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Various authors share about experiencing God's wonderful presence by knowing Jesus Christ personally through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Divine Union

by Hannah Whitall Smith

Christian experience
Not emotions but reality
Reaching the reality
Just three steps

All the dealings of God with the soul of the believer are in order to bring it into oneness with Himself, that the prayer of our Lord may be fulfilled: "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us... I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."
    This Divine union was the glorious purpose in the heart of God for His people before the foundation of the world. It was the mystery hid from ages and generations. It was accomplished in the death of Christ. It has been made known by the Scriptures; and it is realized as an actual experience by many of God's dear children.
    But not by all. It is true of all, and God has not hidden it or made it hard; but the eyes of many are too dim, and their hearts too unbelieving for them to grasp it. It is therefore for the purpose of bringing His people into the personal and actual realization of this that the Lord calls upon them so earnestly and so repeatedly to abandon themselves to Him, that He may work in them all the good pleasure of His will. 
    All the previous steps in the Christian life lead up to this. The Lord has made us for it; and until we have intelligently apprehended it, and have voluntarily consented to embrace it, the "travail of His soul for us is not satisfied, nor have our hearts found their destined and real rest.

Christian experience

The usual course of Christian experience is pictured in the history of the disciples. First they were awakened to see their condition and their need, and they came to Christ, and gave their allegiance to Him. Then they followed Him, worked for Him, believed in Him, and yet how unlike Him! Seeking to be set up one above the other; running away from the cross; misunderstanding His mission and His words; forsaking their Lord in time of danger; but still sent out to preach, recognized by Him as His disciples, possessing power to work for Him. They knew Christ only "after the flesh," as outside of them, their Lord and Master, but not yet their life.
    Then came Pentecost, and these same disciples came to know Him as inwardly revealed, as one with them in actual union, their very indwelling life. Henceforth He was to them Christ within, working in them to will and to do of His good pleasure, delivering them, by the law of the Spirit of His life, from the bondage to the law of sin and death under which they had been held. No longer was it between themselves and Him a war of wills and a clashing of interests. One will alone animated them, and that was His will. One interest alone was dear to them, and that was His. They were made one with Him.
    And surely all can recognize this picture, though perhaps as yet the final stage of it has not been fully reached. You may have left much to follow Christ, dear reader; you may have believed on Him, and worked for Him, and loved Him, and yet may not be like Him. Allegiance you know, and confidence you know, but not yet union. There are two wills, two interests, two lives. You have not yet lost your own life that you may live only in His. Once it was "I and not Christ." Next it was "I and Christ." Perhaps now it is even "Christ and I." But has it come yet to be Christ only, and not I at all?
    If not, shall I tell you how it may? If you have followed me through all the previous chapters in this book [The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life], you will surely now be ready to take the definite step of faith which will lead your soul out of self and into Christ, and you will be prepared to abide in Him for ever, and to know no life but His.
    All you need, therefore, is to understand what the Scriptures teach about this marvelous union that you may be sure it is really intended for you.
    If you read such passages as I Corinthians 3:16, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" and then look at the opening of the chapter and see to whom these wonderful words are spoken, even to "babes in Christ" who were "yet carnal," and walked according to men, you will see that this soul-union of which I speak, this unspeakably glorious mystery of an indwelling God, is the possession of even the weakest and most failing believer in Christ; so that it is not a new thing you are to ask for, but only to realize that which you already have. Of every believer in the Lord Jesus it is absolutely true, that his "body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in him, which he has of God."
    But although this is true, it is also equally true that unless the believer knows it, and lives in the power of it, it is to him as though it were not. Like the treasures under a man's field, which existed there before they were known or used by him, so does the life of Christ dwell in each believer as really before he knows it and lives in it as it does afterward, although its power is not manifested until, intelligently and voluntarily, the believer ceases from his own life, and accepts Christ's life in its place.

