I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Php 3:10-11

There have been throughout history many people who are willing to live in the power and grace of the Illuminative Way and God has used them mightily throughout the history of the Church. But there have been those who weren't satisfied to stay there. The Illuminative Way is really just the halfway mark. Their hunger drove them to seek God for Himself instead of being statisfied with the gifts and experiences of His presence. Jeanne Guyon, writing in the seventeenth century, makes a distinction between the people who walk the way of the gifts and the graces, which is her description of the Illuminative Way, and those who walk the way of the cross which is the way of identification with the shame, rejection, and humiliation of Christ Himself. When you read Php 3:7-11:

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him...I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

you need to understand that Paul was not just talking about being willing to lose the things of this earth - i.e. the praise of men, reputation, riches, etc. When Paul wrote this, I believe that he was standing at the height of the Illuminative Way, and so his statement is referring also to all of the visions and spiritual gifts and illumination which God had bestowed upon Him. He is saying that he esteems all of those things - things so wonderful that few of us can really imagine them - as rubbish compared with the possibility of knowing - not about God, but God Himself in an incredibly intimate way. The name which the mystics gave to that level of experiencing God is Spiritual Marriage, or Divine Union. There are very few people throughout history who have attained this state. And it's not because God only makes the offer to a few people; I believe that the offer is open to anyone who wants it, but it depends on your willingness to let God bring you to place where you are willing to suffer the loss of all things, just as Paul was. The technical name given to this experience of loss is Spiritual Crucifixion, or the Dark Night of the Soul.

This state of spiritual crucifixion is what Paul is referring to when he talks about becoming like Christ in His death so that He can attain the resurrection from the dead. Now until I'd studied the writings of the mystics, Paul's statement in verse 11 didn't really make a lot of sense, because Paul is saved. He knows that he is going to experience the resurrection because Jesus taught that the resurrection was the inheritance of all of those who had become God's children, yet in verse 11 he seems to be talking about it as if there is some doubt. I believe that Paul is not talking here about the resurrection of the body at the second coming. He's talking about the crucifixion and resurrection of his soul. You see, when you get saved, your spirit is immediately crucified, buried, and resurrected with Christ and seated wtih Him in the heavenly realms. Your body continues to muddle on as usual, with the promise that one day it will die and be resurrected immortal and imperishable. But nothing really dramatic happens to your soul when you are born again, except that it enters into the process of sanctification, by which you are conformed to the image of Christ. What Paul is desiring to experience is the full crucifixion and resurrection of his soul in his mortal body; the completion of his sanctification on this side of the grave.

You see even once you've purified yourself from wilful sin, there is still a part of your soul which was born separated from God and wasn't joined back to Him when you were born again. Even though your spirit was crucified and resurrected with Christ, the soul is still fallen. And passing through the exterior purification of the purgative way and the interior purification of the spiritual fire of the Illuminative Way doesn't fully purify you. Deep down inside of you, at the very core of your being, is a part of you that actually wants to exist independently of God, and it is by nature a theif. Satan is a liar by nature; we are theives by nature. What this part of us wants to do is imitate the father of our fallen natures and take everything which God gives us for His own glory and keep it for itself so that it can exalt itself independently of God. Even when you are walking in the Illuminative Way, and God is lavishing His gifts on you and your soul is truly consumed with love for God, there is still a part of you which is skimming off the top of the glory God is pouring out onto the earth through you, and the harvest of that glory which He should be receiving back through you. This is the part of the fleshly nature which Watchman Nee talks about as being willing to engage in truly spiritual works in order to preserve it's life independent from God at any price.

If you're going to enter into full union with God, that part of you has to die - it has to be fully crucified with Christ. The problem is that you can't kill it because it's literally the ground and foundation of who you are. The experience is actually so horrifying that there really is no way to understand it without having gone through it yourself. Just reading some of the accounts which the mystics have left us is enough to make your hair stand on end, because what God does is begin to cause you to share at the deepest possible level in the sufferings of Christ - rejection, persecution, torture, death; being cut off from men, and even, eventually being cut off from God. Keep in mind that this occurs to someone who has come, through the experience of the Illuminative Way, to a state of total and utter dependance upon God. The revelation of His love has so captivated them that the vanities of this world have not only lost all appeal, but have become burdensome and spiritually nauseating. In other words, they are completely separated interiorly from the things of this world, are completely focused on, and dependent upon God for everything, and then God seemingly deserts them. The only thing that they care about in the entire universe, and it just suddenly up and disappears. The mystics liken this to the point on the cross where Jesus cried "Father, why have you forsaken me!" - crucified between a hostile and repulsive earth, and a heaven which has suddenly closed on you, leaving you suspended between them with nothing except pain and abandonment. And of course, that is the point at which Jesus gave up His spirit. For the mystic who has entered into this spiritual crucifixion, this is the point where the independent part of the self-nature finally expires and is resurrected in the full power and nature of Christ. And that is the point where the Spiritual Marriage is consummated.

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