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 The Spirit's Dark Night   
by Jeanne Guyon
 


 

     There is an obscure or dark night that must be experienced within the spirit of every believer. John of the Cross refers to this darkness as the Lord's way of purifying the soul.

     There is an early period in our spiritual pilgrimage when God chooses not to show us very many of our defects. He is using this time to strengthen new believers in their faith. But then the Holy Spirit begins to expose the inner defects with terrible clearness. I am now referring to the sinful traits of temper, hasty words, selfish reactions, rebellious thoughts and immature conduct.

     "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks... But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matt. 12:34-37)

     Truly, we need to enter into the meek and submissive nature of our Lord. And so God lays His hand heavily on the true seeker. He permits others to slander his character. The believer is exposed to the most unexpected types of persecution. And as a result, the evil that still exists in his heart is shown to him in all its perverseness.

     The seeker's own thoughts become rebellious. It seems he is under a siege from Satan himself. But it is in the midst of this onslaught that the inward man is made to succumb, and truly yield to death. Without this work of purification through suffering, the self-life would never be willing to die. And so, without being humbled into nothingness in this way, the deep imperfections of the inward man would remain..

     "He redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light. God does all these things to a man {through deeps trials and testing}---twice, even three times---to turn back his soul from the pit {of independence, self-sufficiency and self-will}, that the light of {the Son's submissive} life may shine on him." (Job 33:28-30)

     When I speak of interior defects, I speak of things that are not purposeful or calculated. However, they continue to rise from within the soul. Because God is now hiding Himself from the believer, this eruption of evil is assumed to be the reason why God is not showing Himself.

     The believer seems suspended, as it were, at a distance from God. His misery is complete. Here is this poor creature discovering, almost hourly, his own defects. Like Job, God is permitting him to be exposed to his own weaknesses and the malice of men and the opposition of Satan.

     The believer must trust in God and know that His loving Father is permitting this purifying process. "If you endure chastening, God deals with you as sons...that we may be partakers of His holiness." (Heb. 12:7,10) Those who do not consent to this work, which is designed to crucify the old man, will not be set free from their defective nature. They will never find true spiritual rest in God's good, pleasing and perfect will. "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body {in going to the cross}, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin {meaning self-will}. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God." (1 Pet. 4:1-2)

     Sometimes, in one stroke, the Lord delivers the believer from every spiritual foe. He purifies the heart with a very sharp work. But for others the Lord takes his time and does it in a more thorough process. Each vessel is being prepared for a specific purpose.

     The believer seems cast off from the Lord during the refining process. He will often find it difficult to rejoice in all things, even when he knows the Lord is the one doing the work.

     What does the earnest seeker do in a time like this? There are two choices. One is to turn toward the Lord and trust in Him with dependent faith; the other is to look at the temptations, the wretchedness, the poverty, the imperfections, and then dwell on them. Those who take this latter course will only extend and worsen their misery.

     In the beginning of the spiritual pilgrimage we often see the soul suffering persecution with calmness and resolution. Where does he find such reserve? He is conscious that what is happening to him is undeserved. But in the case which I have just described this feeling is no longer true! On this dark night when his evil heart is being fully exposed he really feels that what is happening to him is his just dessert. Added to all this are inexplicable confusions and humiliations.

     All this serves to point out his one great need: he must be separated from the things of this world so he may enter into the fullness of Christ's life and nature. Even the emotional enjoyments found in worship services cannot help him during this period. He must seek out the land of inheritance and enter into the presence of the Lord so he may find true "rest" and enjoyment "in everything."

     The seekers of God's divine life need to be shown their wretchedness when they are without His fullness. It is a touch of the experience of hell. It is intended to provide the believer with a firm desire to turn from self and rely wholly on God. So remember, even when going through a period of being thrown into the fires many times a day, and there is a feeling that God has moved away to another universe, the seeker is unknowingly making progress.

     When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it. As often as it comes it will carry you away; morning after morning, by day and by night, it will sweep through. The understanding of this message will bring sheer terror. The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you.

