"WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?"
GOD'S RELATIONSHIP TO THE INDIVIDUAL
May 1, 2012
The limited mind of man contemplates that God must be a long way away. When we search for him, we look to the heavens as if he is to found far beyond the stars. But in reality, man does not have to go farther than his own inner contemplation to find God and attempt communion with him, for “he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27) He has provided to each normal human mind what we might call a personal fragment of Himself. We are told:
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”
– 1 Corinthians 3:16
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own?”
– 1 Corinthians 6:19
While he has designated his Son as the means through which we may approach the Father, the Father has reserved to himself the prerogative of maintaining direct and parental contact with each of his children by means of this spirit fragment. (We will discuss this spirit fragment later in this series.)
The inability of the mortal creature to approach the infinite Father is inherent, not in the Father's aloofness, but in the material limitations of created beings. The magnitude of the spiritual difference between the highest personality of the universe and the lower groups of created beings, such as man, is inconceivable. Were it possible for man to be transported instantly into the presence of the Father himself, we would not know we were there. We would there be just as oblivious of the presence of the Father as where we now are. There is a long, long road ahead of mortal man before we attain the presence of the Universal Father. Spiritually, we must be translated many times before we can achieve the spiritual vision necessary to be aware of his presence. The Apostle Paul alluded to these multiple translations when he told us:
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
– 2 Corinthians 3:18
This translation from “glory to glory” takes time. We are not transformed into spirit beings capable to standing in the presence of the Father by a mere twinkling of the eye. Yes, the scripture tells us:
“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:50-53
But it only says that we must change from a material body to an incorruptible one – one that does not deteriorate – much as Jesus did after his resurrection. Though he was then in an incorruptible body, ‘I have not yet ascended to the Father.’ (John 20:17) There is a vast gulf between the material world and the spiritual world. After our resurrection, we will exist in that in-between world where Jesus was as we go through our translations “with ever-increasing glory” until we attain full spirituality. These issues will be discussed in more detail in future articles. Yes, brothers, the spirit world and spiritual realities are far more glorious and magnanimous than many of us realize!
But know that our Father is not in hiding; he is not in arbitrary seclusion. He has put in place an arrangement of divine wisdom through which he reveals Himself to us. Just as we yearn for his presence, the majesty of His love causes him to yearn for the association of every created being who can comprehend, love, or approach him. It is, therefore, the limitations inherent in our material nature that prevents our immediate transportation to the glorious presence of the Father at the center of all things.
Although the actual approach to the Father must await our attainment of the highest translation through “glory,” we should rejoice to know that we are already so intimately associated with our Father through this spirit fragments.
While each of us differs greatly in our innate abilities and intellectual capacity, and while some of us enjoy favorable social advantages while others suffer from the lack of almost every human aid to supposed advancement, the possibilities for spiritual progress to the Father are equal to all. Our spiritual growth is achieved quite independently of all such social differences and diversified material environments.
No matter how much we may differ in our intellectual, social, economic, and even moral opportunities and endowments, we should never forget that we all enjoy the same divine presence of the spirit of the Father, and are all equally privileged to seek intimate personal communion with Him.
“For God does not show favoritism.”
– Romans 2:11
“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”
– Acts 10:34-35
If we are wholeheartedly spiritually motivated, unreservedly consecrated to the doing of the Father's will, we cannot fail to experience the sublime consciousness of knowing God and the assurance of surviving so that we can find Him. But we can speed up the journey by applying ourselves to the progressive experience of becoming more and more like him. In truth, the closer we come to imitating the Father, the closer we come to his actual presence. We understand more clearly why it is we are counseled:
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
– Matthew 5:48
If our minds are sincerely and spiritually motivated, if our hearts desire to know God and become like him, and honestly want to do the Father's will, there exists no negative influence of any material deprivation nor material advantage which can prevent us from securely ascending to Him.
The Father desires all his sons to be in personal communion with him. And has a place to receive all those seek him:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you.”
