The deeper life–and how you can avoid it

“This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
    after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
    and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8:10-11)

“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.” (Colossians 2:18)

When I got up about 5:15 this morning, I knew, from the Spirit of God, I needed to write about words and phrases and how they can trip us up because they can be misleading, misunderstood or even meaningless.

Now that you’ve read that, what kind of impression did my choice of words leave with you? I mean phrases like “I knew, by the Spirit of God,” “I needed to write,” or even the “5:15 this morning”?

Here, in order, are some imagined scriptural parallels:

(“I knew, by the Spirit of God”): “After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave” (1 Ki 19:12-13).

(“I needed to write”): “Elisha said to Gehazi, ‘Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face’” (2 Ki 4:29).

(“about 5:15 this morning”): “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mk 1:35).

Admittedly, this is a little melodramatic, for effect. And the intended effect is for you to notice the company I keep. I don’t put that baldly, of course, because the proverb says, “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips” (Pr 27:2).

And, of course, I am not of the stature of Jesus, Elisha or Elijah. (Another obligatory statement. Thanks for watching The False Humility Channel.) It may be reflected glory, like the brightness of the full moon, but it’s glory nonetheless.

I got started on all this when I saw a banner on a site I was using this morning which said something about “the deeper life in God.” I really don’t know why I stopped for a moment—no gentle whisper shows up on Recent Calls—but I thought about it for a couple of moments and realized I didn’t know what that meant, deeper life.

My bachelor’s degree is in English and my M.S. in journalism, so I understood the metaphorical sense without breaking a sweat. But deeper how?

I turned to Reverend Google because he has an M.Div. and I didn’t finish seminary (ran out of money) and found a couple of sites that had something to say about “the deeper life”—the Christian version anyway.

Some of the content was from an author you would instantly recognize as not just respected, but in some circles, revered. I even have some of his books somewhere in a plastic tote in storage.

And what I read really didn’t surprise me. The deeper life is “a revolt against the ordinary in Christian experience and the insatiable yearning of a few discontented souls after the deep, essentially spiritual and inward power of the Christian message.”

Whew. Don’t rise to the surface too fast. Gas bubbles in the blood, that sort of thing. You know, the bends.

He goes on: “It includes the thought of the indwelling Christ, of acute God-consciousness, of rapturous worship, separation from the world.”

What about the cost? “If this should seem like a heavy sacrifice for anyone to make, let it be remembered that Christ is Lord and can make any demands upon us that He chooses, even to the point of requiring that we deny ourselves and bear the cross daily.”

Hmmm. What do you mean even, though? Somehow, the way Jesus said it made it sound like standard procedure. You know, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,” (Mt 16:24).

Your description sounds like there’s First Class and Coach, and while Coach is the cheaper option, it ultimately reaches the same destination (just a pity you settle for “the ordinary”). First-Class passengers are–well, do I have to paint you a picture?

But while the language was a little overwrought at times—what, for example, is “acute God-consciousness”?–in general there was nothing really discordant among all these elegant phrases. Sounded pretty spiritual to me.

I just didn’t want any of it. I didn’t feel there was something out there, a missing piece or pieces that I lacked. No “insatiable yearning.” No colorful lures wobbling and darting before me enticing me to bite.

Given the stature of the author, my next thought was, What is wrong with me?

And the answer is nothing. And the reason why is because I was reading a 20th-century version of what Paul confronted in 1st-century Colossae. We call it “the deeper life.” Paul would call this a “hollow and deceptive philosophy” that is a substitute for the foundational truth that “in Christ you have been brought to fullness” (Col 2:8,10).

It’s kind of a woodworker’s inside joke, but 30 years or so ago someone invented the router pad. A router cuts decorative edges on wood. But because its cutting head revolves at 25-30,000 rpm, it’s kind of unwieldy to handle when working with small pieces that are hard to clamp without the clamp getting in the way.

The router pad, made of foam about 18”-24” square, magically holds small pieces in place so you don’t ruin the cut or turn the piece into a projectile. They sold for $9.99 apiece (and up, like mouse pads).

They were pieces of carpet pad. If you spent a couple of evenings cleaning out the dumpster behind a flooring store, you could have enough inventory in less than 48 hours to at least pay the fines for trespassing if you got caught.

“The deeper life” is a spiritual router pad. It’s not what it claims to be, which is why something claiming to be about “fullness” was labeled by Paul as the exact opposite: “hollow and [therefore] deceptive.”

Its pursuers go “into great detail” about what they’ve seen (the Lord showed me that most of the church is getting it wrong . . .). They’re big on knowledge, which Paul reminds us “puffs up” (Pssshhhuuu! That’s the sound of a deflating ego).

I have said more than once on this site that my gift is teaching. I don’t apologize for claiming that, and I don’t boast about it, either. It’s a gift.

“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor 4:6-7)

You might have a different gift, or none that you know of at the moment. Aside from that, the difference between you and me is, well, nothing. You might be one month old in the Lord. The verse in the header about dying to self applies to you and works the same way as it does for me or anyone else. That’s why it says whoever.

What kind of person boasts about his or her gift? The same kind that tells you he’s pursuing “the deeper life.”

You want to know a devious plan for trapping someone in a “hollow and deceptive philosophy”? Keep telling them there is something else they don’t have yet and keep prodding them until they develop “an insatiable yearning.”

Here’s some bait. Tell them something like, “You can be godlike, knowing good and evil.” Then again, maybe you should leave out the “godlike” because it might tip them off. It sounds like eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which is precisely what it is. It’s not known as the book of beginnings for nothing.

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