What is it like to encounter Jesus?

I write a quarterly column for Preach magazine, in which I explore a significant word or phrase in the Bible, or a theme or section of Scripture, and the ideas that it expresses. At the end of this piece I list the previous articles I have written for them. Here I explore the question of encountering Jesus.

What was it like for people encountering Jesus in his earthly ministry? Though the gospels are very brief and condensed compared with modern writing, they give us vivid descriptions of people’s reactions to their encounters with him.


Mark’s gospel summarises Jesus’ early preaching as ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news!’ (Mark 1.15, see also Matt 4.17). Whilst we might read this as encouraging, taking at face value the term ‘good news’, it would have sounded much more challenging to Jesus’ listeners. Jesus is claiming that the day of God’s reign over his people, and the whole world, is about to break in—which is good news for some, but true terrifying for others, the ‘great and terrible day of the Lord’ (Isa 2.12, Joel 2.31, Amos 5.18, Zeph 1.14, Mal 4.5). It is therefore no surprise that Jesus talks of ‘the path to destruction’ (Matt 7.13) and ‘outer darkness’ for those who do not respond to his message (Matt 8.12).

When his disciples get a glimpse of who Jesus really is, they are terrified. When they see Jesus walking on the water, they ‘cry out in fear’ (Matt 14.26). When he is ‘transfigured’ and they hear the voice of God, they fall down in terror (Matt 17.6). The crowds, too, were sometimes ‘afraid’ at the miracles of Jesus (Matt 9.8). Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, he is not!


Jesus often puzzled people—and at times deliberately so. We are told that his main way of teaching the crowd baffled them, and that this was intentional. ‘He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately explained everything to his own disciples’ (Mark 4.34). In John 3, Nicodemus is baffled by Jesus’ teaching about being ‘born again’. And the woman at the well in Samaria in the next chapter is equally baffled by his claim to have access to water she does not know of. Both later become disciples—but the Twelve themselves often found Jesus’ teaching puzzling. They cannot grasp how Jesus can both be the anointed one of God (the ‘Christ’ or Messiah’) and yet also be the suffering son of man who will be handed over to death. Peter is confident enough that Jesus has got it wrong that he chastises him (Mark 8.32)!

Even John the Baptist, his relation who was preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus, is unsure about who he is (Matt 11.3). In his reply, Jesus says that it is possible to ‘stumble’ on account of him. He is not always what we expect!


Alongside fear and puzzlement, it is clear that the crowds are consistently drawn to his teaching and actions, especially in the first part of his ministry in the north of the country. And the individuals who meet him find their lives transformed.

In one chapter in Mark (chapter 5), we find a demon-possessed man, an outcast from his community, delivered, healed, and restored to his people. We find a wealthy and respectable leader, Jairus, receives his daughter back from the dead, and an unnamed women is healed from a debilitating affliction. In Luke 13, a woman bent double stands upright for the first time in 18 years, and in Luke 19 a tax collector comes down from a tree and finds his life turned upside-down and inside-out. Alongside Jesus’ power we repeatedly find his compassion for those he meets, and this is the turning point of each encounter (see Luke 7.13)

The one who warns us of the narrow gate and the hard path to life of following him, in which we must ‘take up our cross’, is also the one who invites us to find true rest in him (Matt 11.28). No-one who encounters Jesus is left unchanged.


At first, this might seem a strange combination of responses—but in fact we have seen this all before. In the Old Testament, it is clear that the God is Israel is quite unlike humans—he is transcendent, awesome, and to be feared. And yet this transcendent God is ‘gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love’ (Ps 103.8). He has compassion on us, just as a (good) human father has compassion on his children, or a mother who will not forget her child (Is 49.15).

Reflecting on Jesus’ encounters warns us against two dangers—either domesticating Jesus, making him our ‘celestial chum’, or separating him from the God of the Old Testament. ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10.31), and yet we know, through all the Scriptures and supremely in Jesus, that these are the hands of a God who loves us.

