by Mike Ratliff
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3 ESV)
While I was working today I received an email from my friend Ken Silva pertaining to a recent Tweet by Rick Warren in which he quoted Henri Nouwen. He had written a post about it as well. A copy of the Tweet is below. As Ken makes very clear in his post, Henri Nouwen was a Catholic mystic who practiced what is called today “contemplative spirituality” in order to reach some higher spiritual level. This “hiddenness” that Nouwen was talking about in this quote is not the same thing at all that Paul was speaking of as the Christian’s being hidden with Christ in God as we read in Colossians 3:3 (above.). No, this “hiddenness” is what the mystics try to achieve by seeking to find the “inner self” through their “contemplative spirituality.” When I was in High School and College in the 1960’s, this was called transcendental meditation. It is in no way Christian. So how is it that Rick Warren, who is not alone in this by any means, can blatantly go after Eastern mysticism and still be considered a Christian?
My friend Daniel Neades has also written a very fine post about Rick Warren’s Tweet. Here is the link.
The reason I have spent so much time on the Biblical definition of a “Spirit-filled” Christian over the last several weeks is so that when the counterfeit is placed before us, we can easily recognize it. The mysticism that the emergence christianity (in all its forms) is pushing is a counterfeit of what God’s Word defines as being truly Spirit-filled. As we have seen, it is all based in abiding in Christ as His bondservant or slave. It is being so centered on God and not centered on self that we are ready to obey His Word even when we don’t really understand what it really means. It is not about legalism. It is not about antinomianism. It is not about wild so-called “spiritual manifestations,” no, our God is of order, not chaos. Being spirit-filled is being a living sacrifice who is continually turning from presenting his or her members to sin and, instead, yielding self to God for His use, His way, in His timing, no matter the cost.
The counterfeit takes many forms, but they all have one common denominator. They will be self-focused in some way rather than God-focused. They will be about the temporal rather than the eternal. They will be about self rather than the glory of God. If you take Rick Warren’s Tweet, which is a quote by Henri Nouwen, which says, “Hiddennes is the place of purification. In hiddenness we find our true selves” – Nouwen” okay, where in God’s Word are we commanded to put “finding our true selves” ahead of abiding in Christ, denying self, taking up our Crosses, and following Jesus? The more I learn of my true self, the more I turn in agony to my Lord in gratefulness and wonder that He would save a sinner like me. The accuser comes to me continually reminding me of my sins even from when I was a child and I agonize at times over that. But then I realize that my justification is based on the righteousness of another who is Holy and Perfect. His perfect righteousness was imputed to me when I was saved by grace through faith when I believed the Gospel and in repentance turned to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. My unrightousness, on the other hand, was imputed to Him on the Cross. My sins, and if you are in Him so are yours, are forgiven because the price has been paid. When our Lord died on that Cross, it was as the propitiation for all the sins of all the people who would ever believe the Gospel and be saved, no exceptions. So, when we find our true selves, what do we see? We see people in desperate need of a Saviour and if we are in Christ then we see ourselves as in desperate need of being filled with the Spirit as we Abide in Him so we can serve Him as commanded. So, when we encounter the counterfeit christian spirituality of men like Rick Warren we can easily see that his religion is Christless and all about self and maintained by works righteousness.
What about this “hiddenness” stuff. Are we hidden in Christ? Yes, but that is not what Rick Warren was talking about because that is not what Nouwen was talking about. Nouwen, as I was saying earlier was talking about the focus of transcendental meditation or what is called ‘contemplative spirituality’ or ‘contemplative prayer’ now. It is an attempt to focus inward to the point that you supposedly find your “true self.” That is the “hiddenness” that they are referring to. This is the mysticism that the Catholic Mystics are pushing and the wolves in sheep’s clothing like Rick Warren are now pushing as well.
Here is Colossians 3:3 in the context:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:1-10 ESV)
Colossians 3:3 is in bold. Doesn’t it take on a deeper meaning when placed in context? Are we to look inward to find our true self or are we to seek the things above, where Christ is? The answer is obvious. Christians are to die to this world and to self and abide in Christ. The phrase “your life is hidden with Christ in God” has a threefold meaning. The first is that believers have a common spiritual life with the Father and Son (1 Corinthians 6:17;2 Peter 1:4). The second is that the world cannot know understand the full import of the believer’s new life (1 Corinthians 2:14; 1 John 3:2). The third is that believers are eternally secure, protected from all spiritual enemies, and with access to all God’s blessings (John 10:28; Romans 8:31-39; Hebrews 7:25; 1 Peter 1:4).
Jesus said that without Him we can do nothing, so we must abide in Him and He will give us His Spirit so that we can obey His commandments. Our true identity is that we are nothing and bound for Hell outside of that relationship and because of what He has done so that we are in that relationship with Him. Therefore, when I see professing Christians going after all this false spirituality I know that what we are seeing in many cases are false professing Christians who are desperately seeking to have something more than what being simply religious offers. Our true identity in Christ is found in our abiding in Him and being Spirit-filled as living sacrifices, not in going after contemplative spirituality as Rick Warren and his friends are teaching.
Soli Deo Gloria!