If you really want to experience a deeper life with God, you need to answer three questions honestly. The first is, “What are you pursuing most in life?” This will reveal what you really are living for. Most people assume that because they are believers in Christ then they are actually living for God as the first goal of their lives. But that is not necessarily true.
The second is, “Why are you pursuing it?” This shows your real motivation in life and what is driving you forward day by day.
The third question is, “How are you going about it?” What are the means, the strategies, and the energy you are using to get what you are pursuing? From the perspective of our inner life, there can only be two kinds of energy, two forms of power – either we are energised by power of the flesh or by the Spirit of God.
What are you pursuing?
Most people are pursuing one or more of the twelve things listed below. Many of these are good in their own way and most sermons preached today have to do with them.
Which of these most accurately describes what you are longing for in life? 1.The satisfied life 2.The fruitful life 3.The healed life 4.The blessed life 5.The victorious life 6.The sanctified life 7.The anointed life 8.The devoted life 9.The well-managed life 10.The crucified life 11.The resurrected life 12.The discipled life
Now the questions to ask are, is it really right to put any of these things in first place in our lives? And if so, how can we be sure that we are seeking these things with the right motive and in the right spirit? These are important questions because what we put first and pursue most determines what we are living for and the kind of energy we use to attain it.
How deep are you?
The number one spiritual problem many believers face today is superficiality. It’s a global Christian problem. We lack depth. We tend to focus on above-the-surface things. We do not sufficiently probe the depths of our heart to discover what is really going on inside.
We need to discern the deep dynamics of our human hearts if we want to experience God richly and appreciate him fully. True spirituality begins with facing God’s diagnosis of our hearts. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:9-10
Looking at our lives superficially is the inevitable result of the self-centredness of the human heart. A superficial spirituality is a deceptive spirituality. That’s why a depth analysis is necessary, and it’s the only way to ensure we have a real experience of God. There are no simple, one-stop solutions, no superficial answers. But God wants us to have a deep, long lasting experience of him that is real. This goes against the spirit of the age which was also at work in day of Jeremiah the prophet.
Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of my people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:1
We seem to be willing to accept anything that promises us a happy, peaceful and successful life without examining the depth of our hearts and finding the solution to the self-centredness within. Superficial Christians never deepen their roots in God. They never check to see whether they are building their lives on a solid foundation. They never develop the maturity of love. They never examine the true state of their hearts.
The picture Jesus gave of the white-washed sepulchres, referred to in Matthew 23:27, is not only a description of the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees of his day. It can also apply to us. We also tend to cover up what’s really going on inside. We hide our fleshly thoughts, desires and motives behind a respectable spiritual facade. We clean the outside of the cup while the inside remains dirty (Matthew 23:26). We try to look good on the outside and conceal what is really going on inside.
The truth is, something is going on beneath the surface and it’s not pretty. Our fleshly nature loves sin and always rebels against God. The passions of our flesh are all about self. We are passionate to get what we want, keep what we have and get back what we have lost. We are easily offended when slighted, quickly resentful when our personal value is unrecognised and instantly angered when our interests are ignored by others.
But that is not all that’s happening inside us. God is at work in our hearts and he has given us a new nature that is marvellous and spectacularly beautiful. It’s his very own nature birthed into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This new nature is captivated by Christ and passionate about God. Our deepest desires are Godly, not fleshly. We long to know God intimately, to love him intensely and to reveal him clearly to others.
As a Charismatic Church we are familiar with manifestations of the Spirit. We love to experience God in tangible ways as his anointing flows among us. But why do so many spiritual experiences seem to bring little change in our hearts and produce little lasting fruit in our lives?
The question is how deeply do we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us when he is moving among us in power? Do we value the experience itself more highly than God’s purpose in giving it? Do we just want a spiritual high while not really seeking God for himself? Do we really hunger and thirst for the living God or do we just want to feel better? Have we replaced the desire to be transformed from within by the desire to feel good about ourselves? Are we more concerned about the manifestations of the Spirit than his deep work in our hearts?
Every experience of the Holy Spirit, every manifestation of his presence and power, is designed to make us more like Jesus – to bring us closer to his mind, his heart and his will for our lives. If we truly open up to God and let him into the parts of our lives which need to be touched, healed and transformed then no spiritual experience will be wasted. It will leave a lasting impression. We will want the Holy Spirit to shape our lives to be more like Christ and not just to get a blessing or to see some external circumstance change for the better.
Living for blessing
The problem with focussing on our circumstances rather than on Christ is that we can start believing that God exists for our comfort and pleasure. We begin to use him as a means to gain material blessing or emotional well-being. We squirm under the pressure of negative circumstances and unanswered prayer. We are shocked and confused when God does not allow things to work out as quickly as we want.
