07. Gathering The Disciples To Serve The Spiritual Man I (1:40-51)

Andrew the brother of Simon Peter was one of the two who heard from John and was following Him. This one first found his own brother Simon and tells him, We have found the Messiah (which being translated is, the Christ). And he led him to Jesus. And looking at him, Jesus said, You are Simon the son of Jonah; you shall be called Cephas (which translated is Peter). And on the morrow, Jesus desired to go out into Galilee. And He found Philip, and says to him, Follow Me! And Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip finds Nathanael and said to him, We have found the One of whom Moses wrote in the Law and the Prophets, Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth. And Nathanael said to him, Can any good thing be out of Nazareth? Philip said to him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said concerning him, Behold, truly an Israelite in whom is no guile! Nathanael said to Him, From where do You know me? Jesus answered and said to him, Before Philip called, you being under the fig tree, I saw you. Nathanael answered and said to Him, Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said to him, Because I said to you I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these. And He says to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, From now on you will see Heaven opened, and “the angels of God ascending and descending” on the Son of Man. (John 1:40-51)

[But as few know what it is to live a moral life from a spiritual origin, and what it is to apply the knowledges of truth and good from the Word to the uses of their life, it shall be told. Man lives a moral life from a spiritual origin when he lives it from religion; that is, when he thinks, when anything evil, insincere, or unjust presents itself: that this must not be done because it is contrary to the Divine laws. When one abstains from doing such things in deference to Divine laws he acquires for himself spiritual life, and his moral life is then from the spiritual; for by such thoughts and faith man communicates with the angels of heaven, and by communication with heaven his internal spiritual man is opened, the mind of which is a higher mind, such as the angels of heaven have, and he is thereby imbued with heavenly intelligence and wisdom. From this it can be seen that to live a moral life from a spiritual origin is to live from religion, and within the church, to live from the Word; for those who live a moral life from religion and from the Word are elevated above their natural man, thus above what is their own [proprium], and are led by the Lord through heaven; consequently they have faith, the fear of God, and conscience, and also the spiritual affection of truth, which is the affection of the knowledges of truth and good from the Word, for to such men these are Divine laws, according to which they live.

But on the other hand, to live a moral life not from religion, but only from the fear of the law in the world, and of the loss of fame, honour, and gain, is to live a moral life not from a spiritual but from a natural origin; therefore to such there is no communication with heaven. And as they think insincerely and unjustly regarding the neighbour, although they speak and act otherwise, their internal spiritual man is closed, and the internal natural man only is opened; and when this is open they are in the light of the world, but not in the light of heaven. For this reason such persons have in them little regard for Divine and heavenly things,… Of those who live a moral life from a natural origin only… [the things of the Word with them] are defiled by the fact that they learn and hold them only for the sake of reputation, that they may be thought learned or well informed, or that he may thereby acquire honors and gain wealth; and except for such ends they have no regard for them. Thus it is that the knowledges from the Word are polluted and defiled by the loves of self and the world, for these knowledges dwell in the same place with the evils and falsities that gush out from those loves as from their fountains. (Apocalypse Explained 195{2&3})

We all begin our spiritual encounter with the Lord through a natural understanding of the Word. John represents this and it is as we are faithful in following John the Baptist by working with the Word and using it as a means of cleansing our outer life through repentance, so the ground is prepared for coming to see its deeper things.  And it is in these things that we come to experience the power of the Lord, or Word, to save us from the life that is our selfishness.

In these verses we are looking at how disciplines that have served us in our external connection with the Word are shifted to serve in the bringing forth of what is more internal. These first disciples who respond to John’s declaration that Jesus is the Lamb of God are those aspects of our mind that have been built up through our reading and study of the Word and our willingness to bring our external life into order in accordance with our understanding of its teachings. This is why it is two disciples, for two when used in Scripture in a positive context always refers to the marriage of good and truth, of making what we know a matter of life. John is the first stage of a person’s conscious engagement with spiritual principles and truths. This external connection with the Word is something that takes place with the natural man and so is not a saving faith, for John, the external natural understanding of the Word cannot save us but Jesus, who represents the Word understood as to it spiritual or inner sense, can. For it is what lies within the literal sense that has the power to bring real and lasting transformations into our lives. This is because the transformation which the inner things of the Word bring about occurs from the inside out, from a transformation in our inner attitudes to external behaviours which flow from this inner transformation.

When our natural man takes hold of spiritual things, we will find ourselves immersed in a natural or external form of religion. This form of religious expression centres on moral behaviour or external social compliance from various motives but the main one is one of fitting in. When this is dominant, we are unable to draw any real distinctions between the differences between living a moral life and living a spiritual life. As a general rule however, the moral life is focussed on externals, whereas spiritual life is focussed on internals as a matter of religious life.

While a spiritual life is certainly a moral life, a moral life is not necessarily a spiritual life. This is such an important distinction to be able to make seen in that it is constantly being drawn to the fore in the Gospels, particularly in Jesus’ interactions with those who hold power. It’s relatively easy to recognise when the moral life masquerades as spiritual life as undue importance is placed on the external things of faith and the inner applications of truths to the inner life are ignored or merely given a token acknowledgement. Unfortunately, when this inner work is ignored in favour of externals, spiritual things are then used to support the proprium through giving it a false sense of goodness. This results in attitudes that are harsh and judgemental towards others who don’t fit in with our idea of what it means to be a spiritual person.

