Has Jesus Arisen in Your Heart?
—- Are You Being Conformed into His Image ? (Part 1)
He Is Risen!
“… those whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom.8:29-30)
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We have just celebrated the solemnity of the Resurrection of Christ – a feast which, along with His crucifixion an burial are the keystones of the Christian Faith. However, in the practice of our faith, some of us tend to overlook the fact that the Resurrection took place on the Jewish feast of Firstfruits and that Jesus was indeed the first fruits of a new creation. You see, Jesus not only died to pay for the sins of humanity but also so that He might be the first among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). So that He, living in us and through us beleivers, might continue the work of bringing the Good News of God’s Kingdom here amongst the people of the world. He was leaving, but He was passing His anointing unto us so that we might continue His work.
In order to fulfill this, our role in this world, we need to be conformed to His image by the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:29) and yield ourselves to His rule so that we can be empowered to be His instruments in bring in forth the Kingdom. However, this cannot happen unless we, of our own free will, permit the Son of God to “arise in our hearts” so that we can experience His resurrection presence in us – only then can we be His partners in being instruments of the Father’s Will here on this earth!
Because the Father will not impose Himself on us, our salvation is NOT contingent on our decision to become His bondservants – it must be a free will decision of “agape” Love to give ourselves as a living sacrifice to the Father, in Jesus’ Name! (Rom. 12:1). Our decision will then allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us to renew our minds and empower us for the work of the Kingdom and for the final transition to union with Him!
To begin this spiritual transformation the Holy Spirit begins by first awakening our spirits to His leadings – an awakening that can only be accomplished by Him, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus (a leader of the Sanhedrin). In essence, our spirits have to be re-born from above so that the Spirit of Christ may come into us. This, the Arising of Jesus in our hearts, is the first step in being conformed to His Image.
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn. 1:1-8)
We ended this Lenten season with the Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior from the dead and as the harbinger of our own spiritual transition that begins with our transition from unbelief to a Living Faith and a renewed Life in the spirit as Children of God – a renewed awareness, which permits you to sense the “wind” of the Spirit.
In this series of articles I will be discussing the various levels of transitions we must all go through in our journey to spiritual maturity as the Spirit Conforms us to the Image of Christ. Besides laying the groundwork for an understanding of the nature of these transformative stages, the first stage I will be discussing will be our coming to the awakening of our spirit. If you can sense the “wind” of the spirit then you have an awakened spirit and are beyond this first stage. If not, then you need to ask God to send His Holy Spirit to renew you.
We cannot live in this world without undergoing transitions – in fact, natural life, itself, is a process in which transitions are of the essence. What we don’t realize or sometimes take for granted is that the development of our spiritual life itself requires a series of transitions in order to mature our spiritual nature sufficiently so that we may enter into a true and fulfilling intimate living relationship with the Divine through Christ Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
We all are tripartite beings composed of body, soul, and spirit (1Thess. 5-23). Our body and soul are designed to permit us to interact with our natural and time constrained environment in order to be able to subsist and procreate to thus fulfill our natural role in this world. Our spirit, is, essentially, our inner sanctuary, designed to permit us to interact with our creator so that He may partner with us in the living out of our our lives, and thus be His instruments in bringing forth His will into this creation in our God-intended role for us.
However, as natural descendants of Adam, and victims of his rebellion against being ruled by God, we are born with an inactive spiritual connection to the Father – with an empty and desecrated sanctuary, so to speak. In this, our natural state, we are, of necessity, controlled by the physical and emotional necessities of the world around us as well as the forces of darkness which utilize our weakened state to foil the Father’s true purpose for the human race and, essentially, attempt to bring us to a final destruction.
Jesus, the Father’s Only Begotten Son, was sent not only to save us from our sins by satisfying God’s justice but to restore our spiritual nature to its original state before sin entered into human nature and thus reconnect us to the Father via the Holy Spirit and His Word. Because of sin, our human body is destined to return from the dust from which it came. But our soul and spirit are destined for a recreated body at the resurrection of the dead when Jesus returns – no longer as just our savior, but to judge the living and the dead, to determine where we will spend eternity.