     "The Lord will rise up...to do his work, his strange work, and perform his task, his alien task... Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say. When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil? {The answer is no!}... Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever... All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful counsel and magnificent wisdom." (Isa. 28:18-29)
 

ONLY A FEW TOUCH THIS EXPERIENCE

     The believer who has been taken through this dark night of the spirit finds that he no longer likes his own nature and becomes resolved to stop trusting in himself. He expects nothing good from himself and begins to wait on God---the God who is not there---knowing that he must fully trust in his Lord for now and for eternity. This period of spiritual darkness is represented by the darkness that covered the sky while Jesus was dying on the cross.

     This kind of experience does not come to those who have chosen to walk by their own will in the ways of the world. Since they have not agreed to follow the Lord by submitting themselves to the cross, they do not experience this dying to self. And there are few teachers to prepare them for this spiritual pilgrimage because most of the church leaders are unwilling to take this narrow path into the life of God. Therefore, most believers do not go through this deep suffering of the soul. In effect, they are resisting grace, quenching the Holy Spirit and preventing the Lord's penetrating light from exposing the great darkness within their soul.

     I will now be speaking, then, of those who, having been tempted, proven and tried, are deemed worthy to undergo this final purification leading to a death of the self-life. They are deemed worthy only because they have an element of submission and deep humility. At this point they do not perceive these elements within themselves, but God can see what is deeply planted within their heart.
 

REBELLION WHICH MAY NOT BE REBELLION

     At this point I would bring a word of comfort. It is important to bear in mind that there are two ways to resist God. One is voluntary and willful. A person may freely choose not to permit the Spirit to pierce his soul with divine light. This kind of resistance stops the work of God. Your Lord cannot violate man's freedom of will. But there is also a resistance that can be called "the resistance of nature." This resistance also remains within the will, but it is there without being completely voluntary.

     I speak simply of the human tendency of repugnance when it comes to this death to the self-life---the instinct of survival. Without seeking to analyze this natural desire to save ourselves, we recognize that God relates to this type of resistance in a totally different way than He does to rebellion.

     In the face of this natural resistance, which is not willfully calculated, the Lord does not cease His effectual working. Rather, He seeks to take advantage of the consecration this believer once made to his Lord.

     God knows that he once made a decision to go down into the watery grave to be united with Christ in His death so that he would be able to receive a new life from his Lord. The Lord knows this consecration has not been withdrawn. The will itself has remained submissive, perhaps subdued, even though there are times when resistance surfaces in the feelings.

     This consecration to God, along with a submission of the will, is sometimes concealed in the very depths of the soul, but it is visible to God. And having seen it, He is able to continue His purifying operation in these called out children without violating their freedom. The stripping of the soul must be left to God. He will do it to perfection. You see some who, after reading or hearing about the need of this work, then set out to do it themselves. Of course, they will continue in their human efforts without progress.

     God must wait for each of His children to come to Him in absolute helplessness and childlike dependence. In effect, He waits on us to wait on Him in a faith that relies on Him to use His power to deliver us from the evil of our sinful nature. If we ask him to do his strange work in spite of our natural inclinations to resist, He will continue His purification process until the work is complete.

     I have noticed that souls who have advanced into this dark night frequently experience something rather surprising. It is this: During the night, when everything is hidden, and they appear to be slumbering without progress, God seems to operate more powerfully than during the clear of day!
 
GOD'S PLAN

     When I speak of God unfolding His plan in detail, I do not mean that God says to the soul of the believer, "In order for you to know exactly what to renounce and what to sacrifice, you must do this and this and this."

     No. Not at all! There is only one way that God purifies your life. It is this: He does it by putting the soul of the believer into the crucible of the most severe trials where everything becomes as dark as night. These trials will continue even when the natural instinct of the self-life is to escape. He brings that individual to a point where he is willing to pay the FULL price for the One Great Pearl.

     It will cost you your entire self-life. He will not accept just certain parts of your life. In His eyes, anything short of all is a blemished sacrifice. And so He will keep turning you back into the wilderness until He has you in a condition when you are willing to forsake all for Him.

     God does His exposing work according to His perfect knowledge. It is a painful process. But the hand of God is able to bring the believer to the point where he is willing to sacrifice his all to the Lord, and not only what he possesses, but his entire being; and not just for time only, but for all eternity.

