The Perfection of Fellowship with God

Dr. Brian Allison

On Friday night, I was surfing the Internet on my computer, and I came across a rather interesting essay, presented as a Public Domain file, which was written by a man by the name of Jacob Boehme (1575-1624) who was a deeply spiritual German writer. The title of the essay is: "The Supersensual Life." It deals with the possibility of spiritual life which transcends our present bodily-physical existence. It deals with the perfection of fellowship with God. This essay is perhaps one of the most spiritual works that I have ever read. Boehme's writings have had a powerful impact on such men as William Law and Isaac Newton. This particular essay assumes the form of a dialogue between a religious master and a searching disciple. It begins with a question posed by the searching disciple to his religious master: "Sir, how may I come to the Supra-bodily/earthly life, so that I may see God and hear God speak?" In responding to this disciple, the master says, "Blessed are you, therefore if you can stand still from [i.e., apart from] Self-thinking and Self-willing, and can stop the Wheel of your Imagination and Senses because in this way you may arrive at length to see the great Salvation of God being made capable of all Manner of Divine Sensations and Heavenly Communications. Since it is nothing indeed, but your own Hearing and Willing, that does hinder you, so that you do not see and hear God." The master instructs the disciple how he may enter into that Supra-bodily/earthly life – "The first is, You must resign up your will to God; and must sink yourself down to the Dust in His mercy. The second is, You must hate your own Will and forbear from doing that to which your own will does drive you. The third is, You must bow your soul under the Cross, heartily submitting yourself to it, that you may be able to bear the Temptations of Nature and Creation."

The perfection of fellowship with God should be the calling and goal of every Christian. Such an experience was true of the Lord Jesus Christ who is not only our Saviour and Lord, but also our model; and it is to Him that we now turn in order to understand the nature of this perfection of fellowship with God.

Total dependence on God's leading

In John 5:30, Jesus said, "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." This is perhaps the key verse, along with 5:19f., which discloses the intimate and perfect fellowship which Christ had with God the Father. Three fundamental aspects indicate or characterize this perfection of fellowship with God; first, total dependence on God's leading or direction – "I can do nothing on My own initiative." What an incredible statement uttered by the Son of God! Though He is the Word of God – very God of very God – He uttered this astounding statement that He was totally reliant on God for all that He did. This fact is almost inconceivable.

My children, having entered adolescence, are partially dependent on my wife and me for survival. They have a measure of independence and can make a snack, wash themselves, etc; but even now, they are dependent upon us to wash their clothes, to wake them up in the morning, and to make certain meals, etc. At this point, practically speaking, they cannot survive on their own – someone has to buy the food, someone has to buy their clothes; they are partially dependent. Now, in their first few months of life, they were totally dependent. They could not belch on their own; they could not turn in their crib on their own; they could not walk anywhere on their own; they could do nothing self-consciously purposeful on their own. They were absolutely dependent on us for survival. Jesus Christ said that He was absolutely dependent on God for the leading and direction in His life.

Do you see what the implication of this truth is? The implication is that Jesus knew the deepest, most ineffable fellowship with God. He was totally 'in tune' with God, totally 'in step' with God. Exquisite union existed between God and Him. Jesus decided and judged only what He first heard from God. He said, "As I hear, I judge." Not only was His thinking and speaking wholly dependent upon God, but further, His actions and His behaviour were wholly dependent upon God; He only did what He saw His Father doing. Thus, we read, "Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, 'Truly, truly, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing'" (Jn. 5:19a). Incredible! God's life, in an unrestricted and an unhindered way, flowed through Christ. The life of God the Father and the life of God the Son were in perfect harmony and synchronism – the perfection of fellowship with God.

Again, the perfection of fellowship with God should be the calling and goal of the Christian. That unity of life with God should be the destination toward which we should be journeying. Accordingly, we should be striving to secure a life that is dependent upon God, totally reliant on His leading and His direction. Do you see what that will mean? It will mean, first of all, that you will not seek to establish your own personal agenda; you will not endeavour to make your own personal plans; you will not strive to execute your own personal decisions; hoping somewhere along the line that God will give His confirmation or stamp of approval to those decisions, plans, and agenda. Rather, you will seek to know and establish God's will; you will seek to know and bring about His plans; you will strive to execute His purposes, clearly demonstrating that you are wholly dependent on Him. You will not be proudly self-confident, thinking that you can manage well your own life without any 'outside interference.' You will be prepared to look to God for His leading, not trusting in yourself.

Last year, a young man graduated from the seminary in which I teach. He came to seminary with his family, which included a teenage son. Some 15 years earlier, he had received the call of God to train for the ministry. But God had disclosed to him that it was not the time to receive training, that he would have to wait; and he waited patiently for 15 years until God finally led him, making the direction clear, to receive training for the ministry.