Not emotions but reality

But it is very important not to make any mistakes here. This union with Christ is not a matter of emotions, but of character. It is not something we are to feel, but something we are to be. We may feel it very blessedly, and probably shall; but the vital thing is not the feeling, but the reality.
    No one can be one with Christ who is not Christ like. This is a manifest truth, yet I fear it is often too much overlooked and very strong emotions of love and joy are taken as signs and proofs of Divine union in cases where the absolutely essential proofs of a Christ-like life and character are conspicuously wanting. This is entirely contrary to the Scripture declaration that "he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk, even as he walked." There is no escape from this, for it is not only a Divine declaration, but is in the very nature of things as well.
    We speak of being one with a friend, and we mean that we have a union of purposes and thoughts and desires. No matter how enthusiastic our friends may be in their expressions of love and unity, there can be no real oneness between us unless there are, at least in some degree, the same likes and dislikes, the same thoughts and purposes and ideals. Oneness with Christ means being made a "partaker of his nature," as well as of His life; for nature and life are, of course, one. 
    If we are really one with Christ, therefore, it will not be contrary to our nature to be Christ-like and to walk as He walked, but it will be in accordance with our nature. Sweetness, gentleness, meekness, patience, longsuffering, charity, kindness, will all be natural to the Christian, who is a partaker of the nature of Christ. It could not be otherwise.
    But people who live in their emotions do not always see this. They feel so at one with Christ that they look no farther than this feeling, and often delude themselves with thinking they have come into the Divine union, when all the while their nature and dispositions are still under the sway of self-love.
    Now, we all know that our emotions are most untrustworthy, and are largely the result of our physical condition or our natural temperaments. It is a fatal mistake, therefore, to make them the test of our oneness with Christ. This mistake works both ways. If I have very joyous emotions, I may be deluded by thinking I have entered into the Divine union when I have not; and if I have no emotions, I may grieve over my failure to enter, when I really have entered.
    Character is the only real test. God is holy and those who are one with Him will be holy also. Our Lord Himself expressed His oneness with the Father in such words as these: "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him."
    The test Christ gave, then, by which the reality of His oneness with the Father was to be known, was the fact that He did the works of the Father; and I know no other test for us now.
    It is forever true in the nature of things that a tree is to be known by its fruits; and if we have entered into the Divine union we shall bear the Divine fruits of a Christ-like life and conversation: for "he that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him."
    "Hereby know we," that is, by the "keeping of his word." Pay no regard to your feelings, therefore, in this matter of oneness with Christ, but see to it that you have the really vital fruits of a oneness in character and walk and mind. Your emotions may be very delightful, or they may be very depressing. In neither case are they any real indications of your spiritual state. Very undeveloped Christians often have very powerful emotional experiences. I knew one who was kept awake often by the "waves of salvation," as she expressed it, which swept over her all night long, but who yet did not tell the truth in her intercourse with others, and was very far from honest in her business dealings. No one could possibly believe that she knew anything about a real Divine union, in spite of all her fervent emotions in regard to it.
    Your joy in the Lord is to be a far deeper thing than a mere emotion. It is to be the joy of knowledge, of perception, of actual existence. It is a far gladder thing tobe a bird, with all the actual realities of flying, than only tofeel as if you were a bird, with no actual power of flying at all. Reality is always the vital thing.