My previous articles have been on the themes of:

(The image at the top is of the woman touching the edge of the garment of Jesus in Mark 5 from the extraordinary painting in the Chapel of the Encounter at Migdal on the shores of Galilee. Worth a visit!)

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51 thoughts on “What is it like to encounter Jesus?”

  1. My conversion was triggered by a ‘vision’ of Christ – an image that was as equally terrifying as it was beautiful. Also, glory really does shine. If you could stare at the sun and not be blinded by it, that’s what it’s like to look at his face.

    Two decades later I can still easily accept it when others dismiss the encounter as a lucid dream but my life was transformed by it. I went to my first church service (aged 40) a few days later. I had been a Richard Dawkins style committed atheist up until that point.

    • Did it occur out of the blue or were you thinking about Christianity around the time? I read about a pagan writer who experienced a vision in a forest seemingly out of the blue. It converted him!

      • I was only thinking of allowing ‘meaning’ into my life – as opposed to sticking to a more stricter “scientific explanations are the only knowledge we can count on” kind of atheism. Nothing religious proceeded it. I would have been open to a Jordan Peterson kind of religious engagement – if he had been around at the time.

  2. Terrifying, Puzzling, Transforming, Divine. Yes that more or less sums up my own experience of encountering Jesus.

    I’d like to say it gets less terrifying after several decades but it didn’t for me. It started with a year long spiritual battle. Horrific and scary. I open the patio doors to let the dog out at night and look up at the stars and planets and vast blackness and bring to mind the image of God holding the universe in the palm of one hand. God is massive. It is mind blowing to me. I’m only now thinking of buying a telescope to start enjoying looking up. It’s always intimidated me to enjoy the idea before now. On the other end of the largeness being terrifying is the nearness and closeness of God. Once, entering into the Holy of Holies and being so extremely near to God through a month of fasting and prayer that it freaked me out and I’ve not even been back there. Way too terrifying. God is far too holy and good to be that near to him! But the intimacy (and I gather very unusual) of years of actual live time chats with God, where he make it not scary at all. Showed me stuff from his point of view, asked my opinion on stuff. Learned so much through scripture study- renewed my mind so my thoughts became more like his thoughts, became holy, did some miracles- I didn’t find these things scary. But the scripture where a man fearfully tells the Holy God to get away from him- a sinful man- that sums it all up.

    I’ve learned that the more you cooperate with him the less painful and time it takes to get a change sorted in us. No one said it would be easy, mind. The scripture about renewing your mind is a really good ‘in’ to transformation. Working with God isn’t a sin. There’s no brownie points for making it as hard as possible for God to mould and shape us. It isn’t works salvation to actually cooperate. It’s polite if nothing else.

    absolutely. I’m puzzled by the whole thing. Still am. I think most of the puzzlement comes through knowing that if we were to be the designer and creator and sustainer that we would of course do everything completely differently. I’m not going to deny what I actually think and pretend I think its ok that animals get eaten and that suffering is ok. But it is God’s train set, not mine. So I decide shelve my puzzlement and disagreement and just submit to God’s way, not my own. Any indignation I have over methodology has to be through a lack of seeing the big picture. I know how very kind Jesus is and thoughtful. I know him.

    Knowing that my name is in Jesus’ Book of Life and that I’m sorted for the whole of eternity and get to be right with him for always is incredibly good. I have a deep peace that because Jesus picked me I’m right with God. Nothing on this earth compares with this. God is on my side and I’m on his side. s’great.

    • ‘Jesus picked me’. Does that imply he doesn’t pick others? Also your certainty about your own salvation would not be upheld by some other commentators here.

      • ‘Jesus picked me’. Does that imply he doesn’t pick others?

        Romans 8:30 declares, “And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.”