     Despair becomes intense when every support is taken away. But this is the only way that he can be pressed into an unconditional abandonment of himself to his God. This willingness to give ourselves up wholly to God for His own use is what permits the Lord to use His divine power to exalt our soul in due time. (1 Pet. 5:5-6; 2 Pet. 1:3-4)

     Most Christians will not permit God to lead them to this place where they despair of themselves. They keep turning to the pleasures of this world to relieve their distress. This is why their flesh-life remains strong and active.

     Since there are so few who will permit God to lead them into this valley of death, where He shows them the depths of their depravity, we do not find many who are willing to give up everything of self to be delivered from this evil. Since they do not permit the Spirit to expose the evil in their heart, they never make the complete sacrifice of self that leads to resurrection life. Never forget, "Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matt. 7:14)

     You also need to remember this: The more you despair of self, the more you trust in God. You do not always recognize the second part of this truth within yourself---that of putting your trust in God. But the Spirit, if permitted, will lead you into a condition where you have no choice but to abandon yourself to your Lord. The further removed you are from clear certainty and the way of self-sufficiency, which is so obviously used by the people of the world, the more deeply you are pressed into a living faith in God.

     The reason why people are not taken out of the desert testing period by the mighty hand of God is because they continue to live as they see fit. (Deut. 12:8) The Spirit wants to separate them from this weak kind of faith that needs to direct its own path. To do this, the believer must be taken into a time of uncertainty. It is intended to expose his helplessness.

     The Spirit does it by stripping away every outside support. When God has taken away the things you have been relying on to sustain your carnal life, along with the heart idols you have been using for spiritual support, then you will begin to know sacrifice. But what is the last sacrifice of all? It is the one that I describe as "the pure sacrifice." It is the abandonment of self to be wholly possessed by God. This is the kind of faith in God that enables us to enter into the life of eternity.

     This ultimate sacrifice takes place like this: The believer has abandoned his self-life and all the things of the creature to God, only to discover that God does not immediately show Himself after he has made the sacrifice. At this discovery, the Christian cries out to his God, "Oh God, why have you forsaken me!"

     Similarly, the prototype Son, who has shown us the way into resurrection life, had to abandon Himself to the Father, only to say, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Even though the Father could no longer manifest His life from within the Son when the sins of the world were placed on Him, the Son did what is required of every true son of God, by saying, "Into your hands I commend my spirit."

     It is this surrender of the whole self to God, for all time and eternity, without any immediate acknowledgment from God, that eventually brings down the blessing. This is, in fact, the last sacrifice. The cry comes forth, "It is finished," announcing the fact that the soul has been totally abandoned to God.

     We cannot forget the time between our Lord's death and His resurrection. Jesus was our example. For those who follow Him by abandoning themselves for all eternity to be a vessel of His life, they can expect the Spirit, in due time, to raise up their soul from the darkness of the spiritual grave into a new heavenly life.

     "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who...made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant... And being found in the appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him..." (Phil. 2:5-9)

     "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me {through a death to self} is not worthy of Me." (Matt. 10:38)

     "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time." (1 Pet. 5:6)

   The child of God is now in a condition where his future for all eternity is dependent on God's sovereign control and power. The Author and Perfecter of his faith has taken him into the Sabbath-rest of God where he is enabled to rest from all of his own works. (Heb. 4:9-11) This is the kingdom-life of God.

   All of our troubles spring from our resistance to make this complete abandonment of our soul into the hands of our loving Father. The resistance comes from our attachment to the things of this world.

     The more you torment yourself by dwelling on your suffering and potential loss, the sharper that suffering becomes. Besides, those temporal things that are holding you to this world will soon be consumed. (2 Pet. 3:10-14)

     "Remember Lot's wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." (Luke 17:32-33) if you allow the crucifying process to go on undisturbed, the work will soon be over and the victory won.

     Do not come to this immature idea: "I will be one of those who constantly follows the will of the Lord, and then He will not find it necessary to deal with me so harshly." There is no such person. There is no such possibility. The flesh-life is great in all of us. And no one abandons himself in a complete death to self without the Spirit of the Lord permitting considerable distress to come into the soul. The revelation of our true nature is made a very shocking experience. We all must know this suffering of the soul if we hope to see the light of life. (Isa. 53:11)

     Nor can you quickly find and deal with your heart idols and weaknesses through your own human effort. Your deeply inbred arrogance and pride only shows itself when you entertain such thoughts. The flesh that is still trying to achieve spiritual life by human effort cannot be taken into the presence of the Lord. You must be taught how to wait on God and live in childlike dependence on Him to work out your salvation from first to last. "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely... He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it." (1 Thess. 5:23-24)

     "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple...

