When Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians he is unable to restrain himself and bursts out in enthusiastic praise: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” With the same fervor he explains how God chose us before the foundation of the world. It is imperative to him to express as emphatically as he possibly can that we are not here by chance, but by design. God wanted us! So much that He has adopted us as children by Jesus Christ. God not only loves us, but He has accepted us in the beloved. We stand before Him holy and without blame, Paul triumphantly cries.
Paul is overwhelmed by his heavenly Father’s generosity. How can it be that we mere humans are blessed with all the treasures in heaven? It transcends understanding, Paul states somewhere else. What are earthly prosperity, riches and possessions compared with the immeasurably greater riches in the heavenly realm? Paul considered it trash compared to having Christ. Paul further explains that God’s master plan is to gather everything as one in Christ. What does this oneness pertain to on the personal level?
Jesus repeatedly referred to His Oneness with His Father. He presented it as a mutual indwelling. He in His Father, and His Father in Him. In John 17 Jesus explicitly prays that those who come to Him may experience that exact same oneness as He enjoyed with His Father. Paul boldly told the Colossians that the mystery is now revealed: Christ in us! God’s master plan is being fulfilled and is unfolding right before our eyes; we are included in that same oneness with our Father. We in Him and He in us. In a gigantic spiritual sweep He has made us one person with the only Person in the universe. It is from Him we derive our personhood, our distinctiveness. It was Jesus who first articulated this great paradox that whosoever loses his life will find it.
We had an I. Deceived by the evil one it in one sense believed it was God. This faulty concept about having an independent self that could be like God had to be crushed to pieces in the wilderness, that is, our everyday lives. By and by we found that this heinous “I” wasn’t God. It didn’t bear any resemblance whatsoever to the one we wanted to be like. All our efforts to emulate God were found wanting. When we finally crashed we at last saw our vast nothingness. This is a death – it is losing that very life we have vehemently protected and nurtured until now.
Something comes up afterwards. A new “I” emerges. A safe I. Out of the vast abyss, that impenetrable darkness, we reoccur as new persons with a completely new true “I”. This new “I” is a union of human spirit-self and Divine Person. This mysterious union is now expressed in a unity of mind and heart. Fred Pruitt explains: “Having learned, “not I but He”, which is two, there is now returned to us only one “I”, which does not stand apart from God and “know Him” as some separate Deity “being” apart from us, but this new “I” is simply “I AM THAT I AM” stepped down in human consciousness, in other words, there is not more He up there or over there but only as All in all.”
No wonder Paul was so excited! He was still Paul, but simultaneously He wasn’t. His personality wasn’t blotted out. He wasn’t dissolved into nothingness in some mystical nirvana. He was himself, but he was also something much more. Included in the Triune union he was blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. He now knew who he was and he could be himself without any restrictions simply because he was “I AM THAT I AM.”