Navigating The Deeper Life
Chapter 7 - A Heavy Weight of Treasure?
We sailed on, with Suzie a faithful wife, yet not willing to do more, and with me doing more than ever, even starting a new Bible study at a local community college. I had learned and then taught others that a real key to escaping a self-centered life is to serve others, which I did. I reasoned that if I did this, it would take my mind off of myself and put my gaze on Christ, which sounded great. It didn’t help much, so I concluded that I must have been trying to serve God in the power of my own flesh. I prayed and prayed but even that did not help, so I just purposed in my heart not to let God down, and to remain faithful, even though the abundant joy and peace had escaped us. I served, and was faithful, as was my family, but things were getting harder, and our load was very heavy.
At this time, a typical Sunday, with a family of seven, began at 6 AM. Breakfast was at seven, so we could be to the meeting hall no later than 7:45 AM. We were finally done at 5:00 PM, and that included a 2-hour lunch. If we had been totally faithful, our lunch break would have only been for 15-30 minutes so we could go on door-to-door outreach. We rarely did this, usually attending outreach only twice per month, at the convalescent home. This was all done with five children in tow, so it was difficult to say the least.
Tuesday saw us at the prayer meeting, from 7-9:30 PM, again with all five children. Wednesday was similar, with the Bible study, and Thursday was supposed to be downtown street evangelism. It was all right for the small children to miss this once in a while, but it was best if they all attended. Along with this were many special weekend-long meetings and seminars. We never did attend the Saturday morning tape meetings more than a few times, which was greatly displeasing to the leadership.
Of course we were tired, but we did all this because we were taught that these Assembly meetings were none other than God’s appointments, at which time He would meet with His people. It was considered a great opportunity to be in God’s presence--at an Assembly meeting--, which was the most important thing a person could ever do. For this reason, a busy schedule was to be seen only as a joy and privilege, to communicate that it was other than wonderful would be seen as divisive.
We would read Psalm 42, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" and Psalm 84:10, "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness."
These passages talk about the wonder and beauty of God’s presence. The way we applied them went like this, "Some of us complain about the meetings, ‘It’s so hard, I’m too tired’ well, dear ones, the Word says that a day in His courts is better than a thousand! That’s all we are doing here, one day out of seven that The Lord has given us, that’s all, not too much to ask, is it? We need to repent! We all need to repent of our worldly perspective, so that we don’t value sitting at home in our easy chair, or mowing a lawn more than being in the presence of the Living God! God have mercy on us."
Instead of thinking, "Why are the meetings so dull and boring, when the Bible says they should be joyful and restful?" we twisted the scriptures so that they created guilt. We reasoned, "I should be joyful and get rest in the meetings, because the Bible says I should, something must be wrong with me." We were not always happy to be at the meetings, and our children were definitely not pleased with the situation, yet our theology dictated that everything should be fine, if we had Deeper Life. This sort of thinking, combined with the idea that the suffering involved in going to the meetings was The Way of The Cross, led us to believe that by "choosing against ourselves," which meant going to the meetings, we would be purified.
2 Corinthians 4:7-18 says that we have the light of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in our hearts, which is incomparable treasure. Furthermore, this treasure is in earthen vessels, that the glory may be all God’s, and not our own. Due to the inherent weakness of earthen vessels, it is common to suffer. However, in this suffering for Christ’s sake we are not to lose heart, but are to understand that it is only a light affliction, while at the same time a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory is being formed in us. Because of this, we are not to look on the things that are seen, but on the things that are not seen.
That is exactly what I tried to do. I didn’t feel that I had treasure in my heart, and try as I might I could not find any exceeding weight of glory. On the contrary, I had great heaviness of heart due to a lot of hard work, and the fact that my family was not catching on and was growing tired. Deep inside, I was worried that the same fate would befall us as befell some of the other families who had lost their firstborn children to the world. I wasn’t ready to deal with this, so I concluded the matter by telling myself that all of this was simply due to my outward man perishing, even though I couldn’t feel the inward man being renewed day by day. Instead of feeling an incomparable sense of peace, I felt a tremendous obligation towards God, to not let Him down by decreasing my commitment. I denied and ignored the "outward," obvious things, and focused on the things that were not seen (or felt) and told myself that I could not go wrong.
If I were to get God’s best, which was what I really wanted, I must be faithful. This meant that I needed to habitually choose to go the Way of The Cross, to serve others, and be a good example. If possible, things should always work out to where anything negative with regard to service was at my expense, because it is more blessed to give than receive.