        ‘certainty about your own salvation’
        I’ve 100% certainty that I’ll be spending eternity with God. Why? Because of Jesus.
        I have done nothing good or clever. I certainly haven’t earned a spot to be with God.
        But because perfect Jesus- who is God and man- died on the cross bearing my sins, in my place, because I believe Jesus is who he said he is, and because responded to his grace and I turned away from Sin and put my trust in him to be saved then I am saved. Or else he is a liar. And he isn’t.
        I was born again on 17th September 1984.
        I’m baptised in the Holy spirit and walking the narrow path following Jesus in obedience.
        I cannot conceive of the idea of not being with Jesus after death as I’m with him the whole time in this life. I genuinely love God and want to be with him. Because of Jesus I get to be.
        God is not a liar and I trust him to do what he has said he will do.

        • So he did pick you. Why did he not pick your neighbour if he loves her equally? Are you special? Or is it just random choice?

          What if through further life experience you come to lose your faith, as happens with some people who for example lose their child, or due to some other experience of suffering? Will you still be saved, despite your loss of faith and presumable rebellion later in life?

          Before you think Im being unreasonable, these are genuine questions that I think need to be answered by those who believe they are in the ‘chosen few’ and will without doubt spend eternity with God.

          • There’s a difference between being feeling chosen and making a point about others not being chosen.

            Nobody is special.

      • It might have been John Wesley who commented that the gate of salvation has on one side the invitation “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden…”. When you pass through and turn, you see on the other “you did not choose me but I chose you”.

        • That seems rather disingenuous on God’s part does it not?

          An offer to all, already knowing only some will receive that rest because he doesnt enable the others to say ‘yes’.

          • PC1
            As Calvin comes close to saying along the lines of – besides it is not surprising that our eyes should be blinded by intense light that we cannot certainly judge how God wishes all to be saved, and yet has predestined only some to eternal life – ‘while we look now through a glass darkly, we should be content with the measure of our intelligence’

            Phili Almond

  3. ‘Reflecting on Jesus’ encounters warns us against two dangers—either domesticating Jesus, making him our ‘celestial chum’’

    Any making of ‘a different Jesus’ is very dangerous. A very large proportion of churches seem to follow false Jesus’ and false gospels. Jesus is not a ‘god in our pocket’ or a cashpoint or because it’s us and it’s 2023, willing to bless those things he said he will punish with hellfire (see what i did there). But the actual God The Son does relate to us in a variety of ways. He generously accommodates our individuality.
    And I’d argue that he very much wants to be both our celestial chum and our dad; as a part of the whole relationship- but not at the expense of honour and worship and true submission, spiritual rebirth and full respectful obedience to him.

  4. ‘Also your certainty about your own salvation would not be upheld by some other commentators here.’
    That’s ok.
    There’s the obligatory ‘once saved always saved’ heresy discussion to arrive of course.
    Ne’er mind.
    I’m more concerned for now about anyone thinking that they cannot have an assurance of being saved. It’s all a hard enough journey without one being sure of one’s eternal destination! Perhaps it’s for another thread.

    Romans 8:24-30
    For this is the hope of our salvation. But hope means that we must trust and wait for what is still unseen. For why would we need to hope for something we already have? So because our hope is set on what is yet to be seen, we patiently keep on waiting for its fulfillment.

    Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

      • Why not share your own personal experiences of encountering Jesus?
        (As long as you don’t reply to yourself this will be a safe place to do that.)

        Me ‘seeming to think things’ and ‘seeming to believe things’ is not what this is about. I know I’ve written plainly enough .
        I see that your ‘did Jeannie really sssay…’ does not come from a good place.

        Why not share your own personal experiences of encountering Jesus?
        No one should be here to try to trip others up.

        • Im not trying to trip you up nor do I have reason to doubt your own experience. Ive shared quite a lot about myself here previously. But I think those who have a certainty about their eternal position before God should be able to answer relevant questions. Many claim to believe this or that but dont seem to have thought through what such a belief actually means, not just for them but the implications for others.

      • Because ‘Once saved always saved’ is an inadequate summary of the whole doctrine s salvation. Justification is a once for all verdcit/declaration. Sanctification is a life long process which involves good works by the justified. If those good works are completely absent in a person that person has not been justified.
        Phil Almond

        • See also Articles 11,12,13:
          XI. Of the Justification of Man.
          We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

          XII. Of Good Works.
          Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

          XIII. Of Works before Justification.
          Works done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School-authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.

