"Seeking inner purity in order to prepare my heart for God to speak to me, isn't that Eastern mysticism?"
Dear Wounded Pilgrim,
There is a fringe understanding of the Christian life that sees our life with God as an emotional connection to God and describes certain feelings as God being at work within. However, our emotions are actually the cart behind the horse. Emotions are important, but they can not lead, and must follow what the Bible has revealed as objective truth.
GG would have agreed with the above statement and would have described such "emotionalism" as lunatic Christendom. (He would call these Pentecostals. I don't agree). GG also would have strongly denounced the teachings of Witness Lee where one senses God's spirit within. Yet, he very cleverly taught methods of living the Christian life that came from Eastern traditions just the same.
GG saw two errors in understanding the Bible:
Head knowledge, and
GG taught instead a divine path not available to the unsaved called "revealed wisdom". According to GG, as one reads the Bible God would unveil the hidden meaning behind the verses and one would discover God's immediate message for them. If, say, I had a burden to preach the Gospel as a missionary, I could read a verse about God opening a door for the ministry and take it as God's message for me for that purpose.
Though GG taught this method, there was one caveat and that was that the leadership must put their stamp of approval as to the certainty of God speaking to you. For the majority of what we "heard from God", it was just general encouragement and as such not threatening to the control of the group by the leaders.
The key difficulty to GG's method was one must get their heart right with God before one could actually get God's attention. This inner condition of imperfection could only be cured by the obliteration of the self life. It wasn't enough to have good behavior and attitudes; one had to become nothing! No ego at all, as "the hammer of God forged us upon the anvil of the cross." If we wanted to get married, buy a house, go to school, choose a profession, etc. it couldn't be for self, but all for God (read "the Assembly").
When I was into Eastern Religion I could gain better emotional experiences, not only through meditation, but by the attempt to lose myself in a higher consciousness where I was at one with God. The problem with all of this is it can only gain a temporary state of release and when faced with real life situations we are brought crashing down into the reality that we are all too human and all too sinful.
While we are to "put to death the sinful deeds of the flesh", God does not direct us to follow the Eastern path of killing one's ego. Nor are we required to purify our hearts in order to win God's attention or message to us.
This is why it is so important to understand that we relate to God on the basis of His love for us. He loves us when we don't take time to read the Bible, pray, or when we don't go to church. He loves us when we fail, and indeed is never closer than when we desperately fall into sin. He loves us and wants to bless us when we're having fun or when we're depressed.
His love doesn't change toward us. God never expects us to create a reality in our inner lives that can earn some kind of higher life within from Him. We are stuck with our humanity, with all of its foibles, but our faith is in God, not in ourselves. In another letter I will finally get to actually trying to put this altogether into the recovery of devotional reading.