The Scriptures say, "God commanded light to shine in the dark." Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ.
*II Corinthians 4.6, CEV
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Paul is defending his ministry in writing to the Church in Corinth. The reference to God shining in "our hearts" is specifically, in historical context, Paul referring to his helpers and himself. The passage, however, refers to the potential for us each. We can note some important points on this verse.
First, Paul refers to the "Scriptures." His citation is of Genesis 1.3 and the separation of light from darkness.
Next, Paul applies the Scripture to his present readers and a new context. He lifts the passage and its implications spiritually into a contemporary context. He moves from cosmology to eccelesiology; that is, cosmos to Church.
Paul personalizes, next, the present "shining." Now, we do not only have the sun and moon shining in the expanse, as in Genesis, we have God shining in the heart.
What is this heart? This "heart" is the Center of the self. While the sun gives light to the day and the moon to the night, the Divine Presence enlightens the heart, or it would be full of spiritual darkness.
What is the purpose of this shining? For the mission team of Paul, the shining is to let the Corinthians see that the glory of Divine Presence is seen, or reflected, in Jesus Christ. The shining is the Presence seen in and working through the mission team to confirm the Substance and Identity of Jesus Christ.
This takes us back to the "heart." Paul links his witness to an inner filling with the Light of God. He, apparently, knows that without this inner experience the Christian witness would be greatly hampered and ineffective.
Have things changed in this regard, at all? Could it be that the decline of the attraction of Christianity and its values to much of the Western world is linked to loss of a transforming, inner experience of God within us? Could it be that much of the well-meaning work, worship, and witness of the churches is not grounded in the graced costliness of inner mortification of the unruly passions that deter us from living and witnessing in the power of the Holy Spirit? Could it be that conflicts within many churches arise from church members that have not undergone the transformation of the heart, and, therefore, they cannot and refuse to surrender to the subtle movements of the Holy Spirit? Could it be that we have many well-trained pastors in the mechanics and technology of "church" but who have not undergone a conversion of heart that prepares for a man or woman to be a spiritual example and spiritual leader?
The enlightening of the heart is personal and intimate. "God" is within the heart shining. This experience is not a vague one. This is specific, for God is intimately personal in the heart given to Divine Grace.
This leads us to a vital distinction. Is your commitment to the God shining in your heart? Or, is your commitment to a spiritual experience? Or, the church? Or, a religion?
Even for us Christians, our loyalty and power, and witness, arises from this intimacy with God within the heart. Our loyalty is not first toward any religious group, spiritual experience, church, confession, or creed. The sole validation for any of the above is God in the heart.
Is this heart experience for all persons? Yes. John Main, founder of the Christian Meditation movement, wrote: "The power of this light is to be found within our own hearts, within each one of us."
How is this possible? Again, Main: "What we each must learn to do is to be open to that power and to live our lives out of it." Therefore, we "learn" to "be open" to the energy of the Holy Spirit of Christ. Next, we learn to live "out of it." This means that we must put forth effort to be trained in the how of being open: this includes spiritual theology and spiritual practice. Next, we are trained, likewise, in the how of living out of this openness. That is, how do we remain, for example, a channel of Grace as much outside our prayer, meditation, and contemplation as within it? It is one thing to have an intimate experience of the Power of God in morning meditation, another to take that openness into the opportunities and challenges of the day.
Therefore, this is Christian discipleship: learning to be progressively receptive to, relinquished to, open to the Spirit within our hearts. This is not so that we will be super-spiritual persons, calling attention to ourselves. This is to witness to the Presence and Power of Jesus Christ.
So, Christian discipleship is about an attraction within God for us meeting an attraction within us for God. William Law wrote: "Faith is not a notion, but a real strong essential hunger, an attracting or magnetic desire of Christ, which as it proceeds from a seed of the divine nature in us, so it attracts and unites with its like."
Law is correct in seeing faith as a "faithing," an inner acting toward a Goal, a Destination, an Urging within the creature for the Creator. The movement is of Nature, a natural, godly urge and attraction. The likeness of God in us, within the heart, moves toward God-Within, and God-Within moves toward that in us like-God. This is a natural movement, and all other movement in any other direction is a perversion of the natural, spiritual course and destiny of the human creature. All sin is other-moving. All Good flows from the right movement, righteousness.
*Quote from William Law at www.brainyquote.com ; material of John Main in Gregory Ryan. The Burning Heart: Reading the New Testament with John Main.
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*Brian K. Wilcox lives with his wife, Rocio, their two dogs, St. Francis and Bandit Ty, and their fish, Hope, in Florida. Brian is vowed at Greenbough House of Prayer, a contemplative Christian community in Georgia. He lives a contemplative life and inspires others to experience a deeper relationship with Christ. He advocates for a spiritually-focused Christianity and the renewal of the focus of the Church on addressing the deeper spiritual needs and longings of persons and empathic relating with diverse spiritual traditions, East and West.
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