– John 14:1-2
Therefore settle in your thinking now and forever that God is approachable, the Father is attainable, the way is open; the forces of divine love and the ways and means of divine administration are all interlocked in an effort to facilitate the advancement of every worthy individual:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
– Romans 8:28
Brothers, do not doubt that some day, we shall stand in the divine presence and see the Father, figuratively speaking, face to face.
While the Father is not in spiritual hiding, so many of us have hidden ourselves away from Him by our own willful decisions and, for the time being, have separated ourselves from the communion of His spirit and the spirit of His Son by the choosing of perverse ways, our intolerant minds and our unspiritual natures.
We may chose to draw close to God or repeatedly forsake the divine will so long as the power of choice remains. Our final doom is not sealed until we have lost the power to choose the Father's will. But know that there is never a closure of the Father's heart to the needs and the petitions of his children; only do we chose to close our hearts forever to the Father's drawing power, and thereby finally and forever lose the desire to do his divine will—to know him and to be like him.
So we see that the Father has embarked upon the eternal adventure with us. And if we yield to the leadings of the spirit, we cannot fail to attain the high destiny established for us as Sons of the Kingdom. What a mistake to dream of God far off in the skies when the spirit of the Universal Father lives within your own mind!
The fact that we are not intellectually conscious of close and intimate contact with the spirit of the Father does not in the least disprove such an exalted experience. The proof of our relationship with the divine spirit of the Father consists wholly in the nature and extent of the fruits of the spirit which are yielded in our life experience. As Jesus said:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
– Galatians 5:22-23
"By their fruit you will recognize them.”
– Matthew 7:16
In the highest sense, we worship the Father and Him only. While we can and do worship the Father as he is manifested in the Christ, it is the Father, directly or indirectly, who is worshiped and adored. However, supplications, prayers and petitions of all kinds belong to the realm of the Son.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
– John 14:12-14
We will discuss the realm of the Son in our next article.
Worship is for its own sake; prayer embodies a self- or creature-interest element; that is the great difference between worship and prayer. There is absolutely no self-request or other element of personal interest in true worship; we simply worship God for what we comprehend him to be. Worship asks nothing and expects nothing for the worshiper. We do not worship the Father because of anything we may derive from such veneration; we render such devotion and engage in such worship as a natural and spontaneous reaction to the recognition of the Father's matchless personality and because of his lovable nature and adorable attributes.
We never worship the Father out of fear that he might ‘strike us down,’ or as a duty, or as an assumption that he must be appeased. Those are elementary and primitive views of the Father that Jesus sought and fought to erase.
The moment the element of self-interest intrudes upon worship, that instant devotion translates from worship to prayer and more appropriately should be directed to the person of the Christ. But in practical religious experience there exists no reason why prayer should not be addressed to God the Father as a part of true worship. And when we deal with the practical affairs of our daily life, we are cooperating with the spirit. We will discuss the spirit’s relation to the individual in this series of articles.
And so it is: We worship the Father; pray to, and commune with, the Son; and work out the details of our material affairs in connection with our brothers through the operation of the spirit. These are among the manifold operations of the Father whereby he condescends through the Son and the spirit to make himself manifest to his children. But it is our freewill choice to search for Him – even to find Him.
And this represents our initial efforts to describe the relation of our grand God to each of his individual creatures. He is known throughout the universe by various names dependent upon his relationship to his myriads of spirit creatures. To some, he is a Universal Upholder; to others, he is the First Source and Center; and he is known by other names throughout the universe of universes. But you must know that to man, the lowest of his created personalities, he has chosen to reveals himself as a loving Father. There is no greater and more accurate designation to describe his relation to us other than a Father to his children. Remembering we are dust, he takes extraordinary measures to reach us and let us know that we are loved and that the hairs of our head are numbered. (Matthew 10:30) He has done this chiefly through the ministry of Jesus, the Christ Son of God/Son of Man. We will examine this relationship in the next article: Christ’s Relation to the Individual.
We welcome your comments.
“Your Brothers in the Faith"