          Phil Almond

        • define ‘completely absent’. what about the example I gave to Jeannie, of someone apparently losing their faith due to suffering?

          ‘Once saved always saved’ does actually reflect your understanding, because if you are justified at a single point in time then by definition you are saved from that point onwards, unless you believe you can lose your salvation, but I dont think you do.

          • “if you are justified at a single point in time” My point is “if”. We have to examine our life honestly – is there evidence that we have been justified.

            Phil Almond

  5. Thank you Ian, your text is quite cogent. One could take any character from the bible and realize as Paul? did that God spoke to many holy people and in various ways {methods}; This after Jesus had ordained him and “chosen him as a vessel to disseminate his name {character}
    All of which is reflected in the comments above.
    My own encounter and life with Jesus would take too many column inches; suffice it to say “Oh the depth of the riches of Christ, Oh the length and breadth, hight and depth of the love of God in Christ.
    Oh the wonder and beauty of Holiness, and Oh the Glory!

    I am minded of Philo, a contemplative who attempted a synthesis of Jewish and Greak wisdom to the chagrin of both sides.
    I believe it was he who stated that the Holiness of God is His utter separation seen in the enormity of His otherness; and the Glory is his drawing near to reveal Himself and engage with man,[ ergo not just to declare His Glory but to share it along with His Holiness through the promises whereby we can become partakers of the divine nature as opposed to contemplation.
    Such are the pseudo Christians who many have allied themselves to in the current age e.g. 24/7 Prayer and acolytes [who advocate exploring eastern mystics as part of their devotions.] Lector Divina and The Shack.

  6. After many years in a spiritual wilderness, Happy Jack was in Westminster attending a professional conference on child abuse. It was a particularly difficult stage of his life, both professionally and personally. He happened to be passing Westminster Abbey and felt drawn to enter. He hadn’t crossed the threshold of a Catholic Church for many years and had a sense of ambivalence about this.

    He sat at the back. He felt like an intruder. The hymn below was being sung by the choir and, truthfully, it triggered a process that reshaped his life. Even today when he hears it, it brings a tear to his eye.

    After the service, Happy Jack went to Confession – not easy after some 20+ years of sinning! He recalls the young priest saying to him: “These are serious sins.” Happy Jack’s reply: “Well, yes, that’s why I’m here!”

    This was his first “encounter” true with a merciful and loving God through Jesus Christ. Happy Jack felt a sense of peace, love and a welcome home.

      • A favourite song in charismatic churches, Jack.
        One of the significant things psychologically as well as spiritually about audible confession is that it helps the sinner to ‘own’ his sins without reservation. We can confess privately and mentally, and we should, but confession before a brother and fellow sinner is infinitely more transformative. Bonhoeffer’s profound little book ‘Life Together’ says this, among other things, about confession:
        “Who can give us the certainty that, in the confession and the forgiveness of our sins, we are not dealing with ourselves but with the living God? God gives us this certainty through our brother. Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception. A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sin everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light. But since the sin must come to light some time, it is better that it happens today between me and my brother, rather than on the last day in the piercing light of the final judgment. It is a mercy that we can confess our sins to a brother. Such grace spares us the terrors of the last judgment.”

        • Very few people today carry a burden of guilt – which is partly the reason why the traditional evangelistic message no longer works on them. Shame is a more common negative emotion than guilt these days.

    • I’m a rabid Protestant but I do envy the RC’s their Confession booths. I think it would have made my life a whole lot easier and better had I been able to confess my sins to a trusted someone weekly throughout my life in a Protestant version of them. It would probably have changed everything for me. Baby and bath water spring to mind. Instead I’ve never once in 62 years confessed all my sins to anyone except God directly. I don’t know any Church minister I would trust with it all now anyway. Which reflects rather badly on the Church (another thing) to my mind.

      • @ Jeannie

        Don’t some Church of England ministers offer Confession?

