“As the waters reflect the face of a man, so the heart of a man reflects man.”- Prov 27:19
I believe that a man’s self-analysis in the presence of his maker is one of the most neglected Christian disciplines. Thomas Kempis would spend an hour in silence everyday. He would search his heart and cleanse his motives and make radical decisions in this quiet time.
One commandment that Jesus left for the disciples was a calling towards perfection. “Be ye perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). My journey towards that perfection only begins when I realize how imperfect I am. If I cannot take time to know the condition of my own heart, I surely cannot spare the time to become perfect.
In a span of two verses in Haggai 1:5-7, God says twice, “Consider your ways”. “Let us examine and probe our ways and let us return to the Lord.” (Lam 3:40).”
I think that this search within, this probe- really pours light on the stumbling inner man. It is only when a man truly searches his heart does he understand the length breadth and width of the often quoted verse: Romans 5:8- “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
We need to commune with God and say “Search me Oh God and know my heart today! Test me and find my anxiety. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139: 23-24).
One of the most convicting points on personal prayer that O Hallesby writes is that “Sometimes the Christian is so oblivious to God’s discipline that they just thank God for His goodness and then start interceding for others”. That really shakes me up, for I cannot fathom how many times I have done that. I am guilty of that crime.
It is imperative for a man to sit in the presence of God, in absolute stillness as the Father, the Son and the Spirit exhort and weed out the root cause of our erroneous inner man. If our prayer lives are restricted to a quick reading of the Bible and a swift prayer that begs to reach “Amen”, we will never be able to truly experience the saving power of God. It goes without saying that this is not easy. Christ will never crucify your inner man. It is your act to put the inner man to death. It is His act to ressurect a new man. This whole exercise needless to say, is taxing.
But as Hebrews 12:1 points out, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
My conversations with God in the morning office shuttle are my favourite part of the day. While I may not close my eyes or bend upon my knee, I ask my Interceeder to come and “search my heart”. And this Interceeder comes, and I glare outside the window, he gently tells me where I am faulty and why. He shows me what I could have done and tells me what to do next time. Many times, what Abba taught me while I was silent spoke to me while I was making choices the next day. But in all of this He doesn’t humiliate me. That is never how He works. My God, my Father, My Counsellor and Savior- is not a bully.
This time of silent listening to reproof is a humbling experience and at the end of it, there is a bittersweet taste this fellowship leaves. It is bitter because humility is not easy. It calls for me to swallow my pride and say “Yes Abba”. It is sweet because every time I do it, my heart is more of His pasture than it was before. I realize how much I need Him. I see my shallow heart and rejoice that He chose to love me overlooking my baggage. I can only breathe afresh of the Spirit as Christ says, “Go and sin no more!”. There is no greater satisfaction than that which is birthed when reproof and grace marry. It is for this moment that Jesus stands at the door of my heart and knocks.
Everytime I walk this path, He reminds me that He loves me. He wants to forgive. He wants to save. He wants to perfect me. It is not a one time thing. My relationship with Him cannot be flirtatious. It has to be committed. It needs effort. It needs me to make time. There He teaches me that forgiveness and salvation are two different, distinguishable things. Forgiveness is when man repents. Salvation is when man honestly accepts grace. A forgiven man is not always a saved man. And then He says “Work out salvation with fear (reverence) and trembling, for it is I who works in you to help you act in line with My purposes “(Phil 2:12)
He wants to save me from all sin, every-day. For this, I need Him every hour. I think I can, to a tiny extent understand what Spurgeon wrote when he said, “I have a great need for Christ. I have a great Christ for my need”.
But why do we need this discipline? Why do I need it? No discipline- No discipleship. No sweat- No sainthood. No maturity- No manliness.
Underlying much conscious rejection of spiritual discipline is the fear of legalism. Discipline and legalism are different. The difference is of motivation- legalism is self centered. Discipline is God centered. The legalistic heart would say, ” I will do this to gain merit with God”. The disciplined heart would say “I do this because I love my God and I want to please Him.” If we confuse discipline and legalism, we do so to our soul’s peril.
All of this only happens if I truly know myself.
And I need Him to help me know myself. Ah! The blessedness of spiritual sweat! It strips us of our motives and lets us walk with His motives. It strips us of our present age and allows us to soar with saints. It is a continuing journey. It is only when the journey pauses that pride takes roots. Abba has been so vocal to me the last few days. I just had to write this. 🙂