This blog post contains some recent reflections of mine on the inner life. (The audio of this post forms a minisode…with links below)
The time at which I’m posting this is at the end of one year with, of course, the dawn of a new year approaching. I’ve been reflecting at this time about how to deepen the inner life which we have with Christ. One person whose writings have been instrumental in my thinking about the inner life was Andrew Murray, a pastor and writer from the late 1800s and early 1900s. His caution to us is a good one although it might seem a bit counter-intuitive. He warned about substitutes for God. The very nature of idolatry is substituting a false god for the one real and true God. However, Murray’s words have us think in terms that, at first, might not seem idolatrous. In his book “The Inner Chamber and the Inner Life”, we read the following: “You are in danger of substituting prayer and Bible study for living fellowship with God….Your desire to pray humbly and earnestly and believingly may so occupy you that the light of His countenance and the joy of His love cannot enter you…the very Word of God may become a subsitute for God Himself.”
This is a good reminder to not let two means of God’s grace to us become ends in themselves. The Pharisees of the 1st century, written about so often in the Gospel accounts, had a formal theology which was closer to that of Christ’s than any other group of that time. Yet, Christ refers to them as sons of hell and their converts twice the sons of hell as those who converted them. (See Matthew 23:15) What was admirable on paper became abominable in the way it was practiced. As we look to deepen our inner life in Christ, at whatever time of year it is, or whatever season of life we live in, we need to be careful that, in our practice, time spent in prayer does not become more important than the One with whom we are spending time in prayer. We need to be careful to not allow Bible reading to simply become an item on our things to do list. We need to remind ourselves that the reading of the written Word of God should never be our end goal. The end goal must be encountering the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, I want to stress the importance of prayer and the privilege we have of listening to or reading the Bible. We must not neglect them. We must never practice them as ends in themselves.
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