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Communing with God in the Spirit

 

Setting aside time just to be with the Lord is often an unsuccessful event for a lot of Christians. Quite frankly, many Christians don’t get much out of it.

Every Christian has probably attempted the feat of spending set aside time with God on a daily basis at some point in their spiritual journey. Many of us have heard that we “should” have time with God everyday. Any good intentioned believer worth his salt, at one time or another has made an attempt at such an applauded practice. But after a while, this activity gets put on the back burner, and then it usually disappears altogether. It’s sort of like a spiritual exercise program. You gear up and finally decide it’s time to get your body in shape, so you buy a treadmill. But treadmills usually wind up in garage sales. Sticking with a program for the long term is difficult for the majority of us.

It’s funny how we all rationalize the fact that we don’t need certain things in our lives. When we are not very successful at something, we often justify how “it is not really necessary anyway.”

I did it with the sport of basketball during junior high school. As a child I was a pretty good athlete. I was successful at baseball, football, and tennis. I certainly knew that my pattern of stardom would continue with basketball as well. So, I tried out for the junior high basketball team. But much to my surprise, I didn’t make the cut. Bewilderment probably best describes my initial response. Next, I moved on and soon decided that “the coach was an idiot.” Not a surprising reaction. But what I finally settled on was the idea of “who needs basketball anyway? It’s a stupid sport. Besides, baseball and tennis are much more intelligent and require more skill.” I decided that I never really liked basketball to begin with. To this day, I don’t care for the sport. Deep down however, I knew the truth in junior high school. I just wasn’t very good. If I were successful at it, I would have loved the sport and it would have been a part of my life.

At the other end of the spectrum, it’s funny how we will set aside time everyday to do things we actually enjoy and get something out of. We will set aside time to work, to play, to eat, to watch T.V., to relax, and to have relationships. But we don’t usually set aside time with God. Instead, we use theology to defend ourselves and to spiritually rationalize our practice. “I’m with God all the time and He’s with me. I don’t need to set aside time with Him. I’m not under the law anymore.” Or, “I know I should have more time with the Lord, but…”

It’s true that we are with God all the time. But isn’t our relationship with Him the most important thing in our lives? And we all know that spending focused time with the Lord allows us to go deeper with Him. Learning, growing, and allowing Him to speak to us without the distractions of everyday life should be a priority to us.

Spending set aside time with God is Biblical. Jesus did it. He had thousands of people pressing into Him. He encountered daily distractions, people trying to trap Him, people trying to arrest Him, and the devil trying to tempt Him. He often went to a lonely place to pray (Matt 14:23, Mk 6:46, Lk 5:16). If anybody was connected to the Father and didn’t need set aside time to pray, it was Jesus Christ. Yet His practice was to slip away from all the distractions, the clamor, and from all of the people who needed Him in order to have time to commune with His Father. If the Son of God did this, how much more do we need it?

Just like I really knew the truth about basketball deep inside, we pretty much know the truth concerning the benefits of having set aside time with the Lord. But just like me with basketball, being unsuccessful at something and not getting much out of it, tends to relegate it to the back shelf.

Motivation by guilt is never helpful. Gearing up for something because we “should” do it will only last a short time, and it is death. We don’t need another exercise program. So why do some people exercise for years and still stick with it? And why do other people buy a treadmill and then sell it in a garage sale? Personally, I play tennis often, which is great exercise, but please don’t ask me to jog around a track. I certainly don’t think of tennis as exercise.

Here is the point: If the activity is actually life giving and enjoyable, we will want to do it. Think about the activities that you actually do set aside time for everyday. You set aside time everyday for certain activities because you both crave the activity and enjoy the activity.

This is our goal in spending “set aside time” alone with God. We want it to be so full of life and so enjoyable, that we can’t wait for the next opportunity we can get to spend time with the Lord. We want that time with Him to be so enjoyable that we look forward to it every day. We want our time with God to be so full of life that once we start, we won’t want to stop because we have to do something else.

Just like you have a physical craving for food and rest, you also have an inner spiritual hunger for time alone with God. We all have a strong spiritual craving for spiritual food and spiritual rest, whether we realize it or not. Jesus is true food and true rest. If you find this craving within yourself, and then learn to enjoy the presence of God to satisfy it, your life will become completely and radically changed from the inside out.

 
Geography and the Anatomy of Man
 

We are made up of body, soul, and spirit. There are extensive writings available on body, soul, and spirit particularly from brother Watchman Nee, so I will not get into the details here. But suffice it to say that as humans, we have a spirit within us. Because of the fall of Adam, from birth our human spirit is dead (without the life of God). The nature of our dead spirit before we come to Christ is only evil and selfishness (John 8:44). When we repent and come to Christ, we become born a second time. When we are “born again”, the Lord joins His Spirit to our human spirit and we are washed and made alive (Titus 3:5, I Cor.15:22, Eph 2:5, Col 2:13, 1 Pet 3:18, 1 Cor. 6:17).

