In writing the perceptive work, The Normal Christian Life Watchman Nee drew a clear distinction between Christianity and spirituality. A. W Toser was similarly aware of the distinction between religion and Godliness which he defined as union with God as compared to the merchandising of ‘god stuff.’
IT STARTS WITH BEING
Despite the opinion of many, Godliness is neither good morals or works of charity. There are many agnostics and atheists who do both. Genuine Godliness is God manifesting as you and I. Paul called this ‘Christ our life’ and John called this ‘Christ come in our flesh’.
Why this union and not a formula? Because righteousness comes from life and spirit and life comes from our union with God – which we already have.
There are authors who are able to write on the Christian life using charming anecdotes and apt similes. But they do not write revelation or release spirit and life because they do not live out of ‘union with God’. This union is theirs. It’s just that they don’t know it is or in some cases they do not want to because it interferes with the identity they think they have in their faith community or their sect.
This is not to criticise such people but it is to urge us to look for life in life itself rather than in the container of religion. ‘Religion’ is not spirituality. The latter is union with God that is spirit and life in itself. It’s ‘Person’ – the interweaving of God and you. Martha, still tied to externalities, was on the way to knowing more of God in Jesus but it was Mary who had gotten past externalities and motions to the source of life itself - oneness and instruction by Jesus in person. This is the position in which we are one with light and life.
Life, light, knowledge and deep spirituality comes from knowing God. Not so much knowing about God. Only the Father knows the Son and only the Son knows the Father. This knowing of Jesus; this intimate knowledge of Father and Father’s knowledge of Jesus is made known to all who desire to know. But it is the product of new covenant union with God; of living in your inheritance of union. It is not accessible to us should we retain ourselves in the separation of the law and old covenant or insulate ourselves from nakedness with Jesus with layers of religion.
Revelation that might come through the gifts is a trickle to that which is naturally yours living in incarnation.
God will reveal Himself to all who desire to know Him in depth. But one has to be willing to find one’s identity in Jesus ad not in human externalities and institutionalism. Don’t expect to flourish in spiritual discernment if your father’s religion is more important to you than Jesus’ religion.
Thomas Torrance draws our attention to the fact that God makes Himself known to us by union, communion and sharing His being with us. Not just by information. Thus the ‘living word’ where God is concerned is not words or marks on paper, but trinity, a relationship and an interweaving of God with us. This is the interweaving of the self into God that is the interweaving that is the trinitarian nature of God.
This is to say that God can never be known in fullness through the law but only through Himself.
INCARNATION IS KEY
“Torrance writes, “It is not too much to say that this relation of the Son to the Father revealed in Jesus Christ [and] the incarnation.. opened the way [for our] knowing God in himself, as nothing else could have done. In Jesus Christ the Son of God took our human nature upon himself and made it his own so completely that he came among us as man; and by what he was as man, he revealed to us what he was and is as God. That is to say, without giving up his divine nature, he united himself to us in our human nature so completely, that by living out his divine life within our human life as a real human life he revealed something of the innermost secret of his own divine life as Son of the Father.” (1)
‘Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ John 17.3 NIV.
God cannot be known through the law and neither can you. You are known through God and specifically through the Son of Man. To see Jesus is to see our Father and to know our Father is to begin the adventure of knowing ourselves and the human race.
* They live from separation from God in some rendering of the law, such as the law itself, or religion or their Christian version of the knowledge of good and evil.
(1) Torrance, Thomas F.. The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church (T&T Clark Cornerstones) (p. 55). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.