Consequently, we felt we had to be the first family to arrive at meetings. Although all of the men were expected to always be ready to preach, very few of them were faithful in this area. In contrast, I was always ready. We could never have someone baby-sit our children without reciprocating. If someone had us over for dinner, we needed to return the favor. We would feel downright guilty if we were two dinners in debt. Our sense of obligation was acute.
We wanted to be given to hospitality, which was a godly characteristic, so we always had a dedicated guest room in our house, so that we could have out of town guests at a moments notice. In order to be hospitable, the house needed to be kept clean at all times, and there needed to be a little guest basket, loaded with treats, soap and shampoo samples, and a local phone list. All of these things were taught in The Assembly.
Although this all looked good on the surface, it was not faith. It was all an illusion, a symptom of the spiritual disease, graceless obligation, that we had caught and which was now beginning to grow worse.
I think this is one of the main problems with the Deeper Life theology. We began with the idea that something was lacking in our faith, namely spiritual power, or maturity, or some second blessing. The reason this "something" was not present is because there was something we were not aware of when we first got saved, or something we were not doing in order to appropriate the deeper blessing.
What this sort of thinking does, from the very first moment one takes his eyes off of Jesus and enters some path to deeper life, is to change the Grace of God into a heavy sense of obligation. Then, when passages like 2 Cor 4, referred to earlier, are read, they are twisted in such a way that they do us no good whatsoever, because while we are foolishly thinking that we are getting ever so much deeper in our walks, we lose sight of the painfully obvious fact that we are miserable. Instead of grasping this plain, blatant reality, we insist that we are truly experiencing the death of self, and that very soon, if we just keep it up, we will experience the resurrection life of Jesus.
In contrast, when the Bible says, "Do not look on the outward appearance," it in no way means that we should detach from our God given intellect, searing our consciences in order to ignore reality and pretend everything is fine. Yet that is exactly what we did, because our Deeper Life theology, and the faulty way we applied it, said that it must be.
So much of the Deeper Life is taken up with the idea of death to self now, life with Christ later. If I am not totally willing for the former, I will not get any of the latter. What I see now is that we get both death and life the moment we are saved. There is no second work of grace, or deeper life, there is only Jesus. If only we had read the last two verses of 2 Cor 3 when we were suffering, and then moved on to chapter 4! There, it says that "Where the Spirit of The Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."
The implications of the passage referred to are wonderful. First of all, there is liberty, not the heavy sense of obligation that motivated me.
Secondly, it is all about beholding Jesus, the glory of the Lord, "who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."--Heb 1:3-- It is not about following a process, or searching for Deeper Life, but only about beholding Jesus.
Lastly, it is a transformation brought about by the Holy Spirit. This occurs without our effort. The Spirit changes us from glory to glory. We should be aware of the difference between bondage and liberty, glory and anxiety. In other words, this process is something that is done to us, by God’s Spirit, exactly like initial salvation. We had nothing to do with washing our sins, or imputing Christ’s righteousness to ourselves. It was something that God alone did to and in us. Furthermore, we were quite aware that something real had happened when we first came to Christ. The apostle Paul reminded the Galatians of this sense of joy and blessing that they had when they first came to Christ. If it was glory then, and our entire life in Christ is from glory to glory, we should have a sense of glory now, as we grow in Him. If this is not the case, something is wrong, period. Twisted ideas, or over emphasized facts will never give the joy of the Holy Spirit.
If we would just keep things simple, and focus on Jesus Christ and what He has done, instead of twisting things so our focus is on ourselves and what we should be like in Christ, then many problems and even heresies would be entirely avoided.
The Cross of Christ is a wonderful reality, only because it was there that Jesus died, and paid for our sins. Apart from Him, it is only an ordinary piece of wood. The same holds true with regard to the teaching of the cross; if we leave Jesus and His tender hand of mercy out of the picture, it is just an old, heavy piece of wood. The apostle Paul said that he only wanted to know Jesus Christ and Him crucified among the Corinthian’s. Not just the cross, but Jesus, who was the crucified one. Teaching about only the cross, or only the church is error. If we are to teach about the cross, then we must teach about Christ and Him crucified, not just the topic of the cross itself. If we are to teach on the church, His body, we must talk about Him, head over all things to the church, and the one who builds the church. If we fail to give Christ the pre-eminence, then we miss the mark and we should not be surprised when we find ourselves suffering in some way.
By now, our little ship was being battered by storm force winds. Instead of shortening sail, and closing hatches, we denied reality and insisted that our wind speed instruments were faulty, and that we were not in a storm, but in calm seas. We were not looking at what was going on in the world, but what should have been going on, if we were in the right part of the sea, where we would have been if our navigation were not in error.