     "Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord...

     "I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (Ps. 27:4,6,12-13)


WHEN REVELATION PRECEDES SUFFERING

     When confronted with this fiery trial, even the most earnest seeker will instinctively want to resist this path of suffering. He will also look about for some trace of the consecration that he once made to his Lord. There is nothing much left. He cries from deep within his inmost being for strength or for deliverance. It seems neither comes.

     Interestingly, just before these things happen in the lives of many believers, there is often an inward revelation from the Spirit. Perhaps we should call it an infusion of divine justice. There comes an inner sense of knowing that whatever the Lord must do in our life, it is just. The believer realizes that, whether it be an attack from the powers of darkness, or simply his own natural weakness being exposed---whatever is about to befall him---it is justified. He realizes that he is being prepared for a life that he has never known before.

     Thus, the believer is given the ability to surrender to whatever it is the Lord is about to do. This does not mean that he will like it, nor does it guarantee that he will stand in the faith. (Luke 8:13) However, it does give him the will to submit to God so the Spirit will be able to rightfully take him into this deeper work of purification.

     "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you." (1 Pet. 4:12)

     "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you in {spiritual} prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days {which is a number representing God's divine order and perfect timing}. Be faithful until death {to self}, and I will give you the crown of life." (Rev. 2:10)

     God provides this advance revelation to help prepare the believer for the deep work He is about to do within the soul. While God must permit this period of hardship and trial to expose both the depths of our corruption and our helplessness, this work of purification is never more intense than what God knows we are able to escape. God makes sure we are properly prepared to come through the fire.

     Be assured, though, when the tempest reaches the apex of its fury, the thoughts of your consecration begin to vanish and your once strong devotion to the Lord, which mostly came from your own fleshly human effort, tends to pass away. The believer also tends to forget his previous understanding of God's perfect love and justice. He is simply overwhelmed by the repugnance of what is happening.

     The Lord will for awhile permit us to resist making our final decision to turn from the worldly way of self-sufficiency in this abandonment of ourselves to Him. He will keep working with us. But the believer must not resist for a long period of time. And even though it may appear that Jesus has hidden Himself from you, He is there in the fiery trial with you.

     "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them. (John 12:36)

     In the beginning the resistance is necessary. We might even say it is good, for it exposes the believer to his weakness. Like Peter when he still thought he was strong in himself, we all must learn this difficult lesson about our helplessness by being sifted by Satan. (Luke 22:31) Jesus must permit this sifting process to take place until we are truly broken and humble in heart.

     The Lord will hide himself from us and leave us exposed to our own weakness, so that we will learn of our great need of Him. This is not an easy lesson to learn for anyone who has been living under the influence of the "spirit of the world" and its teachings of independence and self-sufficiency for many years.

     What was true of Peter is also true of us all. There simply is no such strength in any of us. If we perceive that we are so endowed, we are but fooling ourselves. It is an error that will need to be exposed through many hardships.

     Again, the knowledge of your weakness, even after experiencing other wonderful spiritual delights from your Lord, must be brought into the light of truth. The knowledge of just how weak you really are, when faced with suffering and the cross, becomes very revealing and humbling.

     "Like a shepherd's tent my house has been pulled down and taken from me...day and night you made an end of me.

     "I waited patiently till dawn, but like a lion he broke all my bones; day and night you made an end of me. I cried like a swift or thrush, I moaned like a morning dove. My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens. "I am troubled; O Lord, come to my aid!

     "But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this. I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul.

     "Lord, by such things men live {in the divine light}; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live. Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.

     "In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction... The Lord will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord." (Isa. 38:10-20)


THERE IS ONLY ONE TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS

      A trial is set before even the most earnest of Christians. He finds himself stripped of all his strength. There is nothing of his own righteousness to hold him up. He continues to stumble into sin.

