The Spiritual World
If you can “keep your mind on things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God”, without the Holy Spirit, more power to you. But Paul found that the Holy Spirit was absolutely necessary to enable him to become ‘at one with God in Christ Jesus.’ This is our goal – this is where we want to be.
In seminary, my fellow students seemed to think that ‘the in-dwelling Spirit’ was the beginning of their Christian lives. Without it, they said, one’s life is empty and void. Most of them had been born into the Faith, therefore few of them had had the ‘Conversion Experience’, but it was the experience of the ‘in-dwelling Spirit’ working in their lives that gave them a ‘Spiritual Experience’ that they treasured highly. Furthermore it was a continuing experience – not a one-time affair.
Paul says in Galatians 4:6, that because we are children of God, ‘God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts’.
This is a crucial phrase, but it is still not clear to us as to exactly what has happened. It is not my experience that we can ‘feel’ the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. But I do know that we can ‘feel’ the blessings of that presence very strongly. These blessings are, Paul says in Gal 5:22, ‘The fruit of the Spirit [the blessings - the rewards - the benefits - the results] of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.’
Note that all of these blessings are, or can be, ‘feelings’. We experience them in the Feeling Brain. If we can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit at all, it will be in the Feeling Brain. What did we feel without the Holy Spirit? Paul’s list of the feelings associated with this Physical World does not really register with me. However, if I make a list of the exact opposites of the good feelings of Love, Joy, Peace, etc, I get a much clearer sense of those feelings that keep me separated from the Spiritual World. These negative feelings are not necessarily a part of the Physical World, but they certainly are antagonistic toward the Spiritual World. It is my experience that they are barriers to the Spiritual World. We absolutely must put them aside before we can enter.
From my sermon ‘The Holy Spirit’.
It is a little like boarding an airplane – if we have anything at all that could be used as a weapon – nail file, scissors, letter opener – we must give it up before we are permitted to board the plane.
So here are those ‘weapons’ you must give up before boarding this plane bound for the Spiritual World: (Remember, we are talking about ‘feelings’, not actions.)
The opposite of ‘love’ is ‘hate’ – give it up. The opposite if ‘Joy’ is ‘misery’ – not the physical condition – a person can have everything and still be miserable. Have you heard of Self Pity? Give it up. The opposite of ‘Peace’ is ‘hostility’, or ‘belligerence’. All of the attitudes that present themselves before actual violence begins. Give them up. I remind you that we are speaking of ‘feelings’ not actions. Feelings are vitally important, because ‘feelings’ lead to actions.
The opposite of ‘patience’ is ‘impatience’ – Get rid of it. The opposite of ‘kindness’ is ‘cruelty’. It will be a challenge but we can think of these two traits as feelings. The opposite of ‘goodness’ is ‘badness’. If we accept that evil is hurting someone, then any inclination to hurt someone must be ‘badness’.
The opposite of ‘faithfulness’ is ‘faithlessness’. I would see this as having no sense of obligation – no feeling of responsibility – no feeling of being a part of the whole. The opposite of ‘gentleness’ is ‘roughness’, which in turn is related to violence and cruelty. Gentleness is so important that since medieval times, the cream of society have been called ‘gentlemen’. The opposite of ‘self-control’ is the absence of self-control. Here we don’t surrender anything – we must acquire something.
So! Here are the potentially destructive ‘feelings’ that we must put aside before we can board this plane bound for the Spiritual world: Hatred (or even indifference), inner turmoil (God grant me Serenity), hostility, impatience, the desire to hurt, any anti-social feeling, any feeling that I am not part of the whole, any feeling that I am not in control.
As in boarding an airplane, we put these potentially dangerous weapons aside so that we cannot hurt anybody with them. And never doubt it – these are dangerous weapons – they can kill, and they can hurt.
As we put all of these potentially destructive weapons aside, we hear the flight attendant call out, “Flight to the Spiritual World now boarding.”
The kingdom of God
To most scholars, ‘The Kingdom of God’ means ‘The Reign of God’, or ‘The Rule of God’; implying that it is a dreamed-of utopia, a condition that might exist sometime. It is my conviction that it means ‘The Spiritual World’, a condition that exists right now. Jesus says of the kingdom of God, that it is ‘at hand’, meaning nearby, close enough to reach, in Spanish ‘acercado’. Elsewhere (Lk 17.20) he says, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say ‘Here it is, or There,’ for behold, it is within you’, or ‘in your midst’. According to Matthew, Jesus said (Mt 12.28), ‘But if it is by the spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.’ Paul says in 1 Cor 4.20, ‘For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk, but in power.’
It is my conviction that the kingdom of God is the spiritual world, and that it is as close to us as this physical world. Jesus is telling us that we will welcome this place of retreat from the trials and tribulations of this physical world, and that we will treasure it as a ‘pearl of great value’.
How do we get there? Repent – rethink – examine your life. Socrates had said 400 years before Christ that ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ Not only must we ask, ‘Where have I been?’ but also, ‘Where am I going?’ As we examine our lives closely, especially our past, we are likely to find things that we did, or things that we failed to do, that we are ashamed of. I find such things in my own past, so I suspect that other people do too. As soon as we feel contrite, as soon as we feel sorry for what we have done, God is right there beside us to wipe the slate clean. And, equally important, we must forgive ourselves too. If we don’t make that effort, we will harbor guilts that we are hardly aware of, but which will contribute to inner turmoil that we cannot account for.
‘and believe in the gospel’
So what is the ‘gospel’? The root word is ‘aggelion’ – ‘angel’ or ‘messenger’. In this case ‘messenger’ – and what is his message? In Greek, we find the prefix ‘eu’ which means ‘good’ – so it is a good message – that is, it is ‘good news’. So what is the good news? John says that God loved the world so much… If he was displeased with the world at the time of Noah, how could he become satisfied with it now that it was even more evil than before? Because he has decided not to give up on it, or on us, but to send his Son into this evil world as a Savior. And what is the message that this Son brings to us? The first Commandment is, Love God with your whole being; and the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself.
Is that all? Is that all there is to it? We thought it would be more complicated – that it would be more elaborate. We could have figured this out by ourselves. But we didn’t and we haven’t. Thank God we still have that Savior in our hearts; he is in there ever reminding us that we need him, and that we will destroy the world if we don’t begin to believe the ‘good news’. From my sermon, “The Time is Fulfilled”.
Goto Misc Thoughts?