Present Tense Fellowship

“It is to your advantage that I go away…” (Jn. 16:7). Oh words in red, so inarguably true for do they not spill forth from the mouth of Truth Himself? Yet just the same, these words have been at times so difficult for me to swallow in their so seeming contradiction to my experience. O Jesus, You have left the dusty roads of Israel and gone away to Your Father where You sit even now at His right hand. And to the ones who knew You so closely as You walked upon those roads, those who greeted You as friends in the morning and accompanied You in every coming and going until the closing of each day, You uttered this promise so perplexing. It is a promise of a proximity far closer than gazing on your every expression, a fellowship far superior than hearing your every word to the peoples. Somehow the coming of the Spirit was to their advantage and to every redeemed heart “better” than the nearness and imminence of Your earthly life.

How often I have read these words and felt the great divergence between my own experience of fellowship with the Spirit and the near access the disciples knew in companionship with Jesus in His earthly life. How could what I know be advantageous to me over and above what the disciples knew in their relationship with Jesus as He walked the earth in His humanity? These words have wounded me in their indication of my spiritual lack. For how could the fellowship with the Spirit I experience be so great a communion as to call it better than walking with Jesus in the way the disciples did? And yet…a light of truth brings clarity to some of the cloudiness of these questions. The light is the possibility that I have a far greater fellowship and experience in the Spirit than I might realize and what seems so often to be
“far” from my expierence might be deeply near–in my mouth and in my heart.

I do not know what Peter and John knew so well as to the great divergence of pre-indwelling and post-indwelling of the Spirit in one single day nor do I know what many believers know in heightened conversion experiences in their adult years–being brought from darkness to light in one sweeping salvation experience. Having known and believed in Jesus since childhood, such distinctions are not part of my remembrance. I imagine Peter and the way he loved Jesus before the Spirit was given at Pentecost. Though affections soared high, they were limited by the strength of his own love and faltered under pressure. But what of after Pentecost? What about when the groanings of God began to ascend from within his own inner man, the lovesickness of God Himself began to burn from within him? What of when Peter knew the love of the Father for the Son coursing through his own person by supernatural strength? With such a spectacular gift, oh how Peter would agree of how advantageous, what a glorious gain was the Spirit in the absence of Christ bodily. Though as a friend of the Bridegroom, his heart would mourn in lovesick yearning for Jesus’ return, how precious beyond a thousand gifts were these groanings so supernatural, these lovesick affections of God loving God, that Peter would energetically agree with the words of Christ: it is to your advantage that I go away.

And this is where the light has come on for me. How often have I known what it is to be such a dwelling place of these God-awakened and God-sustained groanings? How my own person and heart has harbored affections and hungers for God that I could not so much as lift a finger to evoke myself. I am admittedly yet greatly immature in this wondrous mystery called fellowshipping with the Spirit and daily the words of Scripture and the historic mystics of old remain before me as a continual provocation of deep oceans I have yet to descend in the whole reality of communion with God. Yet even so, could I not agree with personal experience and familiarity—be it ever so small and immature—with these words of Jesus: it is to your advantage that I go away?

How much better is it to love Him by the strength of His own love moving inside of me than to love Him as a person would love a strange phenomenon on the outside of them, a love more of speculation than participation. I have only ever known Jesus as a New Covenant believer. I have only ever known loving Him with the indwelling Spirit as my continual companion. As a believer, I do not know what it was to not have such inhabiting nor will I ever. And though my experience in the Spirit is yet so minimal and my immersion in that ocean yet so shallow, there is something real enough and supernatural enough to already find personal identification with these words of Jesus. I have already touched the advantage even in these beginnings. I have lived the gain of having Christ within over and superior to the limitation of just having Him bodily present without. And this gain is the only way that I will be prepared for the fullness of loving Him and communing with Him by the Spirit within while He is bodily present on the earth.

Each hunger I have for God is part of the fellowship. Each longing lends itself to the mourning of love. Each action done and word spoken in love is infused by a hidden Source of strength and life, springing from the indwelling God within. Yes Jesus, how great the advantage of Your Spirit indwelling…how precious the Presence of Your Person so near…how great the gain of God within…ever increasing my cry for the ultimate fullness—God indwelling by the Spirit while simultaneously dwelling among us as a Man, as the King over all the earth.