Navigating The Deeper Life - Introduction
The more time passes since Jesus first saved me, the more convinced I become that once God’s Grace touches a person’s heart, they are destined for salvation and a relationship with God. While I am not a five-point Calvinist, I do believe that they have it right when they talk about The Perseverance of The Saints.
Once God has converted a soul, that person will demonstrate holiness in their thoughts, words and actions. They will persevere in this, despite some temporary failure. The idea is that the overall direction of a Christian is towards Christ. This is a result of being saved, not a pre-requisite to it. This is not due to someone’s effort to live a Deeper Life, but as a result of God’s approval, due solely to His Grace and the fact that we are accepted in The Beloved as a result of the atoning work of the cross and the substitutionary and propitiatory death of Jesus Christ. Following conversion, there may be many failures and much trouble along the way, but in the end He will present us Holy and blameless before Him in Love. We need Grace to begin, to continue and finally to end. If it is Grace, it is not of works. We can trust that He will supply what we can never earn.
Here, I must pause and illustrate a peculiar phenomenon that I have noticed among our Deeper Life brethren. The majority of those in bondage to a Deeper Life process would wholeheartedly say, "Amen! Praise the Lord!" to the preceding paragraph. There is a good reason for this, which I hope to explain in detail herein. Suffice it to say that they have a subtle, yet fundamentally different idea of what it means to walk with Christ.
As I reflect on my journey, I can honestly say that there is not one reason why I should not be shipwrecked in my faith, except for God’s sovereign Grace. Year after year I consistently made bad choices, yet somehow, I still have a desire deep within to know God.
Early on in my Christian life, I made many choices to sin and defile myself. I purposely ignored God and seared my conscience. When I finally did come to the point where I realized that I needed Him, I became caught up in a very legalistic, church-centered group. I only had good intentions, but it was my desire for something more that made me vulnerable. Initially, the influence of this church seemed positive.
However, years later it became apparent that this group had totally ruined a large percentage of the lives it has encountered. I was to learn that throughout history there have been many such churches with similar characteristics and problems.
Along with biblical faith in Jesus Christ, they all have in common the idea that they are engaged in something deeper and more genuine than "mainstream" Christianity. This self-important thinking is a natural result of pursuing a process, which seemingly leads to a deeper relationship with Jesus, while neglecting to pursue Jesus Himself. It is a subtle distinction. Those most vulnerable to this type of error are new Christians imbued with a good dose of youthful zeal. In light of this fact, I might also add that the more mature believers in any congregation should take very seriously the responsibility God has given them to witness Christ and be stewards of His grace. There is a need for fellowship that crosses the age barrier in many of our churches. This will help the younger ones get started on the firm foundation, where Jesus Himself is the Chief Cornerstone, avoiding many of the errors which I made.
When I first became involved in The Assembly, along with the woman who is now my wife, my Christian friends became worried and warned me about this strange church. I didn’t listen. Both sets of our parents were alarmed. Not only did we ignore them, but with some prompting from The Assembly’s leaders, declared their input to be from "The Enemy," and began to limit our contact with our own families. What I have found out since my deliverance from The Assembly is that many other groups, especially the Watch Tower society, use these same tactics to separate new converts from their previous support structure. I am sure that this is not consciously done on purpose most of the time, but it is so typical of groups that claim to have superior enlightenment that it suggests a single, malicious will behind all of them.
In a relatively short period of time, I became increasingly isolated within what I thought was the most scriptural, holy and Spirit led church in the modern world. When we observed that most other believers who visited recoiled and expressed concern about The Assembly’s practices, they were dismissed as shallow products of American Evangelical Christianity. These poor souls needed a deeper understanding of God’s Word, like what we had in our group; this was how we honestly viewed things.
It really bothered me that these other Christians looked so happy much of the time. I would say, "If they only knew the secret of suffering then they too could have known real joy, not the fleeting worldly mirth with which they were filled." My conscience once or twice reminded me that I did not have real joy either, but I ignored the still, small voice that was warning me.
Instead, my intellect and theories took over; the way I was going was the right way. The reason I did not have real joy or peace, according to many of the books that I was reading, was because I was resisting God’s desire to do a deep, inward work in my life. In some way there was some worldly trinket, or filthy rag of self-righteousness to which I was hanging on. There was no rest for my soul, only a worry that I wasn’t serious enough.
I never discovered what these "worldly trinkets" I was hanging on to were, but I was often told by others that I had reservations about being totally given to service and being subject to "God’s government" at The Assembly. I convinced myself that unless I was able to yield completely, and fall into the ground and die, I would remain alone, joyless and lacking peace. However, if and when I was finally yielded, I would experience wonderful new life! It all depended on me. I convinced myself that my problem was not what I was being taught, but was that I still did not mean business with God. Or so I thought at the time.
If I was only willing to totally surrender, then the mighty power of Christ’s resurrection life would begin to flow through me! Even though I wanted this deeper life with all my heart, I never seemed willing enough, because the life never seemed to flow. I loved God, was careful to live a holy life, studied His Word, prayed and spent many hours and many dollars helping His church, The Assembly. I was totally committed, but in spite of this, I just couldn’t seem to get to the place where Christ’s abundant life was real to me.
As I saw it, I had set sail on a spiritual voyage for distant lands, not often visited by other Christians. What I did not know at the time is that I had embarked with an unreliable compass and incorrect navigational charts. I would never arrive at my hoped for destination because my navigation was wrong. Just as a sailor must know where he is on the globe, and the exact location of his destination in order to rely on compass and chart to make safe landfall, so must a Christian know Jesus and keep Him pre-eminent, due north. Only then will such a one be able to safely navigate through life. While Deeper Life ideas are complicated and hard, knowing and loving Jesus is by faith alone. The apostle Paul taught that it is simplicity itself.
Ask yourself, "Is my life full of the joy of The Holy Spirit? Am I where I should be, or am I pretending that everything is fine because it is supposed to be? Have I been living according to the Bible, or according to books written about the Bible?" These are questions I wish I had asked myself years ago.
If you find yourself sinking in the Deeper Life ideas, or if you have a close friend or family member who has taken up with some fringe Christian group, this book may encourage you and help you understand what has happened and what needs to change in order to have spiritual restoration. The longing for something deeper and more meaningful than the natural human condition is normal. The Bible says that we Christians eagerly look forward to being with Christ. This longing is only satisfied in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the aim, not the deeper life itself.