     I stress this point: He must be permitted to stumble while trying to live by the power of his own righteousness. It is good when each Christian is permitted to learn this painful lesson. He must know there is no strength within himself to produce true righteousness.

     The Spirit uses the law to expose our helplessness. He permits us to suffer through many painful defeats. Without this failure and suffering there would be a natural tendency to try to become like our Lord through human effort. Paul's question to the Galatians will apply to every Christian who is living by human effort: "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect {or becoming mature} by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain---if indeed it was in vain?" (Gal. 3:3)

     There must come that moment when the believer confesses that all righteousness belongs to God alone. He discovers that his only hope of putting on the new man, "created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:24), is by appropriating it through dependent faith. The only way to enter into a participation with Christ in His divine nature is by grace through faith.


INWARD WOUNDS AND OUTWARD WOUNDS

       We have been speaking of a dark night of the spirit which results in an apparent separation from God. This bride of Christ during His absence does not want other things or other creatures. She is, in fact, further away from being unfaithful in her heart than any other time in her experience. This does not mean that she knows this. Actually, she thinks she has lost the presence of her well-beloved, and she continually grieves at this seemingly perpetual absence of her Lord.

     While it may appear very bleak, and it is difficult to garner up spiritual fervor, her Groom sees into her heart. He is able to see her great desire in spite of all her failings. And even though she feels her Lord has abandoned her, her focus is still on Him. She has not put Him out of her mind because His absence is constantly there to remind her of Him. This is quite different than those who force the Lord out of their mind and grieve Him away so they may fill their heart with the things of this world. This is spiritual adultery.

     "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (Jam. 4:4)

     "For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ {because they refuse to turn from the world and die to self}: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame---who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven..." (Phil. 3:18-20)


THE JEALOUSY OF GOD

     God created people to be a vessel of His life---for the display of His splendor. And He will not join Himself to anyone who clings to the idols of this world. He does not allow for a rival. You will find that He takes little delight in a divided heart. (2 Cor. 6:16-17)

     In contrast, He responds with His love to those who have sacrificed themselves to become a vessel of His life. So, if you have offered yourselves to God and given Him permission to take you through the cross, do not lose patience. Christ's victorious life will be supplied to you after a time of testing.

     "But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect {in faith and love} and complete, lacking nothing... Blessed is the man who endures temptation; FOR WHEN HE HAS BEEN APPROVED, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." (Jam. 1:4,12)

     "God...after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power..." (1 Pet. 5:10)


DESTROYED AND RUINED

     Job says, "He has destroyed me on all sides, and I am ruined; He has taken away from me all hope, like a tree which is plucked up by the roots." The means of reducing the self-life to total ruin is accomplished by removing all false support, which includes taking away relief "on all sides." If the Lord does not permit this work to take place, the flesh-life will never truly surrender to the cross. Self will tend to turn back to the temporal things of this world to find some alternative form of spiritual life.

     Job said he was destroyed on all sides---everything of old was ruined. The hope he had in himself, or in anything outside of God, was not only cut off, but snatched away like a tree plucked up by the roots---nothing remained. While the wisdom of the world sees this as bad, the spiritual mind is able to recognize the good that will come out of it.

     This does not necessarily mean that God must separate us from our family and home and career. But rather, God will show us how they cannot provide unending spiritual life.

     To die to self and to enter into a participation with Christ in His life and nature is wholly dependent on the Father. Only the Holy Spirit, with His resurrection power, has the ability to purify the heart. (Acts 15:8-9)

     Job's comparison of God's work of entire sanctification with a tree being plucked out by the roots is a very good one, because if there remains only a little root, it will soon begin to grow again with vigorous life. Likewise, if there remains anything of the self-life in us which is not taken away, it will gradually spring up, and increase in strength. This is why, God wishing to be very merciful to the soul, does not allow the least outside sustenance to remain in our heart when He prepares to lift our soul into a union with His spiritual life. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matt. 5:8)
 

ALL RESTORED AGAIN

     I look upon Job's experience as a mirror or spiritual type of the Christian's pilgrimage into the divine life. God stripped him of both his goods and his children, because, as spiritual types, they represent the results of the works he had been able to produce in his natural strength. Then the Lord took away his health, which represented the loss of all his own virtues. Next, God permitted him to putrefy, rendering him an object of horror and contempt. There remained no sound part in him. The best human wisdom and psychological counseling of the world could not help him when God was doing His purification work.

