The Lost Art of Listening and “Lassening” to God

The Lost Art of Listening and “Lassening” to God September 6, 2020

Here is a shock.

In the King James Version, there is no New Testament post-resurrection verse where believers are ever instructed to “choose Christ.”

Here is why.

There is a difference between “willpower” and “willingness.”

Choosing requires “willpower.” Effectual faith requires “willingness.”

The former is man striving. The latter is God abiding.

Here is a German word which explains it all: “GELASSENHEIT!”

This beautiful German word simply means “letting-be.” But this meaning has prismatically blossomed over the last several hundred years. The word was much used by Christian mystics like Meister Eckhart, Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther, Anabaptists like Hans Denk and philosophers like Martin Heidegger. It is a perfect word for a perfect concept. The concept itself has been known by other words in other languages, but let’s look at it afresh and anew.

GELASSENHEIT is an attitude, a posture of the soul, an approach to reality whereby we completely OPEN ourselves up to the awe and mystery of God. And not just occasionally but all the day long. It has been called by William Barret an “enchanted existence where everything belonging there returns to that in which it rests.”

It is all about perception. GELASSENHEIT gives us dynamic spiritual perception which, as Eckhart said, “penetrates all things and finds God there.” We no longer turn away from the things we fear or which tempt us. Instead, we courageously look directly at them BECAUSE of our unshakeable confidence in one fact: “God is a free, out-poured indwelling good, activating power in all things, which dwells in all creatures and brings about all in all.” Sebastian Franck.

We are all Daniels in various lions’ dens of difficulties, but God is in the center of them all waiting for our faith to “let” His glory shut every lion’s mouth. GELASSENHEIT knows that the seed of Christ is pulsating at the center of every circumstance we face, waiting to be activated by our faith’s perception of Him. As we perceive the Lord’s IMBEDDED PRESENCE in all events and circumstances, we are then able to help HARVEST that presence to SPROUT blessing, power and love into the current need.

John Wesley believed that God’s delivering presence had to be catalyzed by the prayer of faith BEFORE He could openly manifest upon the earth. However, the prayer of faith is not accomplished by the “willpower” of men but rather by the “willingness” of  GELASSENHEIT. This concept is really just another word for meekness. But this is not mousy meekness as it has been taught in Sunday School lessons about being “good little boys and girls.” No, this meekness is virile, brave and unflappable. It is “gutsy abandonment” to “robustly yield” every fiber of our being to God. It is the type of muscular meekness which Jesus said would inherit the world.

So where is the dynamic of GELASSENHEIT described in Scripture? Everywhere! The central meaning is that of “letting” the glory of the Lord “be” revealed in all our ways. It is our “letting-be” of God’s glory, in other words. Scriptures speak in many places of our “letting” God’s glory “be” revealed in particular situations of need. Colossians 3:16 speaks of “letting” the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom. Romans 6:12 says to “let not” sin reign in our mortal bodies. Philippians 2:5 encourages us to “let” the mind of Christ be in us. One translation of John 9:3 has Jesus essentially telling his disciples to stop reasoning “whose” sin caused the man’s blindness, but instead to “LET the glory of God be revealed NOW” through the blind man’s immediate and spontaneous healing!

So many New Testament imperatives are phrased with the word “let” rather than the word “choose.” Again, in the King James Version, there is not one New Testament verse which instructs us to “choose” Christ, “choose” obedience, “choose” God’s will, or “choose” God’s Spirit. The only place in the New Testament where a disciple is said to have “chosen” Christ to any degree was Mary. While Martha chose to work in the kitchen, Mary is said to have “chosen the good part,” which in this passage merely meant posturing herself to listen at the Lord’s feet. As this is the ONLY passage that EVER mentions the word “choice” on the part of a New Testament believer, it is clear that the word is conspicuously absent from all the Gospels and Epistles.

While the word “choose” is used in the Old Testament with respect to keeping the law, such as in Deuteronomy 30:19, “choose” does not survive into the New Testament framework, at least as far “us” being the “choosers.” Christ is the only “chooser.” We are the “chosen” who are now merely “letting-be” the glory of God in our lives. Self-righteousness endlessly “chooses” while the righteousness which is of faith continually rests in “letting-be.” Rest assured they are not the same, and their difference makes ALL the difference in the Spirit realm. “Letting” does not equal “choosing.” And it is the concept of GELASSENHEIT which reveals the crucial distinction.

