Those who attempt to “hear and obey” the words of Jesus in their own strength and according to their own understanding, will sooner or later realize the futility of their efforts (cf. Romans 7). But those who recognize the “I Am” presence and walk in that light– those who resolve to do the will of God, both in Spirit and in Truth –realize the freedom described in Romans 8:
John 8:31 [paraphrased] Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word [abiding in the Divine presence that “I Am”], you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [the “I Am” presence] has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh [the egoic mind] but according to the Spirit [the mind of Christ].
The difference between these two “walks” cannot be put into words that the egoic mind can understand. In some ways, it’s like riding a bicycle. You just keep trying until, at some point, you realize that no effort is necessary:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“I Am” Not What You Think
If you merely “think” about all this, it will doubtless seem foolish and/or incredible and you will miss the point entirely. Moreover, it must be stressed that for the egoic mind to attempt to usurp God’s place– for it to suggest that “I Am God” –is, indeed, both absurd and blasphemous. But it is another thing entirely– in the stillness of the Divine presence that “I Am” –to recognize that God’s life and our life is one. For insofar as we– by the grace of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit –are put to death in the flesh (i.e. crucified with Christ) and are made alive in the Spirit (i.e. raised with him in newness of life), it is perfectly appropriate to say that we one with the Father. Indeed, we are dead and our lives are hid with Christ in God (cf. Colossians 3:3). As such, we have the mind of Christ and are participants in the Divine nature, enjoying eternal life, here and now (cf. II Corinthians 2:16; II Peter 1:4; John 3:36). Quoting the Roman Catholic Catechism:
795 Christ and his Church thus together make up the “whole Christ” (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ. The saints are acutely aware of this unity:. . .
Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church whom he has taken to himself.
Head and members form as it were one and the same mystical person.
A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”
It’s Not Personal
person (n.) early 13c., from Old French persone “human being, anyone, person” (12c., Modern French personne) and directly from Latin persona “human being, person, personage; a part in a drama, assumed character,” originally “mask, false face,” such as those of wood or clay worn by the actors in later Roman theater.
~ http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=person ~
As we continue to reflect on a variety of scriptures pertaining to our union with God in Christ, let us see if we cannot come closer to recognizing the Way, the Truth, and the Life of which they speak by assuming that when Jesus alludes to the “I Am” presence, he is not suggesting that we put him on a pedestal, personally, and worship him–the historical Jesus of Nazareth, as such. To be sure, our devotion to him as the only begotten Son of God –the archetype of Man in the image of God –is, in retrospect, perfectly appropriate. But to imagine that he thought of himself in this way and desired this kind of veneration can be very misleading.
“…from now on know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet from now on know we him no more” (II Corinthians 5:16).
Our veneration of him as a historical personage is merely the first step in a process through which we may, by the grace of God, come to recognize and participate in that which HE IS — the Divine presence that “I Am”.
On the other hand, God forbid that we should we imagine that Jesus is suggesting that we put ourselves on a pedestal and worship our own egos (cf. Philippians 2:4-8). Rather, what is suggested is that we see through our false, mind-made (personal) sense of “self” and recognize ourselves as we are in Christ — recognize the Divine presence that “I Am” — chosen in him before the foundation of of the world (prior to the story of “me” and prior to any and all worldviews which can only be relative and provisional points of view–never the Truth, per se). We are repeatedly told that we must be willing to leave all this behind if we would follow him:
Matthew 10:37 He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it.
Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own life? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?
Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25 For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or suffer loss?
Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he has enough to finish it? . . . 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 17:20 And when he was demanded by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God comes not with outward observation: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you. . . . 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
John 12:25 He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26 If any man serves me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serves me, him will my Father honor.
Indeed, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a hidden treasure and a pearl of great price:
Matthew 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; which when a man has found, he hides, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking fine pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
In the words of T.S. Eliot, the Divine presence that “I Am” is
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
~ from Little Gidding
Let us recognize, then– once and for all –the “I Am” presence as both the image of God in us and the image of God in which we are said to have been created–the light that lights everyone that comes into the world (John 1:9).