The Lord's Presence and Conjunction with Man

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (JOH 15:4,5).

  1. The Lord is present with all men, spirits, and angels.
    1. Every living being in the created universe has its life from the continual and universal presence of the Lord.
    2. And at the same time, the universal presence of the Lord gives to humans the faculties of understanding what is true, willing what is good, and free choice in spiritual things.
    3. These three faculties of understanding, willing, and choosing, are gifts from the Lord that are given to every one at birth, and are never taken away.
    4. Life from the Lord flows from Him like light and heat from the sun, radiating equally on the wise and the simple, the evil and the good.
    5. From its source, all life from the Lord is the same, it contains the same power.
      1. However, when it is received it turns into an infinite variety of expressions, for the human minds are each of a different character and receive life from the Lord according to their character.
      2. So we can say that while the Lord's presence with mankind is universal, because His life flows into every human soul, we can at the same time say that His presence is particular, for each human mind receives life from Him according to its own form, and its own peculiarities. (TCR 580, AC 9594)
  2. The Lord's presence with mankind is both universal and particular, external and internal.
    1. While the Lord is present with everyone, good and evil, universally and to eternity, He is only conjoined with those who work to approach Him in the particulars of their life, who live the life of religion by seeking truth from the Word and living according to it.
    2. When we deliberately and freely choose to live according to Divine order, we actually change the form of our mind, our receiving vessel, and the Lord can be particularly, or internally present with us.
      1. When the Lord is present with the particulars of a person's life, there is conjunction with Him.
    3. Our minds are formed in the image and likeness of God's .They are also in the image of the form and structure of the heavens:
      1. There are three degrees of height, and two distinct kinds of activity.
        1. The three degrees of height are the natural, the spiritual, and the celestial.
        2. The two distinct forms of activity are willing and thinking.
      2. The Lord's presence descends through the three heavens, and then through the corresponding degrees of the mind.
        1. His presence is received and felt as consciousness in the natural world.
      3. However, those who struggle to shun evils as sins, and who seek to learn truth for the sake of life will have the spiritual degree of their mind opened by the Lord, and their understanding will be correspondingly elevated.
      4. Those who continue the process, and become angels of heaven will be able to have even the celestial degree opened, and will be able to feel life from the Lord in that interior degree, they will feel His love and His wisdom as a conscious presence in their lives.
      5. On the other hand, those who turn away from the Lord will remain in the natural degree to eternity, they will never have the interior degree of their minds opened to the Lord's presence, for such an intimate presence would kill them.
        1. The Lord's general, or external presence must then remain in the natural degree of the mind, for that is the degree of the mind that remains open in everyone, whether good or evil, whether on earth or in the spiritual world.
    4. We are taught in the True Christian Religion (no. 787) that conjunction with the Lord must be in the thought, and so in affection.
      1. This means that each of us must first learn truth by means of the faculties that are given to us by the Lord through His universal presence, and then apply them to our own lives from a desire to shun evils as sins against God, and a desire to do what is good because it is from God.
      2. Then the Lord can give us a new will which then can be filled with good affections and their related delights.
        1. The harder we try to bring ourselves into the Lord's order by learning His truth and doing it, the more He reaches down to lift us up from His own power. The effort and intention are ours: the power and will are from Him.
  3. We are taught in the Writings that we will find our place in heaven according to the concept of God that we learn while in the world.
    1. We are further taught that no one can understand an invisible God, and this was one of the reasons why the Lord came on earth and took on the Divine Human: so that everyone might understand the invisible God by means of the visible manifestation, Jesus Christ.
      1. It is necessary for us to understand God as He is in His glorified Human, because this is the means by which He is present with us. (See TCR 728, AC 9594)
    2. In regeneration, we will to follow the Lord while He wills us to follow Him.
      1. When we and the Lord together look to the same end, the end of the subjugation of self for the sake of good ends, it brings the Lord's particular presence with us;
        1. for when we receive love from the Lord after having first learned the truth, we make that love our own.
        2. Then, since the origin of that love is the Lord, and our mind has been organically changed into a receptacle perfectly suited to hold it, we are conjoined with the Lord by the bond of a common affection.
          1. We see this illustrated in the way we regard other people who share our loves and delights. Depending on the nature of the bond, we may join a club, form a business partnership, join a church, or even marry – but the point is that the thing that brings people together, that conjoins them, is their common affections.
          2. Common affections bring the Lord close to us, too.
    3. This law of human relationships is even more clearly seen when illustrated by the way angelic societies are ordered.
      1. Heaven is distinguished into innumerable societies, and the differences between them are in accord with the differences between their affections and delights.
      2. It is the law of spiritual space and time that those who are of similar affections, such as a husband and wife, are close to each other, while those of dissimilar affections are separated.
        1. In heaven, you become actually present with another person when you are in a similar sphere of affection.
          1. We often speak of this phenomenon by referring to good friends who are many miles away as being "close."
          2. In heaven, those with similar affections live together in a home; and since a conjugial pair have the most similar affections possible, they live in a constant representation of the affinity of their love, for it is love alone which conjoins people. (See AR 883)
    4. While our main focus is on the conjunction that takes places between an individual and the Lord, we need to take a moment to reflect on the fact that this relation ship applies in many other areas, such as the relationship between a husband and wife.
      1. It is absolutely essential to the growth of our marriage relationships that we realize that knowledge does not bring us together, but similar loves conjoin.
      2. The same thing holds true for a church: doctrine alone will not bind a congregation together, but similar loves for the uses of the church.
      3. A husband and wife can express their mutual love and their conjunction by producing and raising children.
      4. A church is conjoined with the Lord by correspondence when it, like a bride, receives truth from the Lord and uses it to produce goods in the world.
      5. The key is that in every case it is similar loves that conjoin.
    5. It is an important doctrinal point to note that when we speak of conjunction with the Lord, what is actually meant is conjunction of the Lord with the things in our minds that are from Him, good loves and affections.
      1. The Lord is not actually ever conjoined, or one with a person, for such a union of the finite with the in finite would destroy a finite human.
      2. In order to protect us, He adjoins Himself to us by conjoining Himself to those things in us that are actually His own.
  4. In summary, we can say that Divine presence is both universal and particular, or external and internal.
    1. The particular or internal Divine presence is also called conjunction.
    2. Presence is with all humans, but as one is regenerated, he changes the organic vessel of his life and in this way it receives influx from the Lord in a new way, opening the Lord's presence into new, higher levels of awareness.
    3. As one is regenerated, genuine goods are given to him from the Lord, and it is with these goods that are from the Lord that the Lord conjoins Himself so that what is Divine does not destroy what is human by attempting union.
    4. In regeneration, a person wills to follow the Lord, and this mutual desire to do the same thing brings the Lord's presence, much as people of common interests band together in clubs, churches, and marriages.
    5. This is the effort of a man as-from-self that brings conjunction with the Lord in His Divine Human, and eternal conjunction with the Lord is the blessedness and peace of eternal life in heaven.