 
The Key to Communing With God
 

God is Spirit. He is the Holy Spirit. In our attempts to fellowship with God who is Spirit, we are much more successful at this activity if we learn to know Him and be with Him from our spirit, instead of from the brain only. Don’t try to mix oil and water. We are to commune with the Lord, spirit to Spirit.

Plenty of Christians are trying to be with the Lord from their brain. They talk to the Lord but don’t get a sense that He is listening. They think they might be hearing the Lord, but they aren’t sure if it’s Him they are hearing, or if it’s their own voice in their head they are hearing. They ask the Lord for things, listen to teachings, study their Bibles, and learn new things about the Lord, but there is often a spiritual disconnect.

Many Christians engage in Christian activities, but are not connecting with God in the process.

In order to remedy this, we must first understand where our spirit is, and then how to use it.

Before you can play tennis, you must first be able to grip the racquet. But before you can grip the racquet, you must understand where your hand is and then how to use your hand so you can grip the tennis racquet. This is a simplistic illustration, but true none the less. In order to commune with God who is Spirit and connect with Him, we need to know where our spirit is and how to use it.

 
The Location of Your Spirit
 

Where is your spirit? Is it in your foot? No. Is your spirit in your arm? No. Is it in your brain? No. The brain is part of the body, just like the foot or hand.

Scripture tells us where the spirit is. Many passages in scripture say or indicate that the spirit of a man is deep within him (Psa 142:3, Isa 26:9, Dan 7:5, Acts 17:16, Rom 8:23, 1Pet 1:11). Jesus tells us in John 7:38 “…from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water”. The word for innermost being is actually the Greek word “koilia”, meaning “belly”. Many translations translate the Greek word koilia as “belly” in the text.

Just like the heart, the spirit is in our innermost being. Although there is a difference between our spirit and our heart, they are both in deep places within us. The heart is a capacity that can be filled. Whatever we are believing is what is filling the heart (Jn 16:6, Acts 5:3, Rom10:10). The Spirit however is the well, the source of life, or where God dwells within us (Gen 7:22, Eze 37:14, Jn 6:63, Rom 8:11, 1Cor. 15:45). You might think of it like this: we have an opportunity to draw from the well of the Spirit in order to fill our bucket, which is our heart. Or we can draw from the flesh to fill the bucket of the heart.

Is it a coincidence that the heart, the very place where a man believes is called, the heart? Whenever you have felt extreme emotional things, have you noticed physically where you experience them? Deep emotions – whether they are love, hate, pain, anguish, excitement, or fear are all experienced in your innermost being. I personally believe this is why the heart, the place where a man believes, has been named after the physical organ of the heart muscle. The place where you believe and the location of your physical heart are very close in proximity. Our spirit is also in deep places within us. It is at our center. It is no coincidence that Jesus says “out of your belly will flow rivers of living water.”

 
Learn to know and fellowship with the Lord from your spirit.
 

How do we do this? Sense the presence of God from within your spirit. Learn to listen to Him from within your spirit. Learn to be with God from your spirit. Practice loving God from your spirit. Communicate with Him from your spirit. Remember that He has joined Himself to your spirit, so He is in your innermost being as well.

 
The Role of the Brain
 

The brain is primarily a memory bank. It is much like the hard drive of a computer. Within our brains, we have many memories and a myriad of programs in the form of concepts, procedures, learned skills, pictures, and vocabulary. Most of the programming in our brain came during the time before we were born again and from the flesh. As we learn new things in God, the programs in our brain become updated and our minds become renewed (Rom 12:2).

The role of the brain is for the Spirit to use it. God will use your brain to give you understanding concerning spiritual things. In other words, as you are communing with God from the spirit, you will have thoughts to match it. But the origin and impulse is from the Spirit first and the thought is secondary. Remember that the brain is separate from the heart and from the spirit. The Spirit within you is where you are to take your cues from. If you do this you will become in tune with God.

If you try to relate to God and hear from God from your brain as the origin, you will only hear your own thoughts and you will only be shallow and conceptual. We want to be spiritual, not conceptual.

Another help will be for you to learn to be with the Holy Spirit without saying words. Once you find the place of fellowshipping with God from within your spirit, you will find that words will often get in the way. There is nothing wrong or bad with saying words to God, they do have their place, but you will be able to go much deeper without them. As you are connecting with God from your spirit, He will give you His words, His prayers, and His thoughts. God will give you new revelations that originate from within your spirit.

