23 January 2022
For the believer, the outward journey of our lives takes the form of relating to the world and other people, involving discoveries, relationships and interactions. The inward journey however takes the form of deepening our relationships with God the Father and Jesus the Son, through the mighty ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Christians today tend to be caught up with the outward journey in this fast busy world and life becomes unbalanced with media, the knowledge explosion, education, careers, and the go-getting pursuits with all their distractions and attractions. We then live busy, complacent lives of conforming to convention and caring much more, it seems, for programmes than for people, and our spiritual lives end up not much different from the people of the world.
We need to learn and to nurture more the truths that relate to the inner life of fellowship with God; this is what communion with the Triune God achieves, and the development and progress made in the inward journey of our lives may not be so obvious to those around us. Yet they matter so much in the pursuit of Godliness and in the transformation of our Christian lives, and in knowing God. What makes life worthwhile is having a goal big enough to carry our imagination and awe, and lay hold of our allegiance; and this the Christian has, in a way no other person has. For what is higher, more exalted and more compelling than to know God, to love Him and to enjoy Him?
Knowing God is a relationship calculated to thrill a person’s heart. Imagine this – the almighty Creator, the Lord of hosts, the great God before whom the nations are as a drop in a bucket, comes to you and begins to talk to you, through the words and truths of Holy Scripture. But this is not an imagination – it is real – God is actually speaking to you through the Bible. God is actually opening His heart to you, making friends with you and taking you to be His fellow-workers (1 Cor. 3:9).
Knowing God involves listening to God’s Word and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself; noting God’s nature and character as His Word and works reveal it; accepting His invitations, obeying Him, rejoicing in, the love that He has shown in thus approaching us and drawing us in, into the divine fellowship of the Triune God.
It is true that self- absorbed religion is in fact irreligious; God does not exist for our ‘comfort’ or ‘happiness or to provide us with ‘religious experiences. But knowing God is also an emotional relationship, as well as an intellectual and volitional one and there cannot be a deep relation between persons were it not so. Believers rejoice when their God is honoured and vindicated, and feel acute distress when they see God’s name dishonoured.
But all these we are talking about only come about in their fullness when we are willing to invest our time and lives in nurturing the inner and inward journey of our lives, in communion with the living God. Not only would we grow in knowing God but the staggering truth is that God knows us! We are written on the palms of His hands. We are never out of His mind. All our knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative of knowing us. There is no moment when His eye is off us or when His care for us falters. We can now understand why certain Christians do not buckle under pressure, temptations or persecution. They know their God and supremely God knows them, and they rest in that confidence and are not moved.
Will we be willing to nurture the inward journey of our lives and not just be carried along by the outward relationships with the world and their demands?
Do we ever wonder why the inward journey is so very important in our Christian lives and how it is so relevant in the proper out-working of our outward journey?
We must realise that God searches our hearts as well as weighing our actions. For this reason, guilt for sin extends to deficiencies in our motives and purposes as well as in our performances and actions. Note that God observes and assesses our reasons for actions as thoroughly as He does the actions themselves; nothing escapes the Lord God.
Indeed, God focuses more attention on the heart – the thinking, reacting, desiring, decision-making centre of our being -than He does on the deeds done, for it is by what is going on in our hearts that we are most truly known to Him. Yes, we can fool some people most of the time; we can fool most people some of the time – but we cannot fool God – He sees everything!
This brings us to the following passage:
‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:’Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matt.22:36-40)
We know that the Law tells God’s children what will please their Heavenly Father – it is in one sense the family code. It is obedience to God’s commands that proves the reality of our love for Him. Take note that the first and greatest commandment has to do with the heart, the soul, and the mind – all these have to do in turn with the inner aspects of our lives i.e. with the inward journey of our lives. If the inward journey of our lives is deficient and lacking, we cannot truly obey this first commandment satisfactorily. It follows that we also would not be able to love our neighbour in the way God desires I.e. to keep the second commandment. For our genuine love of our neighbour must spring forth from the overflow of our love for God.
Often we struggle to keep God’ command and to obey Him because we find His command burdensome and we dislike the idea of following the rules; however, if we truly love Him, we would find it a privilege and a ‘breeze’ to obey Him. Remember how Jesus did all to please His father and this has a lot to do with their mutual love and adoration. One who is a lover would not hesitate to please his lover, for his heart is overflowing with love.
To keep the first and commandments well before God would mean that our heart, soul and mind have been increasingly moulded by God to be transformed to be like that of our Master. The quality of the inward journey of our lives would determine the reality and positive manifestations of the outward journey of our lives!