John the mystic

Mystic – A person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.

I’m not sure if, according to this definition, we can rightly call John a mystic for in his gospel and his letters he balances contemplation with the need to demonstrate our love for Jesus with our love for one another. John also clearly believes that we can know spiritual truths above and beyond our human intellect but we should test what we receive in the spirit. Yet we can also say that self-surrender and unity with God are key themes in John’s teaching. Does any of this help us? There are two things I would like us to dwell on: self-surrender and knowing the truth.

Self-surrender is essential in our relationship with God. God will not make us bow the knee until Jesus returns – at that point every knee shall now. But presently, it is clearly a choice, we must choose to surrender/submit to God’s will just as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane. This is not achieved through yoga-like practices or meditation, nor self-flagellation or physically denying ourselves. Self-surrender comes through a determined will and humble spirit, we set our faces like flint and walk to the cross no matter how painful because we understand that life is found on the other side. Silence, fasting and spiritual experiences (like speaking in tongues or receiving visions), as well as serving others, remembering scripture and standing firm in faith can all be used to help us become one with our heavenly father. However self-surrender and unity with God are a matter of the heart not outward performance and as such these things are tools not fool-proof methods. This is what John writes

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining. 1 John 2:3‭-‬8 NLT

‬ Self-surrender is not about denying ourselves; it is about obeying God. When your will is the same as God’s then there is no conflict, but where we think and act differently from Jesus we must learn to “surrender” our will and desires and submit to his commands.

John quotes large speeches of Jesus in his gospel and our next verses come from when Jesus was teaching his disciples about being united with him (e.g. he is the vine, we are the branches, we are to ask in his name and to love one another as he loves us). In these verse Jesus tells us truth is revealed by the Holy Spirit. We also learn that as the Father has given to Jesus, Jesus gives to the Spirit and the Spirit gives to us. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you and to reveal spiritual truths to you. Spend time contemplating on the verses quoted, mull them over, if you can read different translations. Ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to make known to you. You are already united with Jesus through faith and baptism but let us seek a deeper stronger unity as we surrender to the Holy Spirit moment by moment. Let the Holy Spirit be your teacher.

‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.’ John 16:12‭-‬15 NIVUK‬

May this song be our prayer

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