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No Deeper Christian Life to Find

24 Jun

From the beginning, Christ captivated me.  The first few years of my walk involved a lot of clean up: breaking of bad habits and getting rid of obvious sins.  Drinking, smoking  (neither of which I consider to be sinful necessarily), swearing, stealing, gluttony.  These were my battles.  My life became clean enough to comfortably go to church without standing out.  This wasn’t my goal but it happened none-the-less.  Once these were dealt with I found myself longing for something deeper.  I wanted to experience Christ more fully because I longed for Him.happy-womans-day2[1]

Some twenty-five years ago, about two or three years after I became a Christian, I started reading books that promised to show me the “keys to going deeper”.   Among these, common themes were explored: prayer, dying to self, living in position, acute focus etc.   Each had a unique way of explaining it, or an emphasis particular to an author, but ultimately all said about the same thing.  

I sought to apply what I read and although I gleaned much, none of them took me entirely where I wanted to go.  As I look back upon this, I think that this is good.  Why did I think a human author could lead me somewhere my spiritual author would not?   Christ is forming in me by His own wish and command though I never had a very clear road map.  Instead of following a perfect formula, I function spiritually on a sort-of mosaic.  From one author I gain much on thought life, from another discipline, from another patterns of devotion….and Christ uses each to form what He will in me.  I found that I never changed anything major to progress, but was rather encouraged to continue doing what I was already trying to do: desiring Christ and striving to be obedient to what I already understood.   Slowly, almost unperceived, habits were formed, mindsets changed and gained.

Today, my experience of oneness with Christ ebbs and flows depending on the day or battle, but I know of it.  Most often it is a quiet confidence and peace and at other times it is overwhelming presence. If I should have neither it is because I am full of self on that particular day.  All of this is Christ’s unique work in me, not a set of steps, that has led me to where I am today. 

Though I don’t believe one can follow a formula, there does seem to be a natural progression.  The steps often overlap.  In my experience, one never totally exits a level but rather finds themselves dwelling more on one level than another.

Help-The-Homeless-and-Live-A-Better-Life-Thats-OlyLife-dotcom-pic-from-cc-cycledelicious-[1]

After my initial clean-up as a new Christian, my next stage was yet more clean-up, but it involved inner sins more than outer acts.   Hatred, envy, jealousy, greed, lust and some aspects of pride were things I dealt with.   These took years for God to slowly expose and convict me of.  It was here that my mind  began to change and my perspectives slowly altered into something new.  Little by little God enabled me to throw off the hindrances that held me back.

From there self was assaulted.  My rights, my hopes, my dreams, my pride, my desires, my happiness…these had to be vanquished one by one.  The nails of the daily cross began to feel exceedingly sharp.  In position I was already dead to these things but I needed to translate that into what was present…it was as if I had to consent to die in each of these areas.   My identity and purpose were torn down piece by piece and rebuilt.  The despair that can occur in giving up these things led me naturally to cling more to Christ in prayer, worship and thought.  This is a stage that I think is impossible to completely leave behind while in the body, but we do become better and quicker at it.  One begins to despise the counterfeit and relinquishes it easier, though it is never entirely pain-free.

Then I was moved to the heart of the matter….love.  1117204_1347591024034_full[1]Every man thinks they love but this is impossible until self has been sufficiently dealt with.   It goes well beyond what the sinner already does, what we can do naturally without thinking, praying and repenting.   Here I am learning death to self on an inconceivable level.    I am seeing that dying to self is more than resisting pleasures or myself.  It still is about doing what I don’t want, but it is not the sinful self that doesn’t want to do it.   It is sacrificing the new self, the part that does not need to be changed.  In my experience, when one realizes that they have never truly loved another person and become consumed with learning to love, they have entered this stage.   As one learns to love sacrificially, not as an event but as a lifestyle, Christ is experienced most fully, and self becomes lost in Him and His purpose.  I will need a few more years to articulate this better I think.  I trust God to move me into a better understanding and practice of it.