What is involved in being totally dependent upon God? How is it even possible for us to reach this kind of dependency? Simply, you will reach this kind of dependency in cultivating that inner communion with God by developing a deep and rich life of prayer. Prayer is the spiritual posture of dependency on God. When Jesus was about to choose His disciples, when He was about to make that important decision that would have far-reaching historical consequences, He first entered into prayer; simply because He did nothing on His own initiative. He prayed in order that He might hear from God and know the Father's leading. We read, "And it was at this time that [Jesus] went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles" (Lu. 6:12). This particular decision was too important to discount the necessity of prayer and God's direction. Humanly speaking, there was no reliance on people skills, or past experience, or natural ingenuity. Not for this! Jesus needed to know God's mind; He needed to know God's direction; therefore He prayed – not for five minutes, but all night! So, if you are going to know this life of total dependency, where God figures in at every point and every turn of your life, you will have to cultivate that inner communion with God by developing a deep and rich life of prayer.

Total responsiveness to God's Word

The second aspect which indicates or characterizes perfection of fellowship with God is total responsiveness to God's communication or light – "As I hear [spiritually], I judge." That inwardly heard or received message, that light or illumination received in the Spirit, Jesus faithfully reflected and carried out. He personally and fully accepted God's communication. He mirrored and echoed the heart of God. Jesus was simply a conduit of the voice and truth of God.

My secretary types up manuscripts for me; and she saves those manuscripts on the hard disc drive. When I want to edit a manuscript, she inserts a diskette into a computer drive and copies from her hard drive, and then gives me the diskette. I insert it into one of my computer drives, and the document that she has typed up and stored on her hard drive appears on my monitor exactly the way she typed it. That is what we see in the life of Jesus. He faithfully reflected and carried out exactly what He heard. The speaking of God informed and filled His mind, and He duplicated the same. The words of God were imaged in His mind, and He spoke them. Thus, we read, for instance, Jesus said, "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again [the speaking of truth; but from what source?]. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down of My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father [the source is God's speaking]" (Jn. 10:17f.). What Jesus spoke was an accurate reflection of what He heard – total responsiveness to God's communication or light.

Again, Jesus not only perfectly responded to, and reflected, what He heard, but He also perfectly responded to, and reflected, what He saw – "Whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner" (Jn. 5:19b). Accordingly, if you are to know the life of perfection of fellowship with God, you too will have to be responsive to God's inner communication or light. You will need to receive the truth of God, as spoken by the Spirit, which is based on the Word of God, and you will need to faithfully reflect and carry it out. That will mean, therefore, that you will not trust in your own wisdom; you will not give priority to your own words; you will not rest in your own philosophy, or trumpet your own opinions. Further, when God speaks and the light comes, when He communicates His truth, you will not judge that truth and light according to your personal standards; you will not question it according to your own preference; you will not resist it because of your own pride. You will simply receive and reflect it.

When I went to seminary, I had not planned to enter the ministry. I went there simply to increase my knowledge base, because I thought that it would help me in my Christian walk. I planned to attend seminary for only a year. Well, at the end of my first year, Dr. Al Martin was the graduation speaker. Before he arose to speak, he appeared to be a little nervous and unsure of himself. I did not have high expectations. Yet, when he opened his mouth to speak, I was confronted with the power of God. He spoke as one anointed by the Spirit, emboldened through the grace of Christ; and he addressed my heart and conscience. In his speaking, I heard the speaking of God. Through that preaching, God called me into the ministry. Dr. Martin's message was: 'The Marks of a Faithful Minister.' Two of his main points were: 1) A faithful minister will not endeavour to be an eloquent orator; 2) nor will he endeavour to be a clever philosopher; but rather, what he will endeavour to be is a faithful witness, declaring and making known what God has been pleased to reveal to him. What a preacher 'hears' and 'sees,' he is to faithfully and accurately reflected and carry out. Preachers, as well as all Christians, are to be conduits of the truth of God.

God continues to speak to us in the depth of our souls; the light comes, but so often, because of the busyness of our schedules and the distractions of life, that Voice is faint. However, Jesus encouragingly says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (Jn. 10:27). When God sends the light, follow the light. That particular light, and its fruit, may not be there tomorrow. God gives His light at His appointed time

What is involved in becoming totally responsive to God's communication and light? How is it possible to do this? Simply, you need to cultivate a deep and rich life of meditation and contemplation. It is in the exposure to God's Word that you attune your heart to hear Him spiritually. It is in the exposure to His Word that you are shaped by the Spirit's light and truth. Subsequently, there is a spiritual discernment that will arise in your mind and you will perceive and understand more clearly the leading of God. Jesus said, "Abide in Me, and I in you...If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you" (Jn. 15:4a,7). Meditation on God's Word and contemplation on heavenly things are the path for entrance into God's heart, where you will both hear Him and see Him.