When you are gathered with other believers to worship, worship from within your spirit. When you are praying with others, pray from the spirit. When you are speaking, speak from the spirit – otherwise be quiet. To rattle off songs or comments that do not originate from the spirit is death. Your brain is shallow. It is not the source of life. Even though we may have spiritual vocabulary, we are not always coming from the place of the spirit.

As you learn this way of living, you will see that your words, desires, and actions can originate from within the Spirit inside you. If you learn to listen to God from your spirit and take your cues from there, you will see that the first impulse for all words and actions can come from this place. Then secondly, God will use thoughts and concepts in your mind to correspond with the Spirit’s promptings in order for you to have understanding about what it is you are hearing. This is a vital secret of how to live a life of passionate faith in Christ.

It is extremely freeing to live this way and it is full of life. If you’ve lived your life by taking your moment by moment cues from your brain, which most people do, you will see quickly that you have lived in a prison inside your head. You have been “dead in your head”, as I like to call it. You can now break free from your trap of circular thinking. Daily, you will live and walk in the middle of spiritual revelation, and there is nothing quite like it.

Because this is such a subjective way to live, all impulses from the Spirit are to be measured with scripture. It is important to walk closely with others and bounce things off those in the Body. You will actually begin to crave scripture more, therefore continually renewing the mind.

 
We Grow Things By Utilizing Limitations
 

When a plant is young it does not have a strong root system to support itself. If a young plant with fragile roots were placed into the ground, strong winds or a downpour of rain could easily wash the plant away. In order to help a young plant establish a root system, we must protect it. If we use limitations, we can protect and nurture the plant until it is able to survive on its own.

Providing special care through limitations such as putting the plant in a pot, keeping it inside, and protecting it from the elements will allow it to grow during this delicate stage.

Anytime we want to grow something in our spiritual lives, we must protect it and grow it by using limitations. This principle applies whether we want to grow something for our personal life or if we want to grow something for a whole group of people. If we want our lives to be fully saturated with the Kingdom of God and His Spirit, we must start small and restrict or limit the activity. We cannot learn to commune with God from our spirit while we are busy conducting the affairs of everyday life. We must start in stillness and with no distractions.

If we want a group of people to learn how to be caught up with God in the Spirit (as a group), we must limit the time we are gathered together to only the activities of worship and prayer; with very little or no talking or discussion. As the group establishes a healthy baseline, then we can add talking and discussion later. Those activities will be more pure and refined (of the Spirit) than they were before we utilized the limitations.

As we learn to commune with God during a set aside time and it becomes super saturated, it will begin to take over the rest of our daily lives. After you are connecting with God apart from distractions, stretch out and learn to be with God from your spirit during the day and during the course of everyday life. We can learn to walk in the presence of God.

 
Other Helps and Hindrances
 

Stillness

“Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me” (Psalms 131:2).

Busyness of mind is a distraction when it comes to trusting and believing. When we finally sit down to be still before God, all of us and some more than others, deal with a constant barrage of traffic racing through our minds. This can be the result of many things.

One reason for business of mind is that our hearts are busy and full of traffic. Usually, whatever is going on in the heart shows up in the mind as well with thoughts to match it. Root causes of a busy heart are often fear and anxiety. The busy heart may not actually feel the fear or anxiety, because that’s the whole point: stay busy enough so that what is really in the heart will not have to be dealt with. We distract ourselves and drug ourselves with staying busy so as to avoid feeling the loneliness or the fears that are really there at the bottom. Of course in our day and age it is not only acceptable, but kind of cool and respectable to stay “I’ve been so busy.” Being too busy to have time with the Lord or with the church certainly can be sin. Having a busy heart that can’t focus on the things of God is a problem that needs swift attention.

Our thinking patterns and flesh patterns are sort of like the ruts on an unpaved road. The more we drive our car in the same rut, the deeper that particular rut gets. The deeper the rut gets, the easier it is for the car to find it and slip into the old rut again. Our thinking patterns and practices are the same. We tend to obsess over the same things all the time. And the more we obsess, the more we obsess. There is hope however to break the cycle.

As we build up the courage to sit down and do nothing but trust God, our minds and busy hearts will definitely wander. It is not sin that they wander. It is not sin that thoughts other than the Lord come into our minds and hearts. It is how we respond that is so important. If we try to forcefully ignore thoughts, and make ourselves focus on God, then the flesh gets reinforced and it becomes even stronger. If we get frustrated with having a busy and wandering mind, then we reinforce a different, yet still unprofitable flesh pattern. Frustration over having distractions is still the flesh. It’s like getting mad that the car is in the same old rut in the road so out of frustration we jerk the steering wheel so hard we wind up in a different rut altogether, but we still are not where we want to be.

