesus there are ten thousand charms draped over the days and years of our lives – sweet both in intimacy and experience. Of course, everything said here also fits with here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
The cool rendition of “I Will Arise” can be found in the album “Songs, Stories and Spirituals” by John Patitucci.
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Please return your seat to the upright position and give the infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.