As I said earlier, I have read many books on the deeper life.  I have read dozens of contemporary writings, the classics and some antiquity.  As I was thinking tonight about what I should read next, the thought occurred to me that there is nothing more to be gained in this area by reading.  There is nothing deeper.   All that is left to do, is to live out what I know.  There is no deeper life of Christ to be found.

This might sound heretical.  I am not saying that I have attained everything (heavens no!) or have understood every mystery to know (impossible!)  What I am saying is that the way of Christ has been revealed to us and there are no secrets, keys or mysteries left to be found that will take us deeper into the experience of God.  There is nothing 21st century saints are going to discover that the 1st century saints did not.  Every book I have read thus far sort of ends here…in complete abandonment, of old and new self to the will of God, which is love.  Some stress prayer to get there, some stress mindset, some stress experiences…but the goal they are all trying to reach is abandonment of self and a resulting sense of oneness with Christ.   To achieve this, an ever-deepening communion with and reliance on God is needed. Prayer, worship and experience flow from preoccupation with Christ and obedience to Him, and in a circular manner, the acts of devotion lead to preoccupation and obedience.  But obedience comes first, and love is always the ultimate height.

The deeper life is really about maturity.

There is no such thing as a mature Christian that does not experience the deeper Christian life.  There are no secrets that some mature Christians have understood that other mature Christians will not know.  There is one body, one Spirit, one Christian life to be lived.  God has not hidden the way but revealed it and there are no guru’s who can add to it.  Yet it is wise to learn from those more mature than ourselves.  I do it a lot.   Of course, the number of years a person has been a Christian does not dictate how mature they are either.  What dictates maturity is the level of preoccupation with Christ, the level of obedience to Him and the movement of God to bless a soul with these deeper experiences.  All of these things are necessary.  One can be quite obedient in what they understand and be somewhat disengaged with Christ.  As a result, their knowledge will not increase and thus their obedience remains elementary.  One can also be preoccupied with Christ but obey Him only when it suits self and thus become dangerously self-deceived.  One without the other does not produce maturity.  And above all, it is God who bids the heart and interacts with it according to His good pleasure.  It is God who gives these comforts.

This journey has taken me many years to understand better what I thought I understood from the beginning.  I did know these things in part, but I did not understand their depth and even now, I confess, I see them dimly.  Perhaps there are more depths I do not yet know.  I could never say that I have come to the end of infinite Christ and His ways.  Yet the key to progressing in a deeper life with Christ appears to me to be simple.  It requires 1) abandonment of self and 2) obedience to all that is understood.  This requires continual communion with Him and preoccupation with Him.  I do not think it can be achieved any other way.

What does this deeper life look like?

If I answered this twenty years ago my answer would be different from what I will share with you today.  Years ago my answer would have been something akin to ‘living zealously (radically would be today’s term) in abandonment for Christ’ and then associate that ideal with extreme actions depicting devotion–but there was much I didn’t understand yet.  Perhaps if someone asks me twenty years from now my answer will again be different.

Today my understanding of how the deeper life is exhibited is this:  to live a quiet life, consumed with God and doing His bidding, not through fervor and passion (which is often zeal corrupted with pride) but through the prompting and patience of the Spirit.  The deeper life is a quiet life.  There is no self-driven self in the deeper life.  I believe it is not until one lives a quiet life that they can live a life of holy zeal.   The deeper life is always right at hand but impossible to perfectly secure because we are unable to rid ourselves completely from self in this life. In position it is gone thus granting us power over it, but it remains a distracting force to be reckoned with until we are with the Lord.   I suspect we will never be able to live the deeper life perfectly, but we certainly can live it more consistently.

Isaiah 32:17 “the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” 

(depicts inward being)

1 Thessalonians 4:11 “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” 

(depicts outward being)
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15 Comments

Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Spiritual Growth

 

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15 responses to “No Deeper Christian Life to Find

  1. Sherry

    June 24, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Reblogged this on The Christian Gazette.

     
  2. Anonymous

    June 25, 2013 at 1:04 am

    i do think there is a deeper life. when we live according to this verse in Phillipians 1:20 God takes us there: According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

     
    • Kris

      June 25, 2013 at 1:55 am

      I agree with you wholeheartedly-there is a deeper, mature life. I believe our oneness with Christ can be experienced in prayer and being, though not perfectly. There are glories that come with a more close walk with the perfect that goes beyond casual Christianity.