        Did you know that any baptised Christian may approach a Catholic priest and request him to hear their Confession in private? This is because they are in a relationship with the Lord and the Church through baptism. A non-Catholic Christian may receive a prayer and personal blessing for pardon and peace, but they would not receive absolution.

        Confession, according to the Catholic faith, is a sacrament of healing and mercy. And while some disagree with Catholics on the need to confess their sins to a priest, those who are struggling with sin may desire to speak with a priest in Confession for guidance and spiritual direction. From this, they will hopefully find healing and mercy.

        However, while those who are not Catholic may go to Confession, there’s an important caveat. That person cannot receive absolution. He can’t be absolved because he has to be in a covenantal relationship of baptism with the Catholic Church. The reason is that Confession is not just about the forgiveness and absolution of sins, but the reintegration of the person into communion with the Catholic Church. If a person is not Catholic and does not desire to be Catholic, then they do not desire this integration and communion with the Church.

          • indeed there are a few anglican priests I would have no interest in confessing to as I know what theyre like in real life!

          • Well. we read scripture differently and disagree about ‘Tradition’ and the development of doctrine and Church disciplines. But now is not the time or place for this discussion.

          • Peter, PC1,
            You’ll be well aware, as your comment indicates, that John Stott wrote a book, Confess Your Sins: The Way of Reconciliation.

      • Not that amazing, Ian. Well, at least not as dramatic as a Hound of Heaven moment! A confluence of ‘ordinary’ events led me to enter that Cathedral at that precise moment in time. I’d sat outside for a while; left to go to Victoria Station; sat down there, smoked a cigarette; and then went back.

        God eventually finds those He foresees will accept Him. Not that I’m being presumptuous – my journey is not over yet and each day brings its own challenges! But He set back on the path.

        Why are not all saved by an omnipotent God? A mystery that has long divided Christianity.

        Father William Most offers this answer (you’ve probably come across it before):

        The solution: There is no time in God, but one thing may be logically before another. There are three logical points in His decisions on predestination:

        1) God wills all men to be saved. This is explicit in 1 Tim 2:4, and since to love is to will good to another for the other’s sake, this is the same as saying God loves us … How strong this love is can be seen by the obstacle it overcame in the work of opening eternal happiness to us: the death of Christ on the cross.

        2) God looks to see who resists His grace gravely and persistently, so persistently that the person throws away the only thing that could save him. With regrets, God decrees to let such persons go: reprobation because of and in view of grave and persistent resistance to grace.
        (Termed “middle knowledge”, God, being omniscient, looks to see how people respond to grace. Efficacious grace is given in circumstances favourable to its reception and operation).

        3) All others not discarded in step two are positively predestined, but not because of merits, which are not at all in view yet, nor even because of the lack of such resistance, but because in step 1, God wanted to predestine them, and they are not stopping Him. This is predestination without merits.

        God never gives up on any of us. He foresees/foreknows those who will eventually accept His offer of grace! We can run; we can hide; He keeps searching and “pricking” us. And when the time and circumstance is right, He sends us His saving grace and leads us to Him.

        There are other answers, but this is the one that I find most satisfactory and one that resonates with my experiences.

        Here’s PDF of the book – well worth a study if you’ve not read it:
        It took me 3 years to plough through the paperback!

        • Happy Jack – I wonder where Hebrews 6:4 enters your view. I don’t think that the author of the verse is referring to the empty set – of hypothetical people who don’t exist, far from it.

          Believe it or not, there are some people who, having been given a full vision of glory, an enlightened understanding of what the heavenly life is all about, basically decide that they don’t want it.

          There is plenty in Scripture to indicate that God isn’t interested in those whose only motivation is to escape the wrath to come (for example rich man and Lazarus in Luke) – he is interested in those who actively desire – and yearn for – the heavenly life. There are many whose ‘innermost being’ (Romans 7:14-25) doesn’t actually want it – not even after the Lord has shown it to them.

          • @ Jock

            William Most explains it better than HJ could ever do:

            But what is the reason now why those who fall back into Judaism or paganism cannot be restored? Surely God Himself would not be unwilling to grant pardon even for such sins. For the death of Jesus infinitely earned forgiveness for every sin.

