Spiritual Formation

A Little Lower than God! Part 7: Deepest Heaven, Deepest You

Each of us is a kind of sovereign lord and, like all rulers, we have a territory we rule over. That territory is the inner space where we step back from the world to make decisions, imagine and create. Not even God himself trespasses there. As previously mentioned, he waits for us to invite him in. Having such authority is part of what it means to be created in God’s image.
We are, however, only an image of God, not God himself. As the picture projected onto a screen needs light in order to be seen, so we are only clearly the image of God when we invite the Light into this sacred inner space. When we do, our innermost being becomes the Holy of Holies, that place where God dwelt in Israel’s tabernacle in the wilderness.
In Hebrews 9:19-28 the writer speaks of this tabernacle being a picture of heaven and then makes a most curious assertion–heaven itself needs to be purified! How can this be? I thought heaven by definition was pure. Whatever the mystery contained in all this, one thing is certain, there is a direct relationship between our deepest, truest nature and the heavenly realm. For our inner being to be cleansed, heaven needs to be cleansed. So Hebrews speaks virtually interchangeably of both heaven and the hearts of believers being sprinkled with the blood of Christ. c.f. Hebrews 10:22
So then, when we have invited Christ into our inner sanctuary, our hearts become a beachhead, part of God’s sovereign kingdom upon earth. We are called to protect this holy territory and to extend it out into the world by letting his love reign in our lives–family, work, community etc. The heavenly kingdom comes as God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.


Spiritual Formation


You’ve heard it before. Perhaps you know someone who says it way too much—“God told me….” You find their certainty somewhat irritating. You’re left feeling cynical. Yet, you know that God does speak and somehow you’ve even heard him. Jesus’ sheep do hear his voice, but sometimes you feel awfully tentative about how well. If you have sentiments like these, I can empathize. Failure to perceive God’s communication despite my best efforts to do so left me feeling frustrated. As a result, I spent less time in prayer which in turn led to a life lived under a subtle current of condemnation.

A turning point arrived when I digested Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline. In it I perceived another path which I eagerly investigated. Foster emphasized the value of learning from those who have gone before. As I delved into the devotional masters I discovered the ancient practice of Lectio Divina, a method of scripture meditation.

I have found that quieting myself to slowly ponder God’s word has yielded more profit than any other spiritual discipline. Stillness not only opens our ears to hear God’s voice, it also readies us to obey what we hear. Quieting ourselves long enough to step back and view the motions of our inner lives is the first step in not being dominated by those currents. We can become proactive and decide which desires and emotions we should foster and which should be ignored

Celebration of Discipline, along with Foster’s other writings, also stresses the importance of training in the Christian life. I had come to always expect the miracle moment when my life would be changed forever, when “revival” would come. I spent an incredible amount of energy trying to climb this spiritual mountain and I just wasn’t getting any higher. It was time to come back down and try another way up. For me that way has been the slow, relentless training of meditation and prayer and it feels good. There is no pressure to perform or need to try to be a spiritual giant, only the constant challenge to be aware of God’s presence. Though I fail so often, every time I remember to turn to him present with me, I train my spiritual muscles just a little bit more. And sometimes I sense him!

One further discovery, the most important of all, has come clear as I’ve persevered. It has to do with recognizing heavenly communication. Virtually all Christians long to know God’s voice better. We know he has spoken in the Bible, but we crave more intimate communion with him. As I worked on this daunting subject of hearing the invisible God, the revelation gradually dawned—the goodness of God is an interpretive key for understanding his voice. His whispers delight us for if we hear them, we hear a message of hope and encouragement. Even when his voice creates disturbance within, that disturbance usually arises from a self-centered resistance to his love. Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit is the great Encourager. God is like the inspiring teacher to whom students send letters thirty years later. He is the coach that the kid from the inner city says saved him from a life of crime. He is the loving dad we want to please more than anyone else in the world.