Before that day comes, we who have believed in the Christ and the Good News of Salvation must pass through a series of spiritual transformations or transitions, not only to be saved but also so that we may be His instruments in bringing the same Good News to this fallen world. These transitions begin with the first stage: the re-birth of our spirits, just as Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born of water and the spirit” in order to enter into this stage of spiritual renewal.
From the scriptures we can identify at least three major stages of this transformation. The Holy Spirit whom the Father sent to us at the behest of His Son is God’s Agent of Grace and His Word to bring us through this process. I propose that the main stages where Grace intervenes in our spiritual formation to be as follows:
Stage 1 – Unbelief to a Living Faith and Spiritual Awakening
Stage 2 – Spiritual Awakening to Spiritual Empowerment and Consecration
Stage 3 – Spiritual Consecration to Spiritual Union With Christ
If the naming of these major stages surprises you, don’t worry, most people brought up in our traditional religious culture, as I was, would not be familiar with these terms. They are unfamiliar because our religious culture uses other terminology to express them. The reason is that our culture of “intellectual enlightenment” tends to avoid using the terms, “spirit” and “spiritual” – which are considered to be too theologically abstract for the common man.
For instance, in our cultural thinking the term “conversion” is considered as merely coming to a different intellectual understanding or assessment of certain philosophical or cultural tenets and the realignment of our lives to that renewed understanding. It cannot even conceive that the term, as used in scripture, refers NOT to an intellectual change of mind but of our response to hearing the Word of God in our “heart” or “spirit” thus evoking an understanding in us that tells us that we are not walking in harmony with God’s Spirit – a level of “spiritual awareness” that brings a deep desire in our hearts to repent and turn to follow His leading so that we can be in alignment to His will.
Now, About Stage 1
When Jesus told the crowds that “…. unless you are converted and turn [repent] you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5) He was not speaking about them accepting a new philosophy or theology but about something that had to occur in their “spirits”, not their minds through the Word preached to them – a spiritual impartation that would cause them to accept the Good News of Salvation that the Father was offering them through Jesus’ preaching and teaching.
It is true that sometimes a true conversion or “turning to God”” is preceded by an intellectual reassessment of what we believe, but that happens because our intellectual preconceptions are blocking what the Holy Spirit is telling our hearts or our spirit
Jesus Offers Living Water
As an example of this take the instance where Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman who came to the well to draw water, asking her to give Him a drink. She was taken aback that a Jewish man, especially a rabbi, would ask a foreign woman for a drink…
So Jesus [said to] her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (Jn 3:10)
The woman, of course, did not understand what Jesus was saying about “living water” in a “spiritual” way so she responded, just as we would, in a natural way, asking Jesus, “how are you going to get this water? You don’t have anything to draw water with?”
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn:3-13-14)
Now, the woman’s spiritual ears perked up and, sensing that what Jesus was referring to was “spiritual”. she said, … “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (Jn 3:15)
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (jn 3:16-18)
She now recognized “in her spirit” that Jesus was speaking from His spirit as a prophet of God and so, sensing an opportunity, tried to get Jesus to tell her about where God intended men to worship. But Jesus answered her:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him, “I know [from tradition] that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”
Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”(Jn 3:21-26)
Here Jesus, by direct revelation, makes it clear exactly who He is and that the Father desires for us to come before Him “in [a renewed] spirit and in truth”. Jesus came just so that we could have a reborn spirit so we could worship the Father as He desires to be worshipped. How many of us can say that we “know” that our worship is “in the spirit”? I, before my spirit awakened, a compliant baptized Christian, did not even know what being “in the spirit” was!