This is not to say a moral life is unimportant, it is, but its importance lies in its use as a stepping stone to a spiritual life. The moral life is an important first step towards a spiritual life because it brings an external order and stability from which a spiritual life can develop. Without making efforts to bring our external life into some kind of moral order, we will never focus on the underlying thoughts and motives that give rise to our destructive selfish behaviours. We need to be able to recognise the external behaviour for what it is first, which is what John the Baptist deals with, before we explore its causes on a more internal level which is what the inner sense of the Word brings us to. For example, if we don’t recognise that we are acting from a judgemental attitude, we won’t have any inclination to look within ourselves for its causes. But when we can recognise things in our external behaviours and bring to this an understanding of spiritual principles, then these external evils, for that’s what they are, can serve as a trigger for reflecting on the external behaviour’s connection to the inner attitudes that we are harbouring.

So how might this manifest on a practical level to do with our spiritual growth and development?

In states of external moral life where there is no real interest in taking things deeper, so where the Word is perhaps read but there is no inclination to use it to support the practise of personal repentance, the things of religion, if held at all, are held in a purely external way. For where there is no reflection on our inner states of life, one’s religion is an external religion only. In these states of life, the ego or proprium has a major investment in maintaining an external face or image of goodness by attributing good to itself and it does this by blinding us to the inner attitudes that are grounded in self interest. This state, when active, creates a prison where those caught up in it are constantly comparing others against impossible standards of behaviour, while living in the illusion that they themselves meet these standards.

This kind of comparison is straight out of the hells and when boiled down is really a simple case of putting others down to puff up one’s own moral ego. This state is one that is filled with underlying insecurities and fears, particularly the fear of being found out and unfortunately those trapped in it are blind to what drives their behaviour.  And because of the nature of the fear that underlies this condition, they are intensely resistant to having their motives uncovered by the Word. These kinds of states are illustrated in the Gospels by the self righteousness of the various sects of religious leaders who resisted and were openly opposed to the Lord. It’s a state of life that arises from using what the Word teaches about goodness and truth to judge the lives of others but not being prepared to use that teaching to do an inner inventory on our own life.

Spiritual teaching used properly should never led us to judging others but should always lead us in being able to reflect on our own life, by directing us to the Lord in the Word so that His light can shine into our hearts and minds. So, when we are under the kind of teaching that John represents and are responsive to it, we are then being led into a deeper spiritual approach to the Word, where the Word can support us in moving from a moral to a more genuinely spiritual life. When these states are active our first inclination will be to act from our external understanding of the Word. So in our example, we enter a situation in which we find arising within us a desire to be judgemental of another. We know from our understanding of the external teaching of the Word that it’s wrong to judge others and so we enter into a battle to suppress giving the desire to judge another, any kind of expression. In this case our external understanding of the Word is able to stop us from giving expression to this desire in our external behaviour or speech. This is but the first stage however, for while we may not express our feelings or views externally, we may still harbour them inwardly and find our imagination running away with all sorts of thoughts that are judgemental but are not being expressed.

In this phase of transition from a moral to a spiritual life we still give little attention to the inner activity of our mental life. We are as yet unconscious of the inner attitudes. Still the very fact that we are willing to not act out the desire for no other reason than it’s against what we understand of the Word, is how these essential disciples or disciplines can be used by the Lord to nurture a genuine spiritual life within us.

The next progression towards a spiritual life is when the desire to judge another arises, we recognise it and our attention immediately moves from the person in front of us towards the attitude within ourselves that is generating it. This is a genuine spiritual response and it’s to this level that the internal sense of the Word is directed. In this state the battle is with our inner thoughts and affections, which are seen to be where transformation has to happen if we are to have the heavenly life implanted within us. We come to the realisation that although external behaviour is acceptable in the sight of men, the inner world must be purified by applying the principles of the Word to what can’t be seen by others. So while in the previous states our awareness of the application of the Word to this more inner level of our mental life is lacking, we see that our ability to actually be aware on this deeper level can only come about as we are willing to respond and attend to our external behaviour and speech. For only then can the disciplines needed to support the spiritual life be built up and strengthened.

So under John, our engagement with the Word in externals, we build up certain disciplines or what are called in our reading today, two disciples. These disciplines acquired through the practise of external repentance form the foundation for being more aware of the inner aspects of our thoughts and motives and are essential to our being able to examine our lives on a deeper level. The call of the disciples represents a shift in spiritual state where a person moves from being focused on the external aspect of their life, what is meant by John, over to a more internal focus which is meant by Jesus. What we see in these two disciples is the transfer of disciplines used to transform our external life to their application to the inner spiritual life.

Andrew the brother of Simon Peter was one of the two who heard from John and was following Him. This one first found his own brother Simon and tells him, We have found the Messiah (which being translated is, the Christ). And he led him to Jesus.

Next time we will look at the spiritual significance of the order in which these disciples are gathered to the Lord.

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