Recognizing the Light of Divine Presence

It is worth considering– with the help of some strategic paraphrasing —whether Jesus of Nazareth may have intended neither to point to himself, in the flesh (i.e. to his social or historical persona) nor to make theological pronouncements about his unique standing (as the second person of the Trinity or the long awaited messiah), but that he was instead pointing to the Divine presence that is also in us–the Divine presence which is both deep within and high above that which we normally take ourselves to be.  still-small-voiceMoreover, let us consider, in addition, whether his references to the importance of hearing and obeying his word(s) [or the Father’s word(s)] were not merely (or primarily) references to his literal words (or words about him), as recorded in the scriptures, but rather to the possibility of recognizing and abiding in his Divine presence and of becoming attuned to the still small voice which is the Word of God in our hearts, here & now (cf. Hebrews 4:12 and the reference to “the sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17; cf. John 16:13).  For if we have access to the same Divine presence and living Word of God that Jesus shared with his disciples, rather than taking refuge in worldviews, however plausible (or consoling; or personally empowering), let us instead take this opportunity to enter into life– the abundant, eternal life that Jesus offers –here & now:

John 17:3 [paraphrased] And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ [the Divine Presence] you have sent. 4  I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 6a “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.

I AmIt is worth remembering that Jesus is said to be “a prophet like unto Moses” (cf. Deuteronomy 18:18-19; Acts 7).  Not only is his description of himself, in verse 6a, above, somewhat reminiscent of the role of Moses, in the Exodus, his repeated use of the “I Am” expressions most certainly calls to mind Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush:

Exodus 3:13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, “What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.’ “

But in contrast to the children of Israel, in Exodus– who are characterized as a rebellious and stiff-necked people –the disciples are said to have kept God’s word:

John 17:6 “I have made your name [“I Am”] known to those whom you gave me from the world.  They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;

This is also in marked contrast to the scribes and pharisees:

John 7:19 “Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law.

The disciples, however, being both hearers and doers of the word (cf. James 1:22; Matthew 7:26-27), now know with certainty that Jesus’ teaching is not just another worldview– that it is not some conceptual scheme intended to bring honor and glory to him, personally –but that it is, indeed, from God.  This also calls to mind another verse from chapter 7:

John 7:17 Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.

I Am PresenceThere is no question, then, of merely “adopting” some abstract doctrine or worldview on the word of some itinerant preacher, however charismatic, and then mistaking some combination of  group think and confirmation bias for a demonstration of its truth.  Rather, when the word of the Lord– the Divine presence that “I Am” –is both heard and hearkened to, the Truth is obvious and it is seen to be in no way dependent on the turn of events.  Indeed, the Divine presence that “I Am” is the condition for the possibility of any turn of events.  One may simply

“Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalms 34:8).

Moreover, it is also obvious– to those who resolve to do the will of God in this way –that Jesus was not seeking his own glory, but the glory of the one who sent him:

John 7:18 Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.

Thus, in Chapter 17, he continues to pray as follows:

John 17:8  for the words that you gave to me [in the stillness of the Divine presence] I have given to them, and they have received them [in the stillness of that same Divine presence] and [they now] know in truth that [the Divine presence that “I Am”] came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

Moreover, just as Jesus had earlier affirmed his oneness with the Father (John  10:30), in the latter half of this chapter he prays that his disciples, including  those of subsequent generations, will be also be oneone with God, one with him, and one with one another:

John 17:17 [paraphrased]  Sanctify them in the truth; your word [the Divine presence that “I Am”] is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one.  As you, Father, are in me [in the Divine presence that “I Am”] and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  22 The glory that you have given me [i.e. the glory of the Divine presence]  I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I Am, to see my glory, which you have given me [i.e. the Divine presence that “I Am”] because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them [“I Am”], and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and [the Divine presence that “I Am” may be] in them.”

In light of this prayer, then– if we are truly hearing and obeying his words –we:live simply

  • are sanctified through the truth…
  • are sent, by Christ, into the world…
  • are one with Christ and the Father…
  • share in the glory of Christ…
  • are  indwelt by Christ and the love of Christ…

It should be stressed, at this point, that 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), while those who 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 –are truly free (cf. Romans 8).