            The answer is that such people had made themselves incapable of taking in what God would gladly offer. It is helpful to start with Matthew 6. 21: “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” One can put his treasure in a hoard of money, or in eating, or in sex, or in travel, or in study, even studying Scripture. But all these things are lower than God Himself.

            Further, some allow themselves to be pulled more than others by these outside attractions – even to habitual mortal sin. In such a case two factors work together: what they seek is much lower than God, and they have surrendered to the pull of creatures with abandon.

            A modern comparison will help to supplement this thought. We think of a galvanometer, a compass needle on its pivot, with a coil of wire around, it through which we pass a current. The needle should swing the right direction and the right amount. But if there are powerful outside pulls, e.g., 33000 volt power lines or a mass of magnetic steel – then these outside forces may be so strong as to overwhelm the effect of the current in the coil. We are thinking of our mind as a sort of meter, which should register the movement of grace, that is, the current in its coil. But grace is gentle, in that is respects our freedom; outside pulls if one surrenders to them with abandon can take away freedom: then the needle, does not register the effect of grace which tries to put into a man’s mind what God is trying to tell him to do.

            Then if grace cannot do the first thing, it will not do the further things. So the man is left without grace, is blind or hardened. Then even though God gives grace, the man is incapable of taking it in. Then his conversion, is, humanly speaking, impossible.

            We said “humanly speaking” because there is always the possibility of a grace comparable to a miracle that can cut through or forestall such resistance, and so cause the man to follow the movement of grace. But this is not given ordinarily – for then the extraordinary would become ordinary. It is given only when some other person by heroic prayer and penance, puts, as it were, an extraordinary weight into the one pan of the scales of the objective moral order: it can call for, and obtain, an extraordinary grace.

            The case is similar with the classic unforgivable sin, of which Our Lord Himself spoke when the scribes attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil. The Father and He would gladly grant pardon – but the hardness was so immense that they could not even perceive the first movement of grace.

            This problem happens especially with those who have already had great light from grace — if they become habituated to special favor, and even then reject, they make themselves hardened – they are harder to convert than a beginner who never felt the effects of grace.

            These hard souls had already been enlightened in Baptism, had tasted the heavenly gift – probably the Holy Eucharist, had received the Holy Spirit, and seen even the mighty works of the age-to-come, i.e., the miracles which at first were used to ground and spread the Church. If after all that they still fell away – what was there left to awaken them anew from their self-inflicted torpor?

            So they are like land which has become hard and dry: the rains may come, but all in vain.

            Cardinal Manning, in his great work, The Eternal Priesthood. wrote in his concluding chapter, on the death of a sinful priest: “Next to the immutable malice of Satan is the hardness of an impenitent priest… . They have been so long familiar with all the eternal truths”: that the end of such a man is like that of one for whom medical science can do no more: He must die. Manning quotes St. Bonaventure (Pharetra 1. 22): “Laymen who sin can be easily restored; but clerics if they once go bad become incurable.” We comment: satan could not repent because his clear intellect (not being hindered by junction with a material brain) saw everything at once with the maximum possible clarity. So there was no room for him later to go back on it, see it differently, and so repent. The more one grows in knowledge, the more he approaches that condition – though of course, still having a material brain, he does not reach it.


  7. I wonder if this post is a response to Colin Coward’s “Are we looking for Jesus?”
    October 17, 2023 on Thinking Anglican?
    Colin’s views seem to me a classic presentation of Contemplative spirituality. This pseudo belief system has pervaded a large part of the Christian Church deceiving many on how one encounters Jesus Christ and is foundational in the thinking in those that advocate gay marriage blessings.
    For a deeper understanding I googled Critique Contemplative Spirituality where several sites address the Question.
    For an in-depth review I recommend

    • Hello Alan,
      You’ll be aware that Francis Schaeffer wrote his book, “True Spirituality”, as an advance rebuttal of much that passes as contemporary * spirituality* within and outwith the church.
      Also, a few years ago, our host, Ian, wrote an article in response to a book that was finding some contemporary traction by Richard Rohr’s : https://www.psephizo.com/reviews/is-richard-rohrs-universal-christ-christian/
      And it’s skewed and misplaced, misdirected desire for spirituality in misappropriated Christian language and garb.