Reaching the reality

But now, having guarded against this danger of an emotional experience of Divine union, let us consider how the reality is to be reached. And first I would say that it is not a new attitude to be taken by God, but only a new attitude to be taken by us. If I am really a child of God, then of necessity my heart is already the temple of God, and Christ is already within me. What is needed, therefore, is only that I shall recognize His presence and yield fully to His control.
    It seems to me just in this way: as though Christ were living in a house, shut up in a far-off closet, unknown and unnoticed by the dwellers in the house, longing to make Himself known to them, and to be one with them in all their daily lives, and share in all their interests, but unwilling to force Himself upon their notice, because nothing but a voluntary companionship could meet or satisfy the needs of His love. The days pass by over that favored household, and they remain in ignorance of their marvelous privilege. They come and go about all their daily affairs, with no thought of their wonderful Guest. Their plans are laid without reference to Him. His wisdom to guide and His strength to protect are all lost to them. Lonely days and weeks are spent in sadness which might have been full of the sweetness of His presence.
    But suddenly the announcement is made, "The Lord is in the house!" How will its owner receive the intelligence? Will he call out an eager thanksgiving, and throw wide open every door for the entrance of his glorious Guest? Or will he shrink and hesitate, afraid of His presence, and seek to reserve some private corner for a refuge from His all-seeing eye?
    Dear friend, I make the glad announcement to thee that the Lord is in thy heart. Since the day of thy conversion He has been dwelling there, but thou hast lived on in ignorance of it. Every moment during all that time might have been passed in the sunshine of His sweet presence, and every step have been taken under His advice. But because thou knew it not, and did not look for Him there, thy life has been lonely and full of failure. But now that I make the announcement to thee, how wilt thou receive it? Art thou glad to have Him? Wilt thou throw wide open every door to welcome Him in? Wilt thou joyfully and thankfully give up the government of thy life into His hands? Wilt thou consult Him about everything, and let Him decide each step for thee, and mark out every path? Wilt thou invite Him into thy innermost chambers, and make Him the sharer in thy most hidden life? Wilt thou say "Yes" to all His longing for union with thee, and with a glad and eager abandonment hand thyself and all that concerns thee over into His hands? If thou wilt, then shall thy soul begin to know something of the joy of union with Christ.
    But words fail me here! All that I can say is but a faint picture of the blessed reality. For far more glorious than it would be to have Christ a dweller in the house or in the heart is it to be brought into such a real and actual union with Him as to be one with Him -- one will, one purpose, one interest, one life. Human words cannot express such a glory as this. And yet it ought to be expressed, and our souls ought to be made so unutterably hungry to realize it, that day or night we shall not be able to rest without it. Do you understand the words "one with Christ"? Do you catch the slightest glimpse of their marvelous meaning? Does not your whole soul begin to exult over such a wondrous destiny? It seems too wonderful to be true that such poor, weak, foolish beings as we are should be created for such an end as this; and yet it is a blessed reality. We are even commanded to enter into it. We are exhorted to lay down our own life that His life may be lived in us; we are asked to have no interests but His interests, to share His riches, to enter into His joys, to partake of His sorrows, to manifest His likeness, to have the same mind as He had, to think and feel and act and walk as He did.
    Shall we consent to all this? The Lord will not force it on us, for He wants us as His companions and His friends, and a forced union would be incompatible with this. It must be voluntary on our part. The bride must say a willing "Yes" to the bridegroom, or the joy of their union is wanting. Can we not say a willing "Yes" to our Lord?

Just three steps

It is a very simple transaction, and yet very real. The steps are but three: first, we must be convinced that the Scriptures teach this glorious indwelling of God; then we must surrender our whole selves to Him to be possessed by Him; and, finally, we must believe that He has taken possession, and is dwelling in us. We must begin to reckon ourselves dead, and to reckon Christ as our only life. We must maintain this attitude of soul unwaveringly. It will help us to say, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," over and over, day and night, until it becomes the habitual breathing of our souls. We must put off our self-life by faith continually, and put on the life of Christ; and we must do this not only by faith, but practically as well. We must continually put self to death in all the details of daily life, and must let Christ instead live and work in us. I mean we must never do the selfish thing, but always the Christ like thing. We must let this become, by its constant repetition, the attitude of our whole being. 
    And as surely as we do, we shall come at last to understand something of what it means to be made one with Christ as He and the Father are one. Christ left all to be joined to us; shall we not also leave all to be joined to Him in this Divine union which transcends words, but for which our Lord prayed when He said, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word: that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us"? 

This page Copyright © 1999 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article previously appearead on the Positive Word Ministries website: