The point to which this venture has led us is a state of silence and continuous prayer.
Let us go back a little and take a closer look at this matter of silence. Why, for instance, is being silent before the Lord when you first come to Him so important? First of all, it is because your fallen nature is opposed to God's nature. The two are not at all alike. Secondly, Jesus Christ is the Word, the speaking Word. He can speak. He can be heard! But for the Word (Jesus Christ) to be received by you, your nature must be made to correspond to His nature.
Let me illustrate further.
Consider the act of hearing. Listening is a passive sense. If you ever want to hear anything, you must yield a passive ear.
Jesus Christ is the Eternal Word. He, and He alone, is the source of new life to you. For you to have new life, He must be communicated to you. He can speak. He can communicate. He can impart new life. And when He desires to speak to you, He demands the most intense attention to His voice.
Now you can see why the Scripture so frequently urges you to listen, to be attentive to the voice of God.
Hearken unto Me, My people, and give ear unto Me, Oh My Nation. (Isaiah 51:4)
Hear Me, all you whom I carry in My bosom, and bear within My bowels.(Isaiah 46:3)
Hearken, oh daughter, and consider and incline your ear; forget also your own people, and your father's house; so shall the king greatly desire your beauty. (Psalm 45:10-11)
Here is how to begin to acquire this habit of silence. First of all, forget yourself. That is, lay aside all self-interest.
Secondly, listen attentively to God.
These two simple actions will gradually begin to produce in you a love of that beauty which is the Lord Jesus! This beauty is inwrought in you by Him.
One other thing. Try to find a quiet place. Outward silence develops inward silence; and outward silence improves inward silence as it begins to take root in your life.
It is impossible for you to really become inward, that is, to live in your inmost being where Christ lives, without loving silence and retirement.
Hosea said it well:
I will lead her into solitude, and there I will speak to her heart. (Hosea 2:14)
You are to be completely occupied, inwardly, with God. Of course, this is impossible if, at the same time, you are outwardly busied with a thousand trifles.
The Lord is at the center of your being; therefore, He must become the center of your being.
What are you to do when you become drawn away from this God who is your center? No matter what it is that draws you away, whether weakness or lack of faith, you must immediately turn within once more.
Be ready to turn within, again and again, no matter how often you are drawn away. Be ready to repeat this turning just as often as distractions occur.
It is not enough to be turned inwardly to your Lord an hour or two each day. There is little value in being turned within to the Lord unless the end result is an anointing and a spirit of prayer which continues with you during the whole day.
Where does confession of sin and examination of your life concerning sin fit into the life of a Christian following this path? How does he deal with these important matters? Let us take this section to open up a clearer, higher view of self-examination and of confession of sin.
It is commonly taught that self-examination is something that should always precede confession of sin. Though this may be correct, the manner of self-examination is dictated by the level of your Christian experience.
I would recommend for a Christian whose spiritual state has actually advanced to the stage which was described in the preceding sections that when you come to the Lord concerning sin and confession, you do this: Lay your entire soul open before God. You can be certain that the Lord will not fail to enlighten you concerning your sin. Your Lord will shine as a light in you; and through His shining, He will allow you to see the nature of all your faults.
You might say that when this brilliant light, which is Christ Himself, shines on you and in you, you are under examination. An examination is being given to you by God when this happens. Since it is your Lord who is doing this, and no one else, you should simply remain peaceful and calm before Him as He carries out this exposing.
Depend upon your Lord, not on yourself, to expose your sin and to show you the extent of your sin.
Please understand this fact: It is not your diligence, it is not your examination of yourself that will enlighten you concerning your sin. Instead, it is God who does all the revealing.
You see, if you try to be the one who does the examining, there is a very good chance that you will deceive yourself. You will never really allow yourself to see your true state. That is the simple fact about the nature of your own self-love. "We call the evil good, and the good evil." (Isaiah 5:20)
Ah, not so when you come to your Lord. He can be so thorough, so exacting, and so demanding! There, before Him, you are in full exposure before the Sun of Righteousness. His divine beams make even your smallest faults visible. The proper way to deal with sin becomes so evident. You must abandon yourself into the hands of God, both in self-examination and in the confession of your sins.
A Christian does not begin his spiritual experience with the Lord on this level which I am describing. On the other hand, he can, through this "prayer of simplicity," eventually arrive at this level.
Once you have established such a relationship with your Lord, you will soon discover that no fault in you escapes the reproof of God. For instance, as soon as you commit a sin, you are immediately rebuked by an inward sense. It will be a kind of deep, inward burning...a tender confusion. You see, all things are exposed under the piercing glance of your Lord. He will not allow any sin to be hidden or concealed.
As for you, when the Lord has firmly established this relationship, you will have the sense that He has so completely found you out that each time His light focuses on the sin in your life, you have only one course. All you can do is turn very simply to Him and there bear all the pain and correction which He inflicts.
Continue in this experience with your Lord. After a period of time of experiencing Him in this way, the Lord will become more and more the constant examiner of your soul. It will not be you examining yourself, nor will it be seasonal. It will be the Lord, constantly.
If you remain faithful in giving yourself up to the Lord in this way, you will come to realize that the divine light of your Lord can really reveal your heart far more effectively than all your efforts ever could.
Let us go on a little farther now and consider confession of sin.
There is awaiting you a higher understanding and a higher experience of confession and repentance. Should you truly desire to walk these paths, you should be aware of something about confession of sin which is generally misunderstood.
In the past when you have confessed your sins to your Lord, you have most likely felt regret for those sins, have you not?
There is a higher experience of repentance, and there is a deeper experience of confession of sin than the feeling of regret. In fact, you will find those feelings of regret replaced by something else - replaced by a love and a tranquility. That love, that tranquility sweetly saturates your soul and, having saturated it thoroughly, takes full possession of it.
Repentance that is sweet? Confession of sin that brings love and tranquility? If you have never been instructed in such matters, you will naturally want to resist this love. You will, instead, have a human inclination to try to produce a sorrowful, contrite attitude before God.
It has often been told you that a sorrowful, contrite heart over your sins is a thing well-pleasing to God. This is true.
But consider this: Trying by your own effort to produce a contrite heart causes you to lose genuine repentance. What is genuine repentance? Have you ever had the experience of real, genuine repentance? Think back. Was it not a deep feeling of love pouring itself out within you?
It is that love, that deep sense of love within you, which is a much purer and much higher expression of repentance; higher than anything you could produce by your own effort. This love takes all other feelings of repentance, sums them up into one, and expresses the totality of repentance much more perfectly than if each part of repentance were individually expressed to the Lord.
When the Lord has established this relationship in your life, you will not need to trouble yourself to produce your feelings about your sin. God is working His expression of repentance into you in such a pure way.
God hates sin and to experience a repentance which is given to you wholly of God will bring you to hate sin as He hates it.
Dear reader, do not be anxious and do not be so eager for action. The purest love you can ever know is that love which comes to you when the Lord is working on your soul. So let Him work. You must just remain in the place He assigns to you. Agree with the instruction of a very wise man who said:
Put your confidence in God; remain quiet where He has placed you.
As you walk on in the experience we have just described, you will notice something. You will be amazed at how difficult it is to remember your sins! Forget your sins? Is this proper? Yes! And such an experience should not cause you to be uneasy. You see, forgetting your sins is a proof of your having been cleansed from them.
It is a good thing to have forgotten your sins. It is best you forget anything that concerns you so that you can remember only God.
Keep in mind that what has been presented in this section is a higher experience of confession and a deeper experience of repentance; yet you can be absolutely certain that as you experience the Lord in this way, He does not allow your sins to be unexposed. On the other hand, if you do the exposing, much may be left undiscovered. That is not the case when it is the Lord who is examining you! Unlike you, He will bring all your faults to the light. Therefore, leave your examination to God. You will find your heart far more revealed than if you had tried to do it by your own efforts.
Dear reader, this must be made very clear: These instructions are not applicable to a Christian living on the level of experience in which the soul is still in the active state. These instructions are not for the soul that is still active. On that level of experience it is altogether right - and necessary - that the soul exert itself in dealing with sin.
The soul of a Christian exerts itself in proportion to where it is in spiritual advancement. The more the soul advances toward its center - that is, the farther it is removed from the surface - the less the soul exerts itself. (This is true in dealing with sin, in dealing with confession of sin, and in all other involvements of life as well.)
Should you come to this more advanced level, I exhort you, no matter what your circumstances, to begin all your comings to the Lord by a very simple, quiet waiting before Him.
In so doing, you allow Him to act freely within you. He can never be better received than by Himself.
For the last few sections we have been discussing a deeper experience of Christ, and in the last section we looked at how to deal with sins and confession. Let us now go on to consider what other experiences with Christ await you as your experience with Him goes deeper still.
Let us take the Scripture first. Is there a deeper use you can make of the Scripture than has been mentioned up until now?
Remember, please, from an earlier section, that reading the Scripture is a way into prayer. Remember, too, that what you read may become prayer. Is there yet more the Scripture can provide? Yes, you can use the Scripture in yet a more refined manner than has been mentioned before. Let us consider that way. I will give you a brief, practical description.
First, come before the Lord and begin to read. Stop reading just as soon as you feel yourself being drawn inwardly. Stop reading when you feel the Lord drawing you in your inward parts to Himself. Now, simply remain in stillness. Stay there for a while. Then, momentarily, proceed with your reading; but read only a little. Always cease reading each time you feel a divine attraction drawing you deeper within.
What can you expect beyond this state?
From time to time you will begin to touch a state of inward silence. What shall be your response to such an experience? One thing is this: No longer burden yourself with spoken prayer. (At this time, to pray out loud, or in any conventional way, would only draw you away from an inward experience and draw you back to an outward, surface prayer.)
You will be attracted to silence so there is no reason to force yourself to speak.
But if you do not speak, what shall you do? Nothing! Simply yield to the inward drawing! Yield to the wooing of your spirit. Your spirit is drawing you deeper within.
One other word.
In all your experience of Christ, it is wisest for you to stay away from any set form, or pattern, or way. Instead, be wholly given up to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
By following your spirit, every encounter you have with the Lord is one that is perfect...no matter what the encounter is like.
Next week: Prayer Requests?