by Mike Ratliff
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.Ephesians 1:3-10 (NASB)
I have in my possession a book published as part of series of books called the “Library of Spiritual Classics.” The one I have is Volume One, which is titled Practicing His Presence. It is made up of three volumes. Two of the volumes contain the letters of Frank Laubach while the last volume is simply letters and interviews of Brother Lawrence, a 17th Century French Monk. I bought the book back in 2005 in order to have a source from which to quote Brother Lawrence for a book I was trying to put together. At that time, I had no knowledge of Contemplative Prayer, its source, or its dangers. In the Epilogue to the book, the editors give the purpose for the publishing of the six volume series, which include works by Jeanne Guyon, Fenelon, and Michael Molinos as well as Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach. I find it interesting that one of the works listed for Frank Laubach is Letters by a Modern Mystic. If I had just encountered these works now, I would immediately recognize them for what they are, but back in 2005 I had no idea. Below is an excerpt from the Epilogue for Practicing His Presence.
There is no question: there are a vast number of Christians out there who are not content. Today’s Christianity does not satisfy, is not deep enough; its formulas are all wanting.
We are publishing these books to help satisfy the hunger that is so widespread. But we also want to tell you something. It is this: God did not give you the presence of Christ just to make you blissfully happy all your life. He saved you to put into His kingdom. And , in the first century at least, all believers had a vital part in the daily and very practical experience of that kingdom. They called it the body of Christ. We call it the church.
Whatever it is, it is basic, practical, real. And whatever it is – though it has many inferior imitations (such as “community,” “going to church on Sunday,” etc.) – church life is an experience unknown to Christians today.
Here is my plea. In all your seeking to know Christ in a real and deep way, don’t forget to seek to know Him as they did in the first century. They all knew Him in the context of practical church life.
May you find Him. But may you also find that further experience of knowing Him in the daily experience of the body of Christ. – Gene Edwards
While I see some things in Mr. Edwards statement that I do agree with, I think his conclusion about how Christians in the 1st Century Church communed with Christ is simply “his take” or “his opinion,” not based in any way on what we learn from Sacred Scripture, God’s Word, which is the final say. As many of you know, I have been working my way through a work by 17th Century Puritan John Owen titled Communion With The Triune God. What follows is based on Chapter 9, “Of Communion with the Son Jesus Christ,” section ‘How Believers Hold Communion with the Lord Christ.’ I will be quoting from pages 329-333. There are three subsections in this section which will be the outline for this article and will refute what the mystics like Gene Edwards are saying about how Christians commune with their Lord. Those who are selling Contemplative prayerhave taken up the baton. Mysticism, no matter its source, is fair game in many so-called Christian circles. John Owen had a very different take on how we are to commune with our Saviour according to God’s Grace. Continue reading