      • Geoff, I think that is correct. I was at Trinity College in Bristol when David Gillett was Principal. David was stronly pushing the “spirituality line” then at a time when it was popular to say- not in so many words but this was the clear implication- that “evangelicals don’t really have a spirituality and have to learn from contemplative catholics”. This would have been news to the spiritual children of Spurgeon and Ryle! But sadly it often amounted to saying that Jungian psychology, imagination and a poetic play with ideas and images can trump what the Bible says about sin and human nature. It was no real surprise that David Gillett, always a liberal in evangelical curcles, came out on the pro-same sex relationships side after his retirement, while still trying to claim the evangelical brand name – something several of us at Trinity then had seriously come to doubt. The Richard Rohr path represents the triumph of therapeutic psychology over Christian doctrine, while appropriating some of the language.

  8. Encounter With Jesus. “Arrested by Jesus.” (Keener).

    As it happens, we are looking at the book of Acts each Sunday, followed up in mid-week groups.

    Last week it was Acts 9:1-31.
    Sure, it is well known: nevertheless here are some notes from the service and some OT similarities and dissimilarities that came to my mind, and from Craig S Keener’s New Testament Bible Background Commentary and from Echoes of Exodus by Roberts and Wilson.

    Some of it was startling, from the opening heading from Keener;
    1. Jesus arrests of Saul.
    2. Saul persecuted God’s people to arrest and hold them in captivity, much like Pharaoh.
    3. Unlike Pharaoh, but like Moses, he had an encounter with God, leading to a turn around for him to lead God’s people into their true inheritance.
    4. Saul, now Paul, becomes a new type of Moses, leading God’s people out of oppression, and captivity.
    5. Light from heaven indicates the Shekinah “Glory” of God’s presence.
    5.1 As did Moses, so does Saul see God’s Shekinah. Twice he is called, “Saul, Saul.” Twice Moses is called “Moses, Moses”.
    5.2 There are three stories of Moses seeing the glory of God, and there are three stories of Paul seeing the Glory.
    6. It is Jesus who appears to Saul. He is the Shekinah Glory here.
    7. He can’t believe he is opposing Moses.
    8. The reaction of Paul’s companions is similar, but not identical, to Daniel 10:7-9. Only Daniel had the encounter, not the companions. It was personal, as with Saul.
    9. Blindness. God sometimes struck people with blindness to stop them from an evil purpose, or as a temporary measure to get their attention. Genesis 19:11; 2 Kings 6:18-20, cf 6:17.
    10. Three days of being blind and no drinking or eating and prayer is representative of fasting – an expression of mourning or repentance.
    11. Saul was led captive to Damascus, where his eyes were opened, like scales falling off. (Comment: this is redolent of the serpent – deceiver’s scales.)

    Note: The Shekinah – here the resurrected Jesus appeared to Saul. It was not a vision. This was the ground for his apostleship. (Hence his authority in life and writings.)

  9. REF. Geoff ; October 22, 2023 at 9:56 pm
    Thank you, Geoff,
    Yes, I am very familiar with the works of Francis Schaeffer and much appreciated your reference to Ian’s excellent review and am now more aware of Richard Rohr.
    I think that Sir Winston Churchill’s prediction that “the next world war will be a battle of ideas “
    is obviously true today.
    There is little doubt that we are in WW111 right now, and much destruction of morality, cherished order and sanity.
    We are called to “stand in the evil day” with our loins girt about with truth.
    The odds are massively stacked against us but God delights in overwhelming odds.
    “A glorious high throne is the place of our sanctuary”. Jeremiah. * Selah*.

