The Extent of the Leading Unto All Truth
Though the purpose of the essays on Illumination is to give practical advice in receiving the leading of the Spirit unto all truth, I want to briefly discuss an important limitation that some may ignore to argue the invalidity of the universal form of "all truth" via reducto ad absurdum. The reducto argument they may make is "Do you really expect the Holy Spirit to Lead us to ALL truth? Will he lead all of us to be painters, sculptors, prophets, miracle workers and healers all at once? We can't all know all truth, but we all can know all religious truth!"
The argument is invalid because it sets up a straw man unsupported by the scriptures. Maybe there was a time when a man like Abbé Faria could know all the worldly knowledge worth knowing and be able to pass it on to Edmond Dantès (The Count of Monte Cristo), but those times are certainly long past. The sum total of the knowledge and skill possessed by Western Civilization today clearly exceeds the capacity of any individual man to know, much less master! How much less able would an individual man know all that God the Son and God the Holy Spirit combined knows!
Clearly, if there are limits to what the Holy Spirit teaches us, it will be due to limitations on our part, not to any reluctance or refusal on the part of the Spirit. That is, I believe the term "he will lead you unto all truth" means that there is no a priori restriction in the quantity, quality, or subject matter of the truth that the Holy Spirit leads us to from God's end of the transmission. This implies that any problems, difficulties, or necessitites in the learning process all reside on our end of the transmission. For instance, there will be learning priorities that the Holy Spirit requires of us in the same way that every college and university degree program has required courses that reflects their desire of what their graduates should demonstrate some core proficiency, with each college and university expressing their differences and uniqueness by the different core courses that they require. There will be a definite learning sequence in which the basics are presented first, then the more advanced subjects. There will have to be some dismantling of insufficient or incorrect assumptions and beliefs so that the true, the sufficient, and the advanced, can be learned. Without a doubt the first order of business of the Holy Spirit will be to lead us unto all spiritual and religious truth, of which the most important category being a knowledge of Jesus Christ's character, attitude, and guidance. (To not even start to know, much less comprehend, what the Holy Spirit can show us of Jesus Christ, is to miss the most wonderful revelation of one's entire existence.) What I do claim, and what the universal form of "all truth" promises, is that what the Spirit will lead us into will be more than just spiritual and religious truth. Another way to put it is that we will be led to specific truths, but must be prepared to be led in any specific truth. This mirrors how we are counseled to love our fellow man: we must be prepared to love and help all men and any man, but our limited span of influence, resources, and circumstances dictates that our charity be necessarily restricted to specific individuals and situations.
The Leading Part of being Led Unto All Truth
The key word we will look at now is "lead". This word implies a learning process that is very much different from the gifts of the Spirit described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 to 14. The majority of the gifts are deliberate implantings of knowledge, explicit or encrypted, into the minds of those so gifted, with the most clear one being that of Prophecy. The popular term being used in some charismatic circles to describe this process is that God "downloads" information into the recipient. For once, the lay application of this technical term is correct, but with the exception that it is God who initiates such downloads into us, while security considerations dictate that real-life downloads are initiated by the recipient. Since God behaves perfectly, He will not lower Himself to behaving like a virus writer, so we should expect that such Divine downloads are performed in cooperation with, and with the permission of, the recipient. I recall the difficulty that I had on the first Sunday of November, 1988, to receive the Gift of Speaking in Tounges, including the method of reception, at Atlanta Christian Fellowship. The gentleman helping me, Frank Brown, was somewhat frustrated until, while discussing the problem with me, I told him that I had dabbled in ESP experiments in my youth. He immediately had me recite the Apostle's Creed after him, during which I received the gift in an extraordinarly marked fashion. In His divine wisdom, The Spirit knew I would question the origin of the gift because I had heard it preached almost all my life that it was demonic in origin, so He waited until Frank and I had eliminated all demonic channels as possible avenues of ingress before coming in Himself to bestow it, and only during a recital of the core beliefs of Christianity. I have seen this pattern repeated many times since when I felt there was scriptural support for specific manifestations of the Spirit that were susceptible to demonic "spoofing": in every case, the manifestation would not come until I had taken explicit steps to rule out such spoofing. In doing so, I do not acknowledge that such spoofing actually takes place, for the greater danger is not in any actual spoofing by demons, but in falsely labelling an actual work of the Holy Spirit as demonic spoofing. As I have pointed out elsewhere, Jesus labelled false accusations that the power by which he worked miracles was demonic in origin as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and declared such a sin as unforgiveable. When people continue to question the origin of the manifestation even after I take those steps, I point out that to assume the ensuing manifestation was demonic would imply that the Devil was stronger than God, and that all the standard methods that have been used to cast out demons are actually impotent to keep them out.
In my view, the term "leading unto all truth" implies an interactive process between Symbiote and Host, where the former takes the weaknesses and strengths of the latter into account while mapping out the journey that will be travelled by the Host being led by the Symbiote. It is the teaching method of Jesus vastly improved by the ability of the Spirit to fine-tune the instruction to the individual believer being led/instructed.
The Inherent Limits of Collective Instruction
The vital necessity of this fine-tuning must be grasped to appreciate the grace and love being displayed by the Holy Spirit Symbiote during this leading process. While Jesus was on earth he had to choose his words and parables so that at least 12 different men with different backgrounds and mental filters could all get roughly the same idea. I mean "at least" in a conservative sense for Jesus himself knew that he, through these men, would also be speaking to every Christian who would read their words and hear their sermons. Everyone who has been to college knows that the ability to get help to understand what the teacher is saying is inversely proportional to the number of students in the class, and nobody disputes that the most ideal teaching situation is a skilled and knowledgeable tutor personally dedicated and comitted to educating a single determined student. Skilled and possessed of Diety, even Jesus acknowledged that leaving the disciples so that the Holy Spirit would come to them was the best thing He could do for them, even though they expressed their opposition with great sorrow. He could not teach them everything because the limitations of verbally spoken language and the inevitabl variances in individual understanding and comprehension made it impossible for Him to do so. However, what he DID teach them was the raw material that the Holy Spirit would later use to complete the education process.
This usage of that which already exists by the Spirit is stylistically consistent. Though the Spirit did not require the pre-existence of the chaotic matter over which He hovered before God said "Let there be light!" during Creation, the Creation account explicitly states that the Spirit did mold and work with that which pre-existed. This is especially the case when plants, fish, birds, and animals were brought forth. God did not say, "Let there be plants!" or "Let there be birds!" Instead, He said, "Let the waters bring forth..." and "Let the Earth bring forth...". That water and earth did not bring forth of themselves prior to the First Day indicates that they had no inherent power to do so, any more than we have power to bring forth good by our own works and actions. Rather, the Spirit worked with the Earth and the Ocean to help them bring forth life, in the same way that He works with us to bring forth a life full of good works. Yet, we should realize that when it came to creating Humanity, God elected to create Adam and Eve by hand rather than by His voice or by the Spirit-empowered Earth bringing them forth. Certainly more tedious, but the intent was to convey specialness and a "paying of attention" to them. In the same way, leading us unto truth, rather than "downloading" it into us, is more "tedious" to the Holy Spirit (as if He could get tired), but the intent is to equally convey the specialness of the recipient by way of an infinite God "paying attention" to us.
No Limits within Limits
An important aspect of the Spirit leading us unto all truth is the very real fact that our finiteness dictates that we can't go everywhere and know everything. At the same time, we need to recognize that, while the leading of us unto religious truth is indeed guaranteed, the promise is for more than that. In other words, I did not go through all the trouble of refuting the restrictive form to imply that there was no need to be led to religious truth, but that religious truth is the necessary foundation upon which the Spirit and the person must mutually build upon further. Thus, the question naturally arises "Once the Spirit has led me to all necessary religious truth, where do we go from here?"
I emphasize the word "we" in the question because the words "He" and "I" represent the two sides of the road off of which we do not want to go! It is generally acknowledged that the "I" side of the road is clearly perilous, since it implies that the Christian life is one of self-indulgence made somewhat sanctified because there are limits put on that self-expression that leads to some self-sacrifice for others and for God. The statement "It is not all about me" is very true. What appears heretical is the designation of the "He" side of the road as equally perilous. Is not a life totally sold out to God a safe one spiritually? Isn't it all about Him?
Well, that depends on the kind of God that you believe is "Him". Essentially, the statement "It is not all about me" is the negation of the statement "It is all about me". The latter statement is the essence of selfishness. If we are trading "It's all about Him" in place of "It's all about me", then we have not eliminated selfishness from the relationship, but have shifted it from us to God. Thus, a religion that says "Its all about God" as a divine command has a selfish god at its center, just as a belief system that says "Its all about me" also has a selfish god at its center. One is certainly entitled to worship a god like that, and the religion would be of some help since it does get the center of the universe off of you. However, given that the central story of Christianity is that a member of the Godhead took off all of his divine powers, became a man, lived a life of power dependent on the power of One Member of that Godhead working through him at the direction of the Other member of that Godhead, and died a gruesomely painful death so that we would be freed from sin by his suffering the penalty for our transgressions on our behalf. The story finishes by insisting that this God/Man was raised from the dead and returned to that Godhead to minister to us as a faithful High Priest. In light of this, it is quite doubtful that any god that declares "It is all about ME!" is the God of Christianity. The two most undisputable facts that the Gospel record tells us is that Jesus Christ is our perfect example of humility, and Jesus Christ faithfully reflected the character of His Father In Heaven. From these one can only deduce that the Godhead is humble, leading to the inevitable conclusion that we are never going to hear the words "It's all about ME!" coming from any member of the Godhead. (In saying this, I hasten to add that this does not mean that the Godhead is "soft" in the sense of being indulgent, wishy-washy, or spineless. A synonym of "humble" is "meek", and Moses was recorded as being the meekest man on earth at the time. In my mind at least, the words "indulgent", "wishy-washy" and "spineless" do NOT apply to Moses. They certainly do NOT apply to the God Moses served either. We should not rationally expect such a God to say "Its all about me!", and that God is way too compassionate to let us say "Its all about ME!" without some correction.)
Seeing then that it is not all about me, and it is not all about Him, but all about us, then the logical answer is "Whatever we need or want." At the beginning of every one-on-one teaching/learning situation, the teacher and student sit down to decide what needs to be learned. The smart teacher knows that a student best learns that which interests them the most, and thus will acertain where the natural talents of the student lie, tuning the instruction to best support the development of those talents.
It is in this area of the development of ones talents that I say that there are no limits within limits. When it comes to the talents that one has, there are no limits whatsoever, and it is my belief that, with the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit, the diligent and faithful student can grow his talents to world-class levels and earn himself, and the God he serves, the notice of his elite peers.
The limits that I refer to in the qualifying term refers to the fact that the Spirit will not attempt to lead in areas where the student has no talents. Will Rogers once said "It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so," and few words are truer! We laugh at those who believe they have singing talent who audition for "American Idol", but just as they feel very hurt when so informed, so the student doubtless feels hurt, betrayed, and disappointed by God because the Spirit doesn't lead them into a talent that they simply do not have.
And there is the opposite situation of a student who possesses talents they do not believe or know they have. Blessed indeed are such students who are in the company of an instructor who sees in them what they do not see, and who takes the time and work to dissipate their illusions! Parents who have teenagers performing below their capabilities are in the same boat, and I have no doubt that they and the Spirit share, at some level, the feelings of frustration that come from attempting to "push the noodle" when it comes to getting those who they love to overcome the false modesty, fear, or laziness that works to keep them from stepping up to their full potential.
Sometimes, desperate parents are forced to "turn the screws" to get their children to "get it in gear". Well, as it is in the physical, so it is in the spiritual. How many Christians are bewildered and stressed out because of situations they believe God puts them into, believing him to be cruel or petty to inflict such requirements and sufferings on them, when His intent is to provoke them into the discovery and initial exercise of those talents they have but know nothing of!
I speak thus from personal experience: During the second half of May, I began suffering from so much tooth pain in my left jaw that it felt like I had cavities in all the molars on that side. I went to my dentist May 26 to get antibiotics, only to be told that it was TMJ and that I had to "adjust my bite" to get relief. I had tolerated TMJ in my right jaw for over a year, and had gotten some relief when it disappeared a few weeks earlier, but my dentist told me it merely migrated from one side to the other, and to thank God that TMJ only affects ONE jaw at a time! I was scheduled to go on a Cruise to Alaska that Saturday, and was horribly disappointed that it looked as if I would not enjoy it as fully as I could, since experience and prayer had only relieved the TMJ in my right jaw temporarily. I was working late on a software functional test that Wednesday, May 27, drinking cold water to very temporarily relieve the pain, counting the pain that the cold water provoked in my fillings as the lesser of two evils. For some reason, however, I had decided not to take any painkillers all day. It was about 7 in the evening when the semi-pious thought occurred that I was suffering for some religious reason or purpose. I asked the Spirit within what that purpose was, and the answer was not silence, but the very distinct word "nothing", said in a tone of complete and utter indifference. This was significant, for if there had been silence instead of a definite word formed in my mind, then there was indeed a reason for my suffering, but it had to be kept hidden to maximise the effectiveness of the suffering and the end purpose. However, the word "nothing" definitely meant there WAS no reason! I was extremely irritated, not only by the pointlessness of the pain but the tone of voice that I perceived the message was given. I fumed a bit while I worked, then in a fit of peevishness, decided that it was time to exercise Unification: if *I* was gonna suffer, then by Golly JESUS WOULD TOO (based on the principle of Symmetry). I thus insisted that the Spirit communicate my pain back to Jesus, and took a bit of perverse pleasure picturing Jesus suddenly screaming from tooth pain, rudely interrupting is regal self-absorption and bliss while sitting on the Throne of Glory at the right hand of God the Father through my cheekiness in inisisting on the reality of His proclaimed "unity with Me". I must confess that I only got more cheeky when the pain actually disappeared for five minutes, and began to kinda tauntingly accuse Jesus of "being able to dish it out, but not take it!" I re-insisted on him "sharing the pain" (said in the mental voice of a certain former Democratic President of the United States who uttered that line all the time to establish the mere appearance of sympathy). It then disappeared for ten minutes, to be accompanied by a bit more derision on my part when it came back.
My cheekiness was abrubtly terminated when the Spirit reminded me that, being God, Jesus was merely shunting the pain backwards in time to his Crucifixion, and observed that I was quite correct that the Calvinist belief of a "limited atonement" implied a limited God. And in His Grace (or perhaps as an instructor running an educational film), the Spirit helped me imagine Jesus on the Cross looking at me as if He was saying, "A toothache? A TOOTHACHE? Are you JOKING? LOAD ME UP! I said I would have to lay down my life, but the reason I have to is because sin can't kill me by itself and never did!"
The pain from the TMJ disappeared for fifteen minutes. When it came back, I shunted it back onto Jesus, now more grateful instead of cheeky. It left a few minutes later, and as of the moment I type these words, it not only has not returned, but the TMJ did NOT migrate back to the right jaw. Certainly, there have been momentary twinges, but those quickly disappear when I concentrate on Jesus taking that pain.
I recount the above experience because it illustrates the rapidity by which instruction and leading can take place when both student (me) and Instructor (The Holy Spirit) get on the same page when it comes to realizing that some suffering and pain are intended to thrust the otherwise clueless student into new territory. The Spirit's tone was very precisely calculated to provoke me into doing what I did, leading me to a deeper realization of the depth and power of Unification: the next morning, I was thanking God for the deliverance when the Spirit, for a brief moment, "did his job" and "showed me Jesus". I do not apologize for the fact that I am recounting what some would call a "mystic" experience, but which is merely the Spirit stimulating my vision neurons in a definite pattern to bring the "vision" about. I saw a "Mr. Atlas" style Jesus, like a body builder, rippling with such muscles that would make real body builders weep from frustration at their own poor results. He had been evidently whipped and beaten, but this was not the limp, staggering Jesus of Gibson's "The Passion". THIS Jesus was standing, flexing his muscles, grinning, totally unfazed by the beating. THIS Jesus was obviously unstoppable, invincible, infinite, and transcendent. He said, "LOAD ME UP. I can take it. Don't waste my crucifixion!" My friends, if those Jesus healed in Galilee had half the enthusiasm, loyalty, and love for Him that I showed for him that morning, then the Priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, had very good reason to fear and envy him.
Before I go on to the next relevant subject, I want to issue a disclaimer: I do not want anyone to found their belief on the conclusions that I draw from any of my experiences solely upon my experiences. If I talk about a vision or an insight with religious ramifications, I do so when there is scriptural support for the lessons that the vision or insight is trying to teach. I regard these experiences, visions, and insights as "signs" that point to the desired destination. They are different means by which the Spirit implements "leading unto all truth". I am aware of some who would disapprove of my use of a vision or experience to help me understand a body of scriptures, but these are the same people who advocate the "limited" form of "all truth". It seem pretty inconsistent, if not hypocritical, to assert that the Holy Spirit only leads us to all religious truth, then kvetch when the Spirit uses a vision to lead me into a specific religious truth that leads me to look at specific scriptures from a different angle! We are counseled not to seek for "signs" by such people, forgetting that "signs" are intended to point lost seekers to their desired destination. After all, when one is lost, it is the height of foolish pride not to look for signs out of a desire to project a mere appreance of competence that does not truly exist (an affliction to which male drivers seem especially susceptible). However, I agree that once the signs are found, one must follow them. Camping under them as if they were the destination rather than pointing to the destination doesn't get anyone to that destination as effectively as ignoring them. (I should probably cut such people some slack since my experience as a Computer Science Professor is that being able to competently handle and manage pointers (both data and code types) separates the average programmer from the truly skilled one. There aren't that many people who learn how to keep track between the pointer and that to which it points, so if most of them are programming computers, there clearly will be few of them doing theology.)
I will now address aspects of the instruction process that are specific to the instructor.
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