In John 15:16, Jesus said “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” In all the thousands of converts in the New Testament, it was never said that any of them “chose” to become Christians. Rather, they “received” the Lord or “received” the things of the Lord. God “chose” them, not vice-versa.

But aren’t we to use our willpower to choose to follow Christ in all our ways? In a word—- nooooooooooooooooooooooo! It may sound pious and noble to “choose” our way into the Kingdom of God, but this is not what Christ thought or modeled.

Rather, we are called to rest, to let, to yield, to allow, to consent, and to behold the movements of God. In John 5:19 and 30, Jesus tells us that all of His actions were based not on what “He chose,” but rather on what “He perceived” the Father was doing in the situation at hand. He merely yielded or “let” the glory of the Father be channeled through, in, out, around, and toward Himself. This is the very essence of GELASSENHEIT.

So then, perhaps the problem is not WHAT we choose, but rather THAT we choose. Choice itself is the problem. It is the very heart of self-righteousness. William Law famously said, “Our own will separates us from God. No, rather, our own will IS separation from God.” Interestingly, one of the Greek words for choice is “hairesis” which is translated “heresy” in the New Testament. “Heresy” is the word used to describe serious spiritual error. Perhaps true heretics are self-willed choosers rather than Spirit-yielders. When Jesus told the Father, “not my will, but thine be done,” He was rejecting “the heresy of choice.”

It may well be that Adam became the first heretic when he “chose” to live by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This tree had two fruits to choose from, good and evil. Choosing brought Adam and us nothing but death. Before the fall, Adam was making no choices of good and evil. He was walking in intimacy with God in the garden without struggling with any strife, lack, ambition, or self-conscious awareness. But, in the wake of the fall, Adam became afflicted with the fear, failure and toil of “choosing.”

God desired Adam to live solely by the tree of life. No two fruits here, only one– the life of God in Christ Jesus. The tree of life was the GELASSENHEIT tree. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the tree of “choosing.” God initially gave Adam the freedom of “letting-be” (GELASSENHEIT), but Adam allowed Satan to twist, distort and mutate that freedom into “the cancer of choice.” Adam went beyond the proper boundaries of his God-given freedom and became self-righteous, self-centered, and self-separated from God. Instead of “letting-be” the Father’s choices for us, Adam usurped “choice” itself from God and began choosing his own ways. And death entered the world.

But Jesus brought back GELASSENHEIT to fallen man in order to fully reconcile us to God. As the second Adam, He perfectly modeled GELASSENHEIT for us in His earthly ministry, especially in the Gospel of John. He perfectly taught us GELASSENHEIT in the Sermon on the Mount. He then perfectly imparted GELASSENHEIT to live within us by the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in the Book of Acts.

So now, what fallen man “thinks” he has is freedom OF choice. What renewed man “knows” he has is freedom FROM choice. GELASSENHEIT is that freedom. It is the Sabbath rest from our own works which remains for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9). It is the light and easy yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:30). It is the meekness that inherits the world by dominating it with the power and love of God (Matthew 5:5). It is the mind of Christ we now “have” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

As the song says, LET IT BE!

About Richard Murray
Richard K. Murray is a practicing criminal-defense attorney from Dalton, Georgia where he lives with his wife Rita and their seven children: Sloan, Caleb, Micah, Abraham, Sarah, Ben and Annie. Richard has a B.B.A. and J.D. from the University of Georgia and a M.A. from Regent University School of Divinity. He has written several books, including: THE SPIRITUAL EYE OF THE TIGER THE POWER: Discovering the Real "Secret" of Life LIFT UP YOUR JAWBONE: Developing Samson-like Strength by Daily Confession THE JESUS MOOD: Discovering the Treasure of Imperative Faith GOD VERSUS EVIL: Sculpting an Epic Theology of God's Heroic Goodness You can read more about the author here.
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