     But after he had rotted on the dunghill, and there remained nothing but a mere corpse, God gave him everything back in double. He entered into a newly resurrected life where there was a superabundance in everything he did.

     It is the same with those who have been crucified and buried with Christ. Where once there was nothing but a corpse, suddenly the believer is resurrected into newness of life. A new life is given to him with true spiritual abundance. "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection." (Rom. 6:5)

     These sanctified Christians are also given an innate ability to use the gifts of God without incurring the defilement that will naturally result when the self-life is still alive and active. Because God provides sanctified Christians with the ability to overcome the world, enabling their fruit to come from His heavenly life, they naturally desire to use His resources to further the work of His kingdom.


THE COMPLETION OF THE INTERIOR LIFE

     Most of those who speak about entering into a participation with Christ in His life and nature speak of its consummation in the next life. When I think of the next world in relationship to the life of God entering the eternal soul, I, too, see an experience of the consummation of grace and glory. And, yes, I see a completion of the promise with unclouded enjoyment. But as to the kingdom-life itself, I also see a new life in this world that not only has a full proportion, but is also "mature and complete." "But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (Jam. 1:4) You may "become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Eph. 4:13)

     I qualify this statement by saying that I speak of a state of heavenly soul-rest. Our faith is perfected and there is a state of true satisfaction in the sovereignty of God. We no longer have a will of our own independent of God after we have entered His undivided kingdom. We enter into the firstfruits of the life of heaven. This full Sabbath-rest of God has been the object of the soul's desire from the moment it first began to seek out the Lord.
 
     When I speak of completion or spiritual maturity in this lifetime, it must be remembered that this does not impede further progress in God during this life or a further transformation when entering into the life to come. But the soul may reach a heavenly proportion and become perfected in love and faith while we remain in this world. In this walk of true faith in God, the Lord is able to communicate a fullness of His life to our eternal soul. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)

     There is a fully mature spiritual life available to us in this world that is similar to the life Jesus was enabled to manifest through the power of the Holy Spirit when He walked in a mortal body. The nature of God is to be seen through the new life we receive from the Lord. We are expected to manifest the light of His life in this world as He once did. (John 8:12) In the life to come we will, of course, enjoy a totally different perfection as mortality puts on immortality, and even the body becomes a spiritual entity.

     Nonetheless, there is a maturity for here and now. Each believer is to "become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:14) and "walk as Jesus did." (1 John 2:6) Each part of this new spiritual nature is to be complete and whole, showing the beauty and harmony found in the life of God.

     To rob God of nothing---to refuse nothing---to require of Him nothing for self---this is great perfection. This is the life of the Son---the kingdom-life. We receive this purity of heart and life as a gift when the Spirit lifts our soul into the heavenly realms with our Lord.

     If a Christian dares to seek out this union with the divine life he must be fully convinced that God is all and that he is nothing. If he thinks he is something with rights of his own, he will find himself grumbling in the desert testing period. And this will prevent him from entering into the promised land and the fullness of Christ's life.

     "For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud {of the Spirit}... They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

     "Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were... And do not grumble, as some of them did---and were killed by the destroying angel.

     "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Cor. 10:1-12)

     As the Father reigns in the Son, in the same way, Christ is able to reign in a pure heart. There He finds nothing that either resists or is offensive to Him. This inner life becomes His kingdom and this is what makes us partakers of His royal estate. This is what we pray for: "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt. 6:10)
    
     As the Father has appointed the Lord Jesus a kingdom, and He shares the glory of that kingdom-life with His Son, so His Son desires to share the state of His glorious kingdom-life with us. (John 17:22-23)

     "As the living Father sent Me {to manifest His kingdom-life in the world}, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live {in the same kingdom-life} because of Me." (John 6:57)

     Truly, we are in the "age of fulfillment." The Spirit of Christ is now able to establish the undivided kingdom of God within our eternal soul. May the power and glory be of God for ever and ever. Amen.

     "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. "(2 Pet. 1:10-11)
 

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