Total submission to God's will

The third aspect which indicates or characterizes the perfection of fellowship with God is total submission to God's will. This may be the crux of the whole matter of the perfection of fellowship with God. No doubt you have previously heard the need for submission to God, but this point cannot be overstated; it is a key, not only for entering more deeply into the life of God, but for addressing all of our emotional, spiritual and psychological ills. Do not let the simplicity of this point prevent you from appreciating the profundity of the truth. Jesus said, "And My judgement is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." Though Jesus was the fullness of deity in all its brilliance and glory, though He had all power, all authority, and all rule, He humbled Himself. He submitted Himself to God's authority. He did not seek to do His personal will, but the will of Him who commissioned Him.

God's will was the controlling, driving force in Jesus' life. That will was not a burden, but rather was Christ's chief delight and desire. He was absolutely consumed by it. The primary concern of the Lord Jesus was simply that of obedience; that was the overriding life issue. He abandoned His own will; and He surrendered His life completely to the rule of God. Christ's will did not simply take a secondary place, His personal will did not even have a place. It, in effect, became inconsequential and obsolete, for His will was subsumed by the Father's will. There was only one will – God's. The all-consuming issue for Jesus was: What does God want? what does He demand? what does He command? For instance, after Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, "the disciples were requesting Him, saying, 'Rabbi eat.' But He said to them, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about.' The disciples therefore were saying to one another, 'No one brought Him anything to eat, did He?' Jesus said to them, 'My food, [that which sustains my life] is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work'" (Jn. 4:31-34). That is it! Doing the will of God is the meaning and purpose of life; and there really is no other meaning or purpose beyond doing that will.

If you are to know the perfection of fellowship with God, you too will have to enter into this total submission to God's will. His will must be the dominant, pervasive, and all-controlling factor in your life. Your personal will will have to be subsumed by His will, so that there is only His will. The comprehensive issue in your life must be: What does God want? what does He demand? what does He command? Practically speaking, that means that you will not make demands according to your own wants; you will not pontificate your own expectations; you will not exert your own authority, trying to prove that you are the boss. But rather, it will mean that you will be a servant and walk in humility; you will daily die to yourself and deny your own personal interests, ambitions, and desires; simply, you will show love to God through your obedience.

What is involved in submitting to God's will? How is it possible to do this? Simply, you will have to cultivate a life of self-surrender. You must self-consciously give yourself to God, and that may take a determined conscious effort until you actually enter into it. Accordingly, you will have to cultivate self-denial – saying "no" to your own personal ambitions. You will have to deliberately refuse to follow your own will and even say to yourself that only God's will is to be followed. Gamaliel, the Jewish Rabbi, said, "Do His will as if it were your will, that He may do your will as if it were His will...Annul your will before His will that He may annul the will of others before your will" (Rev. 3:9). Wow! Further, you will have to regularly examine yourself, confessing your sin and repenting. This should be a daily undertaking. Further, you will have to assume rule over, and slay, the passions and lusts that war against your soul. From my experience and my reading, the battle against, and yielding to, our passions and lusts is perhaps the biggest stumbling block that prevents one from entering into the perfection of fellowship with God. The more you yield to your passions and lusts, the farther away from God you get. The more you give in to the desires and passions of the flesh, the tighter you close the door on the perfection of fellowship with God.

Moreover, in order to be totally submissive to God's will, you need to accept His providence; whatever that providence may consist of. If you are submitting to the will of God, it will not matter to you what situations He is pleased to bring into your life. You must realize that He has ordered them, and that you simply must accept them, and respond by blessing His name. Even if God is pleased to bring suffering into your life, you need to accept it. You do not have to be happy with it, but you must accept it; that is submitting to God's will. At the end of the day, and throughout the day, you need to say, "Your will be done." When you can say that from the depth of your heart, and mean it, you will begin to know the depth of the perfection of fellowship with God. You will be spiritually beyond this world. This is not mere abstraction; you will be living on a higher plain.

The perfection of fellowship with God is the Christian's calling and goal. This kind of fellowship is my personal burden. I invite you into the same burden. Are you tired of mediocre Christianity? Are you tired of going through the same routine? Are you tired of not having victory in Christ? I want to suggest to you, and encourage you, that it is possible for things to be different. I want to invite you to live on a higher plain and to walk where Jesus walked so you can fellowship with Him and the Father. In the essay to which I earlier referred, the religious master wisely instructs the disciple:

There where the Soul has slain its own Will, and wills no more anything as from itself, but only as God wills, and as His Spirit moves upon the Soul, shall this appear: Where the Love of Self is banished, there dwells the Love of God. For so much of the Soul's own Will as is dead unto itself, even so much room has the Will of God, which is His Love, taken up in that Soul. The Reason of which is this: Where its own Will did before sit, there is now nothing; and where nothing is, there it is that the Love of God works alone...It is brighter than the Sun; it is sweeter than anything that is called sweet; it is stronger than all Strength; it is more nutritious than Food; more cheering to the Heart than Wine, and more pleasant than all the Joy and Pleasantness of this World. Whosoever obtains it, is richer than any Monarch on Earth and he who gets it, is nobler than any Emperor can be, and more potent and absolute than all Power and Authority.