Dave Hickman has just released a new book called Closer Than Close: Awakening to the Freedom of Your Union with Christ. Frank Viola recently interviewed Dave to discuss his new book. The following questions were originally posted on Viola’s blog.
Instead of asking, “What is your book about?” I’m going to ask the question that’s behind that question. And that unspoken question is, “How are readers going to benefit from reading your book?”
The book will benefit readers who are huffing and puffing to try to get closer to Jesus. Often times, evangelicalism states that the end goal of the Christian life is to develop (or maintain) a close relationship with Jesus. This closer proximity to Jesus is said to come from doing the things you should (reading the bible and praying) and not doing the things you shouldn’t (whatever those might be).
In the end, Christians can believe that their proximity to Jesus is based on a sliding scale of near or far based on the faithfulness of their spiritual devotion. The book makes the case that united to Christ, we cannot get any closer than we already are! This will benefit the reader in (hopefully) allowing them to understand who they are IN Christ and challenge the reader to consider their relationship with Jesus as a “union,” which is much closer for comfort!
What motivated you to write this book?
For the vast majority of Christians, we are told that the first step in the Christian faith is to enter into a “relationship” with Jesus Christ. But what *type* of relationship are we to have with Jesus goes unanswered leaving many striving for the unknown.
To make matters worse, we are told that the end goal of the Christian journey is to draw “closer and closer” to Jesus over time. This “closeness,” while being equally subjective and relative, is said to be attained through spiritual faithfulness over the years. The end result is a life of striving and continual falling short of the “closeness” we so desire. I was one of these people.
After 33 years of huffing and puffing to get “close” to Jesus, I finally came to the end of my striving only to realize that Jesus had always been as close to me as possible—I was perfectly one with him (John 17). Awakening to the “doctrine” of union with Christ radically changed the way I view myself, God, the church, and Christ’s mission locally and globally. I wrote the book to awaken friends and family to the reality that they aren’t just “close” to Jesus, but are perfectly one with him and cannot get any closer than they already are. In many ways, I was motivated by justice.
If John Murray, Calvin, and a whole host of early church fathers and reformers believed that “union” with Christ is central to the Gospel, then why hadn’t I heard of it? I wrote the book to inform my fellow Christians on the doctrine of union with Christ implore them to stop huffing and puffing and start abiding in their ever-now union with the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Tell us a bit about the experiences that shaped the insights in the book.
The birth of my first son. In that experience, I breathed my son’s breath into my lungs after birth and then, breathed my (our) breath back into him. There, I received a picture of the *type* of relationship Jesus longs to have with me—a relationship based on “union” or “oneness” not necessarily proximity.
A second experience, was my own huffing and puffing to get closer and closer to God. This left me exhausted and confused. Lastly, after a panic attack at 33, I finally threw in the towel with my approach to God and sought council. It was there that I heard the phrase “union” with Christ. I had never heard that so devoted myself to the study of this doctrine.
As someone who has dedicated my life to teaching God’s people how to live by the indwelling life of Christ — practically — why is it that so few believers today, including authors and pastors, know anything about the subject?
Because many are clueless to the doctrine of union with Christ. We view ourselves in a “relationship” with Jesus that is based on proximity. What I mean is, many pastors believe that while they are “saved” their proximity to Jesus can vary based on the faithfulness of their spiritual devotion.
This can lead to legalism, moralism, or something worse. We only have the indwelling life of Christ through the reality of our physical union with the resurrected, flesh and blood person of Jesus Christ. Our union is not merely “spiritual” as many evangelicals like to safely say. No. Our union with Christ (and Christ’s union with us in the incarnation) is deeply physical in nature (see “one flesh” language in Paul to the Ephesians).
Simply put, evangelicalism has attempted to protect the “Creator/creature” divide by couching salvation in only a “spiritual” understanding. But salvation thought church history has always been viewed in a deeply physical (ie. one flesh) union with the flesh and blood person of Jesus Christ. And it is the indwelling PERSON of the Holy Spirit who truly unites us to the incarnate Christ.
Suppose you’re speaking to someone who has read your book and the many others on “Christ in us” and our union with Christ, and they tell you, “I still don’t feel anything. I don’t feel close to God. I don’t know how to sense or hear Him, even though He lives inside of me.” What’s your response?
While our feelings are important, we must not let them dictate the reality of our faith. For instance, there are many days I do not feel married—but I am! We must allow our imaginations (something that has been suppressed in evangelicalism) to be captured by our “one-flesh” union with Christ and how we are in a very REAL (but mysterious) way united to the flesh and bone of the person of the risen Christ.
I talk about how to better “position” ourselves to hear and sense him in the book. I talk about the disciplines of: Doing Nothing, Praying Simply, Staying Attentive, and Being Led. They are super helpful for anyone struggling to “feel” Jesus and help anyone who is not able to muster up the energy or discipline to read the bible or pray.
What do you hope readers will walk away with after they finish your book? Be specific.
Wonder and Freedom. I pray that in awakening to their perfect union with the person of Jesus, people’s striving will give way to abiding. I pray that they will not see their “relationship” with Jesus as one of closer proximity to Jesus over time, but gentle conformity to Jesus on his time. To say it provocatively, I hope they trade in their “close relationship” with Jesus for an intimate union with him.