Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Does Spiritual Receptivity Look Like?

From man’s standpoint the most tragic loss suffered in the Fall was the vacating of [his spirit] by the Spirit of God. There God planned to rest and glow with moral and spiritual fire. Man by his sin forfeited this indescribably wonderful privilege and must now dwell there alone.

By the mysterious operation of the Spirit in the new birth, that which is called by Peter “the divine nature” enters the deep-in core of the believer’s heart and establishes residence there. Such a one is a true Christian, and only such.
A.W. Tozer

In today’s post, I’d like to pursue the idea of spiritual receptivity a bit more, since it seems so important in renewing and maintaining a right relationship with God.

If you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance you are spiritually receptive. If you weren’t you’d have gotten bored and left the blog long ago. But if you want reassurance in this area, there’s an easy test.

I love my old King James Bible. My mother gave it to me when I graduated from high school, so it’s very OLD!! It’s falling apart, the language is archaic, and good old Scofield has fallen from his pedestal in these modern times, but he has some great teaching notes that will help us define spiritual receptivity.

Jesus says, in John 15:4:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.

Abiding is the state of being right with God. It involves being in fellowship with Him and being filled with His spirit, and Jesus says we can’t bear fruit if we’re not doing it. So all the ways we speak of right relationship with God, and all the ways we glorify Him, are wrapped up in this business of abiding. Spiritual receptivity leads us into this state of abiding. In fact, a continual state of spiritual receptivity could almost be said to be the same thing.

So what does it mean to abide in Him?

Scofield gives us a description of the state of abiding.

He says: To abide in Christ is, on the one hand, to have no known sin unjudged and unconfessed, no interest into which He is not brought, no life which He cannot share.

If these three things can be said of our lives, we are abiding in Christ: our lives are spiritually receptive.

Are you spiritually receptive? Do you want to take the test? Let’s look at each one of the three more carefully:

1) No known sin. A known sin involves deliberate disobedience. I’m glad Scofield says the sin has to be known. I’m sure there are sins in my life the Lord is still preparing me to recognize, but as long as I’m willing for Him to do that, I’m only accountable for the known ones. Sometimes the “knowing” begins as a niggling at the back of my conscience. When it grows from a niggle to a nudge, it’s God’s judgment, and I need to confess it—agree with Him that it’s wrong—and turn from it. If I don’t, God will turn the nudge into a sharp rap on the noggin. That rap on the noggin may be a severe dryness that is designed to drive me toward renewal. But if I know of no unconfessed sin in my life, I’ve taken the first step toward being spiritually receptive.

2) No interest into which He is not brought. Is there a room in my heart that I’ve locked Him out of? Or, more likely, is there any aspect of my life that I’ve forgotten to bring Him into? Any relationship? Any activity? Any goal or dream I’m pursuing? If He isn’t present in every component of my life, I’m not abiding in Him. A regular examination of my life in these three areas—relationships, activities, goals/dreams—cannot help but strengthen my sense of His presence and bring a fruitful, thirst-quenching satisfaction into my spiritual life.

3) No life which He cannot share. This third condition is a combination of the previous two. The only life God cannot share is one that is unholy, or unconsecrated. If there is something in my life that dishonors Him, I cannot abide in Him and He cannot abide in me. It’s as simple as that. I may belong to Him, but I cannot abide—settle down and feel at home—in Him, and He can’t in me.

Any one of these conditions could change in a day so it’s good to test ourselves on a regular basis. When this kind of self-examination becomes a habit, we won’t have to be so deliberate about it. Our hearts will automatically signal us if our receptivity needs refreshing.

As Tozer says, God planned to “rest and glow” in us—to establish the residence of His Spirit in our spirits. Abiding in Him and allowing Him to abide in us is what we were made for, and once we’ve experienced the abiding presence of Jesus, we’ll never be satisfied with anything less. We’ll have a taste of what it’s like and if it’s missing, we’ll feel dry.

When we abide in Christ, the dryness goes away. It has to. Jesus is the fountain of living water and when we plunge in, our sins are washed away, our interests are saturated with His love and our lives are filled to overflowing with His joy. This is the blessing renewal brings.

But forgiveness, love and joy will lead us into another important aspect of walking with God. This requirement of the Christian life is downplayed in our culture--even our Christian culture--and its neglect, I believe, is responsible for much of the stagnation we see in our North American churches, and much dryness in our personal lives. I've seen it in mine. We'll tackle that subject next blog.

Are you hanging in there with me? I'd love your feedback--either positive or negative about all this. Please feel free to comment.


Dennis Jaques said...

Gin, This is a very good summary for us to follow daily. Thanks for working these ideas up for us.
Love, Den

Anonymous said...

Hi Gin,

I'm not sure what to think at this point. The more I read, the more I perceive the gaps keeping me from His prescence.

The great news is that I definitely have a sense of re-birth - at this stage in my life I'm spending more time concentrating on "simple truths" rather than self-described "deep thoughts".

I hope that is spiritual infancy. Maybe I'll get there one day!


Anonymous said...

This has given me a better understanding of spiritual receptivity and I thank you.

Find Handmade said...

Being open and receptive is for me the first step in my meditation practice - if nothing new is allowed in - it implies we have already reached the zenith.