by Dan Stone
Does the union life emphasis upon "spirit as ultimate reality"
encourage license? Directly or indirectly this question is asked of me
more than any other.
My first response is the same as Paul's:
"Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it
never be!" (Rom.
6:15). My second response is that I prefer to label as "growing pains"
that which others call license. Some might prefer to say that what
looks like license is God's unique way of working His truth into our
inner consciousness. At any rate, this subject certainly needs
further clarification, for to many observers union life teaching
appears at times to encourage license.
When people first hear union life or spirit
teaching, they tend to express the only point of view available to
them. Because they are entrenched in a dualistic outlook, they just
naturally translate what they hear as an encouragement to sin.
Society trains us to be objective persons (see-aters) who distrust the
unseen, the spiritual, or the metaphysical. We are the products of the
educational system in which we grew up. Unfortunately, that system has
taught us to judge by outer appearances, even though Jesus expressly
warned against it. "Judge not according to appearance, but judge
righteous judgment" (Jn.
In addition, society has dictated certain
standards of conduct for each peer group. These standards are enforced
by a reward system which we might call the law of rewards. Each peer
group extends or withholds favors to its members based upon their
conduct. The system is totally based upon performance, on outer
actions. Since the system is the dispenser of approval and rewards,
persons governed by that system are led to believe that the system is
inherently sacred. From such a belief these persons naturally but
erroneously conclude that spiritual maturity, begun in grace, can
somehow be completed in works. Of course, union life teaching intrudes
as an unwelcomed contradiction to the law of rewards.
Another error emerging from our compliance
with the law of rewards is the ridiculous notion that we can somehow
repay God for His redemptive work. We are led down the path of
"commitment to Christ," of "consecrated self," and of a myriad other
designations for the same dead-end. We become enmeshed in the Romans
seven syndrome of attempting to do good, but we seldom attain the
desired inner consciousness of satisfaction. Our attempts to
discipline ourselves or refrain from doing "wrong" end with equally
disappointing results. The only way our frustration can ever be
appeased is by comparing our meager actions with someone else's
failure; or by excusing our failure in the light of another's grosser
wrong. We find comfort in measuring ourselves by our intentions and
others by their actions. That approach gives us an outside
possibility of overcoming the Romans seven syndrome.
To those who hear union life teaching and
know they have heard truth, the "eyes of the heart" (Eph.
1:18) have been enlightened. They have taken the
Spirit's bait. They differ now in their inner consciousness, for they
are becoming "see-throughers" rather than "see-at-ers."
Though the Spirit is beginning His work in
the inner man, the new see-through-er does not yet live from a fixed
inner consciousness. He vacillates between a new awareness of his
fixed union with God and an old consciousness of separation from God.
But in the process his perspective on life is moving from the level of
what is visible to the level of the invisible, which is spirit.
During this period of vacillation, some spectators will inevitably
conclude that the believer has fallen into license if his conduct
fails to conform to the acceptable pattern of the peer group. This
license may take the form of smoking, social drinking, swearing,
using make-up, being divorced, an unacceptable
sexual practice, or
a hundred other activities. The spectators are even more appalled when
the believer now takes these deviations not as gross license, but as
God's intended path for him!
What is happening?
The believer is moving into a fixed inner consciousness by personally
experiencing and acknowledging the Spirit's work in his humanity. I am
the first to admit that many who hear union life teaching initially
interpret it as a green light for increased permissiveness. Some
people need to experience a total overthrow of their old standards.
But in time they will put aside promiscuous activities, for they will
realize that those outer crutches offer nothing more than a new
This process will
appear as license to those who only perceive reality on the
performance level. However, what is needed at this juncture is not
condemnation, but a patient awareness that God is at work producing a
fixed inner consciousness in each believer.
As the inner
consciousness becomes his fixed consciousness, the see-through-er
discovers in himself the full identity of the One he contains - his
"not I but Christ" spirit. Colossians 2:9,10 says, "For in Him
[Christ] all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him
you have come to fullness of life." Since all the fullness of deity
dwells in Christ, and Christ dwells in the believer, the fullness of
deity (at least qualitatively) dwells in each believer.
Union life trusts
the Spirit to woo and illumine each individual to the awareness of his
true position in Christ. We know that God uses alternatives in this
matter-life to cause us to know Him, to act, or to do whatever He
desires from us at the moment. God means us to have the results of our
actions. But these results have the purpose of leading us into a fixed
inner consciousness of oneness. Admittedly, some actions appear to
plunge the person into further fires of purification. However, these
experiences are personal and private, and we dare not judge by
unrighteous judgment what God is doing in another's life. To do so is
to tread on holy ground.
We must see that
life's actions are designed to purge a person from dualistic living -
from separate seeing, from separated choices. These fires of
purification drive him to see all outer conduct as the work of the
The home-base for
the see-through-er is the awareness of his own life as an expression
of God, the other-lover. This position knows no reward system for good
conduct. This path results in a death for us, and in life for others.
"So death works in us and life in you" (Il Cor. 4:12). Paul also calls
it a weakness (II Cor. 12:5, 9, 10). No one seeks this type of
"death"; it is thrust upon him. It is the life for which God has been
preparing him. It is summed up in the statement, "a body have you
prepared for me" (Heb. 10:15). Temporary excursions into what
objective persons call license is but a chapter in the preparation for
principle is not life unto life, but death unto life for others.
"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains
alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (Jn.12:24). Life for
others comes spontaneously as the container (the person) becomes
fixed in his real reason for being. Jesus said, "He who finds his life
will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it"
Remember my earlier
statement, "The work of the Holy Spirit for each person is private and
personal." The work of the Spirit is to transfer one's perspective
from temporary appearances to spirit-reality. He is transferring us
into the fixed inner consciousness that the spirit realm is the realm
of ultimate reality. As a form of Christ, the see-through-er exists
for others. The see-through-er has moved from seeing temporary, outer
appearances as reality to seeing permanent, inner spirit-reality.
We need not be
side-tracked by the seeming inconsistency of outer conduct, for in the
spirit realm God has produced the finished product. Outer conduct is
never the yardstick for Holy Spirit persons whose inner consciousness
is fixed on the permanent reality. Jesus' own outer conduct was a
puzzle to the religious community of His day. Most of them rejected
Him. Union life persons know themselves to be available to God for His
purposes, even in the apparent inconsistencies.
Union life does not
encourage license. However, it does see through the temporary outer
events of our lives to the inner working of the Holy Spirit. This
teaching accepts as the work of the Spirit what some may call license.
It speaks the word of faith: "For it is God who is at work in you,
both to will and to work for His own good pleasure"(Phil. 2:13).