Practicing the Presence of God, Part 4: Practicing the Presence of Christ Within
[Our blogger for the month of October is Sarah Groen-Colyn, PhD. Sarah is the Director of Ministries of Leanne Payne’s Ministries of Pastoral Care, as well as a practicing psychologist and owner of Sanctuary Psychological Services in Edmonds, WA.]
In my opinion, the ultimate Christian psychology considers what a human being becomes through union with Christ. Leanne Payne calls this Incarnational Reality: “Ours is an Incarnational view of man and reality… Christ… is present now. He, our Healer, has already become flesh, has already accomplished the work of the cross, has already poured out the full gift of His Spirit upon us. As long as we dwell in time, there will never be more of Him available to us than now. Our walk with Him, our acknowledgement of Him with us, within us, while remaining fully sovereign – all this in the now – is what faith apprehends. God is available to us; Jesus is indeed, if we are born again of His Spirit, the living Fountain within. We practice His presence” (Payne, Restoring the Christian Soul, p. 72, emphasis mine).
At Ministries of Pastoral Care schools, we teach this reality, leading participants to affirm with hand on heart, “Another lives in me.” Truly practicing God’s presence includes a deepening awareness of Christ’s presence within, formed in one’s body, soul and spirit by the Holy Spirit. This practice of His presence within generates intimate dialog with Christ, a moment-by-moment sharing of experience. A person living in such conscious and unconscious communion with Christ can share with Him what the human soul alone cannot bear, and can draw from His character the virtues one’s alienated soul could not possess. One important point of clarification: In relation to God, I am not the container, but the contained. When we pray, we are looking up and out of ourselves to the Holy Trinity.
Christianity is unique in seeing the human person united with God and yet distinct in personal identity – ours is no drop-in-the-ocean model of spiritual maturity. “It is only the Christians who have any idea of how human souls can be taken into the life of God and yet remain themselves – in fact, be very much more themselves than they were before… The whole purpose for which we exist is to be thus taken into the life of God” (Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 141). As Leanne writes, “It is an awesome thing to be a man or woman, God’s masterpiece, that human thing that makes up the creaturely side of Incarnational Reality” (Payne, Healing Presence, p. 111). Christians from various traditions have called this theosis, in-godding, or the deification of men and women. Athanasius said that we become “by grace what God is by nature” (De Incarnatione, I). “When we are joined to Christ, our humanity is interpenetrated with the energies of God through Christ’s glorified flesh. Nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, we partake of the grace of God – His strength, his righteousness, His love – and are enable to serve Him and glorify Him.” (Orthodox Study Bible, p. 1692).
To conclude my blog entries for this month, I want to extend a sincere invitation. Please consider connecting with Ministries of Pastoral Care. I believe we are carrying on important work in illuminating human nature to the Christian church and all those involved in soul care. We desire to see more Christian mental health professionals join us. I encourage you to come and receive renewal and restoration in God’s presence at one of our pastoral care schools. We spend five days exploring a deep articulation of the gospel’s reach to the whole human person through worship, teaching, and prayer. You can connect with us by subscribing to newsletter, and visit our website for information about attending one of our 2015 schools. I would love to see you join us in Wheaton, July 5-10, 2015, or if you’d prefer a more exotic location, consider New Zealand in February or Ticino, Switzerland in October! http://ministriesofpastoralcare.com
Lewis, C. S. (1952). Mere Christianity. New York: Macmillan.
Payne, L. (1991). Restoring the Christian Soul Through Healing Prayer: Overcoming the Three Great Barriers to Personal and Spiritual Completion in Christ. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
Payne, L. (1995). The Healing Presence: Curing the Soul Through Union with Christ. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
The Orthodox study Bible. (2008). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.