      I hope my post does not suggest otherwise. My point was that the way to these comforts are not secret nor are they experienced by only a privileged few. It is open to all who follow Christ. There is no deeper Christian life to be found beyond utter surrender to His command and preoccupation with His being and will. How one gets there is a matter for numerous authors, but it doesn’t get deeper than that in my opinion or experience to date. As you quoted, the goal is for Christ to be magnified in my body….honestly, I view my experience or sense of that as a rather selfish issue.

      Your blog is a wonderful source to further meditate on many of these things. I am grateful our paths have crossed!

      Blessings!

       
  3. Anonymous

    June 25, 2013 at 2:05 am

    that is interesting, what you say about it, Christ being magnified in the body, as a selfish issue. somewhere in the new testament it says…hebrews, maybe…you haven´t suffered that much, you haven´t lost any blood over it. it makes me smile. i do think the more we actually suffer for Christ, in His service, the more His body is magnified in ours. in my experience that is so wonderful that the issue of selfishness rises again and again… and again and again, it is answered with further suffering. and so deeper it goes, with experience, with His compassion, and my selfishness. i enjoyed reading your post very much!

     
    • Kris

      June 25, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      How nice to dialog with you!

      I just wanted to make sure what I am trying to say is not misunderstood. What I view as a selfish endeavor is not the striving to have Christ magnified in our body but rather the striving to experience the comforts associated with a closer walk. Our goal of course is to be of one mind with God, existing in harmony with His will in all things, but sometimes we get consumed with the wrong goal-experiencing Christ for its own sake-which effectively puts us and our will once again in the center. Although the pursuit of a deeper walk often begins with a deep longing and love of Christ it can easily morph into a pursuit of an experience or blessing. I consider these comforts an amazing gift that should not be shunned, yet I think it is an error to pursue them for their sake alone. What we experience from our relationship with Christ is somewhat incidental, though it is highly valued.

      Hope that makes sense!

       
  4. Anonymous

    June 25, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    i think i know what you are saying. i don´t think i have had that experience of striving for experience or blessing. we seek His face because we love Him, and He returns that love in so many ways, unique and individual. i often say to Him, well you don´t want me here, where do you want me? and He says what to do… but it is always Him i am after. i hope that doesn´t sound self-righteous, but it is an honest assessment. i have been through times, as long as three weeks, when i didn´t feel His presence and it was truly agony. i know there is no point in insisting, though i´m ashamed to say i have gotten angry. a lot of the time i miss Jesus, but i know there are even more times He misses me.

    what triggered my first comment was the title of your post. no deeper life. because i do think there is one. the more we seek Christ, the deeper we go. there is no limit to what He will give of Himself to those who are seeking Him. if there are times we think our motives are not pure…whose are, but His? sometimes He gives a gift to make sure we continue to seek Him. Jesus is very demanding. the more we give up to be with Him, the more He wants us to give up. you said in your post that you had the feeling there was no more to read on the subject of the deeper life. maybe that is exactly the truth Jesus wants you to see.

    please delete my comments… this is really to you only. God bless you, i enjoyed your post very much! and reading your “about” really made me smile because i worry about just the same things.

     
    • Kris

      June 25, 2013 at 7:03 pm

      If you don’t mind, I have edited your comment header to say ‘anonymous’ because I would like to preserve your thoughts on this post. I think our conversation helped make my thoughts on this more clear and wonderfully expanded the original idea, but I will honor your request if you wish. If you still would like the body of your comments removed despite the header being anonymous let me know and I will delete them. Blessings.

       
      • Anonymous

        June 25, 2013 at 11:19 pm

        that is okay. i didn´t know such things were possible. i am woefully ignorant about wordpress. my husband figured out this much…

        i look forward to reading more of your posts! i too am glad our paths crossed. God bless you today!