Now, for the Samaritan woman, the transition from unbelief to belief was completed when she understood “in her spirit” who Jesus was, so she immediately got up and went to give her witness to the villagers and…
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” (Jn.3:39)
It is important to note the significance that, once awakened, the woman’s witness of her faith had on the villagers. Yes! Her faith was contagious! And, yes, the faith of the villagers was also connected them to the person of Jesus and who He was. However, their initial level of belief was still at the “human” initiation stage, a stage that was calling them to go further in their faith. It was an intermediate state that was inciting them to seek out Jesus for themselves. The Holy Spirit was drawing them to go further and experience and hear Jesus for themselves. In their curiosity the Holy Spirit drew them to seek Him personally and, when they did He preached and taught the Word of God to them and them several days. It is, at this point, after they had heard the WORD directly from Jesus …
They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (Jn3:42)
Just as the Word had to be heard directly from Jesus to be able to be received spiritually to activate their spirits, so also we who have heard the testimony of “tradition” must spiritually seek out Jesus for ourselves and hear the Word directly from Him in order to complete the first stage of transition from unbelief to belief an have the Risen Jesus present in our hearts (spirits). Praised be His Holy Name!!
In living out our faith however, we get stuck at the intermediate stage,” the testimony of tradition”, and never seek out Jesus for ourselves to activate our spiritual awareness. We don’t do it because we cannot comprehend that, “in faith” we can transcend our human circumstances and reach out to Him “in the spirit”- our reborn spirit that is NOT bound by the natural circumstances in which our physical self is embedded!
One of the reasons we don’t even try is because our religious culture is very cautious in teaching us about our newly awakened spiritual nature and what our spiritual legacy in Christ really is! And that legacy is that we now abide in HIM and HE in us in our spirits and that because of this we can take the next step in faith into spiritual waters and actually experience His presence and Hear His Voice in the here and now! Again, let us give praise to His Holy Name!
Remember the two disciples who, depressed by the circumstances of Jesus’ death, were on their way to a village called “Emmaus” when they encountered Jesus (without recognizing Him). In conversing with them He chided them, saying,
“O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory?” And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Lk 24:25-27)
As the day was ending they said to Him …
Unless you eat of my flesh and drink my blood…
“… Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent”. And he went in to abide with them. And it came to pass, when he had sat down with them to meat, he took the bread and blessed; and breaking it he gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, “Was not our heart burning within us, while he spoke to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Lk 24:29-32)
Our religious initiation, again, tends to major in the doctrinal portion of catechesis and glosses over the “spiritual” portion also required so that, although new initiates are given the basic teachings as the church’s testimony of the necessary tenets of the Faith, they are not usually given any spiritual direction or incentive to seek out Jesus, personally, “in the spirit”, so that they too may recognize Him in the breaking of the bread, confirming His Word in their hearts and thus truly letting the Holy Spirit awaken their spirits through the Word.
Listen to what the Apostle Peter says to the church:
“… since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you…” (1 Ptr 1:14-25)
Here, Peter clearly indicates that it is the anointed preaching of the Good News, the Word of God, which awakens our spirit and brings it to a new life in Christ.
For those of you who have been baptized and have not yet completed this stage of your transition to a full awakening of your spirit, all you need to do is ….
“… ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)
Once you have sincerely asked, in prayer, then partake of the Word in faith and it will be opened to you so that you also may hear the Word of the Good News with your “spiritual” ears and if you respond to that Word you will receive the grace of God for a ‘spiritual” awareness of His Presence in you – the beginning of an intimate personal relationship with Him!
Just as Jesus said, blessed are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Luke 11:27-28)
My Brothers and sisters NOW is the time to act on the WORD and receive all that the Lord has provided for those who believe! May He reveal His Presence in you and may His Word burn in your hearts forever!
Baruch Ha Shem! Blessed be the Name!
Your Brother in Christ … Bartimaeus
(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016])
Related and Pertinent Links
Has Jesus Arisen In your Heart ? (Part 2)
Has Jesus Arisen in Your Heart? (Part 3)
Praying Through the Passion of Christ
Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit
Cast Your Net on the Other Side!
Jesus, The Source of Living Water and Us!