–>  I Am” Not What You Think

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6 Responses to Recognizing the Light of Divine Presence

  1. NateW says:

    Hi, I always connect with and appreciate your posts. We think alike in a lot of ways it seems (that is to say, in abstract terms and images that make a lot of sense in my head, but are frustratingly difficult to speak to others so as to be understood).

    I like to think of what you call the “I Am presence inside me” as the simple awareness that my only locus of identity is that of “One Who Is Loved”. This is a frustratingly difficult thing to convey with words because it can easily slide into the “folk new age” concept of self esteem that is in fact a mere shadow of the truth of what it means to truly know that I am Loved. To know that “I Am” in Gods eyes breeds action and love for others, while “self-esteem” breeds resentment and opposition against those who do not treat us as we “deserve.” Within the love of God we find the power to set aside all need for self-esteem, as we get all we need from faith that God esteems us. We need no longer demand respect and love from others and find our own lives naturally overflowing with it. What is so difficult of course is that this is not something that happens with a change in mere intellectual belief and cannot be transferred to others by mere intellectual instruction. To transmit true knowledge of the Word “I am (Loved)” is only possible by the “laying on of hands”, ie, actually physically giving your self up in love for another.

    Do you think that there comes a point when love demands that we give up our own sense of th “I am” presence in order to enter into the other’s world, to incarnate the Love of Christ (who died forsaken and alone) for them? I’ve often wondered if this isn’t the difference between Christianity and Buddhism. Buddhism seeks stillness and simplicity by separation and detachment from the world, while Christianity seeks these things within the act of entering into an other’s world and giving them up.

    Anyway, thanks for the post!

    • yeshua21 says:

      Thanks for touching base, Nate–I’m glad that you enjoyed the article and your comments are much appreciated. With regard to your question, it seems to me that authentic, compassionate action that meets the real needs of those in our sphere of influence will arise spontaneously in the light aware presence. The particular shape this will take is hard to predict and it may be counterproductive to try to imagine in advance just how it should look. In the words of St. Augustine, “love and do what you will!”

      With regard to Buddhism, I am not personally interested in distinguishing (or asserting the superiority of) Christianity from (over) other religions (which are very difficult to understand from the outside). Rather, I want to be Christ-like. But I have found that I cannot be Christ-like in my own strength, but only by recognizing and trusting his presence in my life. Sometimes, that may seem to require more effort — more self-sacrifice. At other times, it may be very easy. But I am determined to be present with what is present, whatever the turn of events. Hope that helps– if not, don’t despair –you are on the right track and you will learn from your mistakes! 🙂

  2. I don’t think there’s any basis to think that I AM was understood as a Name in the first century, or to insist that an explicit stating of the Name was required. Name and glory were interchangeable in rabbinical understanding of God’s self-revelation. Jesus revealed God’s glory/presence/Name in his whole ministry. That’s what he meant. Please see my discussion with James McGrath here:

    • yeshua21 says:

      Thank you for the comment and link–I have looked at the article and look forward to reading the discussion that follows it. With regard to how “I Am” was understood at the time, please note that the whole point of my article is to suggest that what Jesus is pointing to lies beyond any conceptual understanding (i.e. it is– for lack of a better designation –a kind of “transcendental intuition”). Such modes of discourse are intrinsically ambiguous and tend (more often than not) to be misunderstood. For a more thorough discussion of this question, see the complete article here:

      The Divine Presence “I Am”

      See also this 13th century Jewish perspective:

      The Power of the Hidden Name

      • Thanks, I will have a loot at the articles. But in response to your comment above, there is nothing to suggest that what Jesus said should be understood in any way other than normative. One should be very cautious of proposing something and then claim “transcendental intuition.” Anyone can do that. Muslims do it with the parakletos prophecy in John’s Upper Room discourse and JWs claim the same with Matthew and Luke’s “faithful and discreet slave” prophecy. Suddenly proper hermeneutics disintegrate and one is free to claim anything. Unless there is solid evidence, the claim of a divine I AM in John is as fictitious as Mohammedan Comforter in chapter 16.

      • yeshua21 says:

        If you are so inclined, please read the two articles indicated– as openly and dispassionately as possible –and then we can continue this conversation. Suffice it to say at this point that I am not suggesting that anyone take my word for it, but that they have a look for themselves! To repeat, this is not a conceptual understanding that should be “believed” in an abstract or dogmatic way. Rather, it is a matter of trusting in (and relying on) the light of the world that is with us always. Come and see…

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