         
  5. justhappeneduponthis

    June 27, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    These are wonderful revelations about the simplicity that we have in Christ. The “deeper talk” can end up just plain narcissistic. The formulas of our various readings do not give life. God has ensured that only His scriptures can do that. But an expectancy for the arrival of Christ, fueled by prayer and thanksgiving, will take us just a little bit more lovingly into the humbling, energizing awareness of the presence of the Lord. Ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5). No doubt about it!

     
    • Kris

      June 27, 2013 at 10:45 pm

      Good to hear from you again! I am always encouraged when someone else senses some of the same things I do. I’m glad you stopped by.

       
  6. dsholland

    June 30, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Two things. First I had to think about, “It is sacrificing the new self, the part that does not need to be changed.” After going back and reading several other posts I came back and re-read this. I understand this as if the writer (you) were saying,” Gee, I finally have a self worth keeping and now you expect me to give THAT up?”. I particularly liked the sentiment and insight.

    The second is because I see you are a thinker and meditate ’till the “Light bulb” (great post) event. I wonder about what is meant by “loss of self”. Yes Christ is formed in us, but Love (it seems to me) requires a self to be invested. What does sacrificial Love mean if there is no self in the sacrifice? This is the great difference of Christianity to me, the idea of reclamation, redemption.

    Thank you for stumbling upon my blog and taking the time to read.

    Gratefully,

    David

     
    • Kris

      July 1, 2013 at 12:52 am

      David, I absolutely love it when someone spurs me to think carefully and I think your comment brought a great facet to the table.

      In regards to your first point, I must admit this is a newer understanding for me so I am still fleshing out particulars. I am encouraged that you understood a glimpse of what I find hard to explain.

      My understanding of sacrificing the new self comes from Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” This can be viewed two different ways and both would be true so I won’t argue one over the other (taking my cue from Augustine). Jesus could be addressing two different types of actions: one directed at the old self and one to the new. The old self must be denied so the new can do what it is called to do-sacrificially love-which is what happens when we follow Christ. Or, he could be describing one fundamental action, denying the good self to allow sacrificial love. (What helped me see this: sinful man did not take up the cross, the righteous one did. Sinful self was dealt with on the cross but he did not take it up. Christians tend to view ‘denying self’ as resisting sinful desires, and it could mean that but it could also mean denying a good will, such as what Christ would have done in Gethsemane.) I think I need more life experience in this understanding to explain it better, I pray I gain it.

      In regards to your second point I should clarify first that when I write and speak of self, I am usually thinking of sinful self. When I think of “loss of self” I am focused on freeing myself in action from the carnal desires that wage within me. But your words add a powerful point every reader should take note of. Love does require self to be invested, not the sinful self, the one corrupted to its core, but the regenerated man. That good creation God has formed can not be hoarded, protected and isolated but rather poured out for both the deserving and the demanding. If self is not invested, it costs nothing and in turn means nothing. If the crucifixion of Christ would have been an easy thing for Jesus to accomplish I doubt it would mean much to us. When we invest ourselves in others by sacrificing, love becomes more than syllables and notions, it becomes reality.

      I have really enjoyed encountering you!

       
  7. dsholland

    July 1, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    I thought (have been thinking) about this myself. I think the distinction may be understood as self and identity. The self referring to the flesh and the identity referring to the individual Christ made me to be with gifts and weaknesses bound together for his purpose. Who we are is what God redeems, our flesh is what dies. There is that thing which is the snowflake (forgive me) I am and there is the temptation which is common to man. Teasing them apart is the difficult thing.

    I don’t do it anywhere near as well as I talk about it, just ask my wife she lives with me 😉

    Thanks for the conversation, hopefully I’ll see you in the blogosphere.

     
  8. wingedveritas

    September 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    As I was praying this morning, there is no way that I could have known that God would lead me to this blog entry. Thank you for sharing wisdom and truth. As I continue forward in what God has for me, I will reference your words again. They have soothed my soul.

     
    • Kris

      September 24, 2013 at 11:20 pm

      I wish you the very best on your journey, through all the different valleys and mountain tops it will take. You have greatly encouraged me with your thoughts! Blessings.

       

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