Prior to Paul’s prolific efforts for Christ he was Saul, the Pharisee, and skilled tent maker. He was a brutal and hateful force persecuting the Jesus followers of his day. However God has a way of interrupting our lives and Saul was no exception.
Suddenly a light flashes from the sky around Saul and he falls to the ground at the sound of a voice. Saul rises to his feet, his eyes wide open but he can’t see a thing.
Acts 9:3, 8 Voice
Paul was most literally enlightened. God’s light brought darkness to the eyes of Saul’s body temporarily in order to let his inner eyes see by supernatural light. (We instinctually close our eyes in prayer or meditation to accomplish the same focus.) Later in chapter 9 he stayed with Ananais. After laying hands on Saul, the apostle then received the Holy Spirit. Saul was forever changed (including his name). And the story of his sudden enlightenment became widely known.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
1 Cor 3:16 NIV
Here Paul helps us see the transition. The Spirit of God whose dwelling was once a physical structure made by man’s hands is now dwelling in humanity.
God was the ultimate tent camper having lived in His tent-tabernacle for 40 years in the desert. Unlike my two pole, two man tent His had three parts. Sound familiar?
Approaching the tabernacle there was only one gate to enter the outer courts. Visible by broad daylight to everyone from the outside this is the place people would visit to offer external worship. With our hands lifted high or our knees bent low we bring our body into postures of worship. One of the ways I worship God in my outer courts is through Holy Yoga. Using breath to bring my body into alignment, I engage my joints and muscles and then can let my drishti, or gaze, be on His loving face. Engaging my body takes daily devotional times to a whole new height.
Moving deeper into the tabernacle of old we find the Holy Place where priests moved closer to the presence of God but there was still separation. Since this was an interior space surrounded by heavy curtains fashioned of goat skins and linen a golden oil lamp was the source of light. By this light the priests offered bread, a token of gratitude for God’s provision. Bread was a reminder of the manna He supplied afresh every morning while the Israelites wandered the wilderness. (We will talk more later about gratitude and its relationship with the ego in this realm of the soul.) A sweet and spicy incense burned in the morning and evening hours permeating the whole temple. It is in the Holy Place of a believer that we submit our will, offering fragrant prayers formulated by our thoughts and emotions.
And then there was this heavy veil woven of linen, coloured blue, purple and scarlet. It was ornate with winged guardians standing as the entrance to the Holy of Holies. (Ex 26:31- 34) It was for the unregenerate man’s sake that it separated humanity from the intensity of the Presence of God. Being the most interior room of the temple the Holy of Holies, in its natural state before the Presence of God moved in, was utterly dark.
The death of Jesus brought completion to the purposes of the Old Testament temple and made the divine shift for the presence of God to dwell in us. The veil was torn top to bottom to show it was an act of God and no man could have accomplished such a feat. With the veil no longer a barrier between us and God’s presence we can hear His voice impressing on us through our intuition or by our conscience.
To dwell in the outer courts believing that our only source of light is the sun by day or moon by night leaves us unfulfilled in spirit and in soul. To believe the oil lamp in our soul is adequate to shed light on our intellect or emotions leaves us in dizzying searches, like the captain of a ship with cloudy skies and no compass.
But there is a moment when we come to the end of ourselves, recognizing our desperate need for grace and accepting that Jesus traded His life for death on our behalf. This is the moment of enlightenment! Suddenly our once darkened spirit is lit up for the first time as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, His temple! The Light of the World (Jn 8:12) illuminates our discernment and conscience. This Light bursts past the borders of our spirit to shine on our thoughts and desires as our will takes a knee to the One who loves us infinitely!
At the moment of enlightenment we inherit an ALL access pass to the good gifts the Father of Heavenly Lights gives his children (James 1:17). We suddenly have open doors to everything heaven offers: wisdom, abundance, peace beyond understanding, hope, healing and freedom to name a few.
Enlightenment is but a moment at the beginning a journey to be walked out after our spirit is illuminated. Reading John chapter 1 the author explains that in the beginning was God and that God is the Word. The Psalmist in chapter 119 talks about hiding the Word in our heart and that the Word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. On this path we are working out our salvation as Phil 2:12 shares. It is on this path we begin to see our need for spiritual disciplines.
On one hand we have the ego in our soul realm that erects monuments of various negative behaviors such as comparison, possessiveness, control, needing to be right or have the last word for example. Yet we are enlightened by the Holy Spirit in whom there is no shadow of turning. The shadows in our life are created by monuments of the ego blocking the light of our Father and standing in the way of possessing all the good gifts. Mindful awareness, meditation and detachment are tools we can implement to tear down these shadow casting monuments of ego that stand in defiance of God’s Light.