      A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you (JOH 14:19,20). AMEN.

    Hear now from the Word of the Lord as it is written.…

    1st Lesson:

    (Josh 24:13-18) 'I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.' {14} "Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! {15} "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." {16} So the people answered and said: "Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; {17} "for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. {18} "And the LORD drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God." Amen.

    2nd Lesson:

    (John 14:8-21) Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." {9} Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? {10} "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. {11} "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. {12} "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. {13} "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. {14} "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. {15} "If you love Me, keep My commandments. {16} "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever; {17} "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. {18} "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. {19} "A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. {20} "At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. {21} "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."

    Amen.

    3rd Lesson:

    [2] The Lord's … universal or external presence is what causes a man to live as a man, to enjoy the ability to know, to understand, and to speak rationally from the understanding; for man is born for heaven, and is therefore not merely natural, like a beast, but also spiritual. He also enjoys the ability to will and to do the things that from his understanding he is able to know about, to understand, and thereby rationally speak about. But if the will rejects the truly rational things of the understanding, which are also intrinsically spiritual, the man becomes external.

    [3] Consequently with those who only understand what is true, and good, the Lord's presence is universal or external, while with those who also will and do what is true and good, the Lord's presence is both universal and individual, or both internal and external. Those who merely understand and talk about what is true and good are like the foolish virgins who had lamps but no oil; while those who not only understand and talk about what is true and good, but also will and do it, are the wise virgins who were admitted to the wedding while the former stood at the door and knocked, but were not admitted (Matt. 25:1-12).

    Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.