When God does not remove deeply unpleasant things from our lives or take away our pain, we are left feeling unsatisfied and deeply disappointed. When things are going well we congratulate ourselves but when they go wrong, we start to question God. We become resentful and begin to blame him and judge others. When our prayers go unanswered and our dreams begin to shatter, we believe God has let us down. He has failed to deliver on his part of the bargain.
Eventually, we stop praying so fervently and trust God less and less to handle things as he knows best. We begin to take the matter into our own hands. We do whatever we can to find or make our own happiness. We steal our own pleasures and pursue whatever promises to give us the most fulfilment. Sometimes we manage to convince ourselves that this plan of action is acceptable to God, but we always believe he will understand or overlook it. After all, if he has let us down, what choice do we have? Our suffering justifies our disobedience.
Soon, we find ourselves chasing every fleeting pleasure, every meagre gratification to make up for our pain, to numb it or to forget it exists. When the pleasant feelings pass, guilt sets in and, to escape these negative feelings, we pursue more pleasure and relief. We slide deeper and deeper into sin until we become addicted to whatever we have chosen to pursue.
The choices we make vary from person to person. For some it may be simple distractions such as TV or movies. For others it may be sports, personal training or some apparently harmless hobby. It may be our job, our family or even our ministry. But, if it is an activity we engage in as a means of avoiding our pain and one that draws us away from trusting God alone for our satisfaction, it is idolatry.
Being dissatisfied with God and what he chooses to provide can lead to more extreme and obvious forms of disobedience. We can head into a downward spiral of overt sinfulness, taking up drugs, alcohol, pornography and sex just to find that one thing to make us feel better. We spin out of control, destructive and far from God.
A better way to live
Does the deeper life with God show us a better way to live? You can count on it! If all sin is rooted in our failure to trust God, then life with God means trusting him in all things, even when the wheels come off.
God’s blessings are so secure in Christ, so readily available and so freely given by God, that whenever it looks as if he is withholding even one good thing from us, it means he is always up to something – something bigger, something better, something more wonderful than could ever be possible if he merely gave us what we wanted in the first place. The greatest purpose of God for our lives is to see Christ formed in us and that is also the greatest blessing for us.
When God seems to withhold what we most want and what we judge would make us most happy here on earth, he is working in us a greater glory that will be worth it in the end. One day, God will faithfully fulfil all his promises. Everything is working towards that great climax of history when Christ shall return and we, the sons of God, will be displayed in glorious perfection. In the meantime, the sufferings and frustrations of this life are doing something vitally important, even essential in us.
We do not live for a better life here on earth, but for the better hope of drawing near to God and getting to know him. Our negative circumstances bring us out of demanding childishness and wean us from a spirit of entitlement. We begin to long not for milk, but for solid food. He draws us away from any form of mechanical dealings with himself – that legalistic relationship in which we believe that if only we live right, do right, believe right and pray right, then God will give us what we want, when we want it.
His reluctance to bring us instant gratification is his way of developing in us an appetite for God which hungers more for him, his righteousness and his holiness than for anything else – even the good things we want so much. He is teaching us to delight more in the giver than in his gifts so that we can learn to value first things above second things.
This way we can show our love for him, not just when things work out as we want, but when everything appears to have gone terribly wrong for us. We discover that we can trust him with everything knowing that he is good and wants the best for us, even when it doesn’t look that way according to our natural understanding. We put our hope in him and in him alone, living more for the future fullness of heaven than for the partial satisfactions of this life. We place our eyes on the invisible and not the visible. We seek his kingdom, first.
Releasing the life of God within
The deeper you go with God, the deeper you experience him. Letting go of your weak, self-centred ambitions is the sure way of finding the life of God within you. It leads to the release of that life, inspiring your every desire and energising your every action in the direction of God.
Many years ago, I learned a spiritual principle which has helped me both in ministry and in life. The principle is this: God does not give power for what he is not doing. In other words the way to release the power of God in your life is to flow with his purpose and agenda. If he is not committed to making you look good or to serving your agenda, then any attempt on your part to pursue these things is futile. You may exert all your fleshly energies to get what you want, but you will fail.
On the other hand, if you line up with the agenda of God, make his goal your goal, then all God’s mighty energy will be released in you and you will succeed. The Holy Spirit within you is totally committed to the plan of God. He wants nothing more than for your passion and love to be directed towards God. And he is always ready to help you and to enable you to go in that direction. There’s a river of life inside you waiting to be released. It will bring refreshing to your soul and change in your heart. All true spiritual transformation works from the inside out. As you determine to go deeper with God you will find the river of his Spirit welling up inside and spilling out in expressions of love and joy. The deeper you go, the more of God you will know. That’s the real energy of God and it will lead you to places your own fleshly efforts will never be able to take you.