Gentleness is the key. As you are learning to practice the act of believing and trusting and a foreign thought comes into your mind, gently let it go. You may sit down to spend time with God and find that you’ve been on a fifteen minute memory trip concerning some past scenario in your mind. Always gently return to your original focus.

When I was in my very early twenties, I was going to spend a day in prayer with God out in the woods. I’d been planning this day for a while. I was a busy college student and didn’t have a lot of time just to take a day off and pray. Finally the day came. I prepared my water jug and off I went. After a long drive and then a long walk, I found the perfect spot in the woods on the side of a cliff. I sat down to be caught up to the third heaven. I took a deep breath and exhaled. I relished the thought of what an incredible afternoon awaited me. I began to look around and take in my physical surroundings. Right away I noticed an interesting little spider web on the ground where I was sitting. There was a really cool spider spinning this little web. I started to find little pieces of leaves and dirt that I could flick into the web. Then I found a little stick. I flicked that in there too. Then I went on a hunt for some kind of bug. I wanted to put the bug into the web and see what the spider would do. I found a bug and I dropped him into the spider web. I kind of knew in the back of my mind that I was there to spend time with God and focus on Him. But I kept saying to myself, “I’ll start praying in a minute.” Pretty soon after playing with the spider web, playing with ants, and chunking rocks off the cliff, most of the afternoon was gone. “About time to be heading back for supper,” I thought.

Half way on my drive home was spent pretending that my afternoon was actually a profitable spiritual exercise. “I was with God while playing around and enjoying my afternoon,” I thought. “It’s good for me to relax and do nothing.” Although it’s true that God was with me the whole afternoon and it’s great to have time to relax and do nothing, this was not the purpose for the time I had set aside. After I faced what I had chosen, I was upset with myself.

The flesh will do anything to stay distracted. We will even justify our distraction as a spiritual activity. The flesh does not want to humble itself. It does not want to be still and die.

Many times in groups, some people love to get up and go to the bathroom, get a drink, and wander around when it’s time to worship in song or pray. They get irritated and fidgety during focused time with God. This is because they are not having this in their individual lives. If our individual lives are being leavened with this type of activity, we will crave it corporately and be like a duck to water.

As distractions come our way (and they will come), we have to develop a capacity and a discipline of letting them go and turning back to the object of our focus. Realizing that distractions will come is half of the battle. Don’t get disturbed as you are distracted. As soon as you come to your senses, gently turn back to Christ. As you practice this discipline of stilling your heart and mind, you will develop a new rut – a good rut of stillness.

 
Past and Future
 

The past has already happened. The future has not happened yet. The past and the future are only imaginations in your head. In our time with God as we are purposing to trust and believe, we want to always stay in the present moment. The present moment is the only thing that is reality. Focusing on past events or dreaming about the future is not where God is. He is now. His name is “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). Although there is nothing you can do to keep your mind from wandering into the past or future, as you practice gently returning to Jesus who is in the present moment, the habit will become less and less frequent.
 
Waiting
 

Psalms 62:1, “My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation.” Waiting on God is a posture of the heart. As the heart is waiting, the heart is open and still, ready to receive something. A waiting heart is not working or busy. A waiting heart is focused on Jesus, watching Him and listening to what He might say. As you learn to believe and trust God, your heart will find this open and resting state that is waiting on the Lord. Watch His every move and listen to His every word. Waiting on God is learning to be sensitive to Him (Psalm 33:20, Psalm 130:6, Isaiah 64:4).

 
Re-engaging
 

Learning to re-engage is learning to give your heart back to what it was doing before you got off. If you were driving your car down the street and all of a sudden it slipped out of gear, you would simply push in the clutch and put it back in gear to continue driving down the street. Re-engaging is putting your heart back into gear.

There are countless situations in which we have to re-engage. Most of the time during worship, I have to re-engage with the Lord often. My mind wanders right in the middle of singing songs to the Lord. I don’t get upset, nor do I feel guilty. If I went with those feelings and emotions, it would simply be even more of a distraction. When my mind and heart wanders away during a song, I give my heart back to the meaning of the words of the song again. Sometimes I have to do this many times during the same song. That’s OK, because re-engaging is an act of faith and simply a way of life.

We must realize that our flesh does not want to worship God. Our flesh does not want to love God, be still, or do any spiritual activity. The flesh is constantly on the prowl to find a way for us to be distracted in order to regain a foot hold of control. The flesh will invent subtle ways to be distracted from the purity of experiencing Jesus Christ. We must re-engage with the Lord. We must re-engage our hearts with the Lord during prayer, during worship, while listening to other people talk, and while listening to teaching.

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