  10. Encountering God through Jesus Christ I feel is not often understood clearly in our Christian church culture.
    The shallow notions about religion which so many people have.
    It is not a round of observance; not a painful effort at obedience, not a dim reverence for some vague supernatural, not a far-off bowing before Omnipotence, not the mere acceptance of a creed, but a life in which God and the soul blend in the intimacies of mutual possession.
    It imposes the obligation to let our whole nature feed upon, and be filled by, Him, to see that the temple where He dwells is clean. His possession of us binds us to consecrate ourselves, and so to glorify Him in ‘body and spirit which are His.’
    “We are not our own we are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Cor 6:20.
    Our response is first the act of faith, which is an act of both reason and will, and then the act of love and self-surrender which follows faith, and then the continuous acts of communion and consecration.
    We possess Him and are possessed by Him, when our wills are kept in harmony with, and submission to, Him, when our thoughts are occupied with Him and His truth, when our affections rest in Him, when our desires go out to Him, when our hopes are centred in Him, when our practical life is devoted to Him.
    He who has God for his very own has the fountain of life in himself, has the spring of living water, we find ourselves by losing ourselves in Him.
    God, too, delights in that mutual possession, for the very essence of love is the desire to impart itself, and He is love is supreme and perfect.
    Therefore He is glad when we let Him give Himself to us, and moved by ‘the mercies of God, yield ourselves to Him a sacrifice of a sweet smell, acceptable to God.
    So preached Alexander McLaren who puts the matter more succinctly than I could and I make no apology for sharing it.

  11. At risk of our hosts censure in my fervent engagement with His question on this most important subject of encounter and engagement with God in our Lord Jesus Christ; and a desire to take those who earnestly desire a fuller knowledge and experience of enjoying union with Him [which I might add, is not attained through contemplationary techniques or monkish rules or strictures but is an engagement with the revelation and teaching of what Great Salvation is ours in Christ Jesus.
    I therefor recommend to all, Abraham Kuyper’s
    “The Mystical Union with Immanuel.” Available here:- @/biblehub.com/library/kuyper/the_work_of_the_holy_spirit/xxvi

    • Indeed, Alan.
      A Christian’s union with Christ is central, but a much neglected doctrine, let alone a lived reality. I think it was Anglican Mike Reeves who first drew my attention. Then it didn’t take much searching to find other and older, and reformed, teaching.
      As it happens, I’m on a Christian bookseller’s mailing list who within the last few days notified the publication of a new book on the subject, a book endorsed to a sometime commentator on this blog, and recently much maligned in the comment section, Simon Ponsonby. The book?
      ONE – Being United to Jesus Changes Everything by Clive Bowsher

  12. In response to James and Geoff
    Alas, I fear that the aforementioned book though welcomed for a new generation might be too “strong a meat” for many.
    Such is the low state of our Churches; which, rather than proclaiming the glorious liberty and riches of the sons of God is so often reduced to inviting people to “join their /our family” or, inviting them “to join us on our journey”
    Over the decades I have endured such “families”; and as with a great many families there are the dysfunctional ones, the feuding ones and the simply disengaged ones etc.
    All this when the concept of family is so culturally fractured.
    Or “Joining us on our journey “ which begs the question[s]
    [which bye the way is never really quite explained],
    “What is the journey like,” “Where is the journey taking us? and when and how will we know that we have arrived? To which an answer might be
    Oh! we don’t presume to have * arrived* or Heaven {we think/hope}
    It really is a question of which journey are you on as Christians.
    Are you on a kind of Israel journey through the wilderness where thousands start off but only two gain the prize.
    {God’s intention was to bring them to His Holy hill and His Holy tabernacle to share in His rest; thereafter known as Zion the spiritual capital city whose builder and maker is God, the one that Abraham sought and where, on mount Moriah, he was willing to offer up his son.
    Yes the journey was difficult for Israel [and perhaps also Abraham] as it was said of them,
    He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
    As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings:
    So the LORD alone did lead him.
    “He[God] led them through fire and water and allowed kings to ride over their heads and brought them into a wealthy place.
    I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
    Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
    Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
    So shall your poverty come as a robber, and your want as an armed man.


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