"Deep Or Shallow" (November 2006)
Recently, the Lord has been speaking to me about a particular subject. I touched on that subject in one of the Coffee Break devotions one morning, but in this month’s newsletter I want to talk a little more in-depth about it. It’s the subject of “shallow Christians”.
A few weeks ago the Lord blessed my husband and I with the opportunity to go to the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful beyond description-- it’s one of those places you have to go see for yourself to fully grasp it’s beauty and magnitude. There was so much of it to see- heights and depths, cliffs, the river, the rapids, etc. Our trip only included a ride around the north rim. We would get in the car and drive around the canyon edge stopping at designated lookout points. The view from where we would stop to look was awesome. You could see across the canyon, you could look down into it, you could even see the Colorado River in the distance below. I would not trade the experience for anything. But even though we got to see the canyon, there was so much of it that we missed. There was a whole other rim, the south rim, to explore. There was the canyon floor to see, the rapids to ride, the mule trails along the canyon wall, hiking trails; so much more that couldn’t be seen or experienced from where we were. To have fully grasped it you would have had to go down into the canyon a little deeper. On those deeper levels you would have seen formations that you could not see from the rim. The grandeur of it would have hit you on a deeper emotional level because you weren’t just “looking at” it, you were being “enveloped by it”.
When I talk about “shallow Christians”, what do I mean? Let’s use the dictionary to define “shallow”- of little depth; not deep: lacking depth; superficial. “Shallow Christians” are those who just “ride one rim” of Christianity. Shallow Christians aren’t the ones who will “go down into the canyon” of their relationship with the Lord. They are content with “looking into” who He is from one view. They experience the Lord on more of a surface level instead of experiencing Him on a deeper level. The sad thing about that is that they miss so much that the Lord desires for them to have; they lack so much of what He wants to reveal to them; they are missing out on many of the blessings He has waiting for them; they aren’t living the abundant life He has provided for them.
Why are some Christians shallow? I believe that there are several reasons. Let’s look at some of the reasons. One reason I believe that some don’t go any deeper is because of fear- they are afraid to go deeper. One of the attractions offered at the Grand Canyon is a chance to take a mule ride down into the canyon- to get a more close up view. The mule rides down into the canyon look pretty scary when you see the pictures. The mules are almost hugging the edge in several places-- one wrong step and it could be all over. Because of the danger that seems to be involved many people will never experience the thrill of the canyon from the back of a mule. They would rather play it safe and not take the “risk”. Many Christians are the same way-- afraid to take the risk to step out in faith to get closer to the Lord. They are afraid of falling. They are convinced that if they attempt to get closer to the Lord and fail (fall), He will “give up” on them and “cast them off”. So it’s easier to just not even try as opposed to “missing the mark”. I would like to clarify something here about the character and nature of God. He is NOT out to get you! He is for you, and on your side. “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) He desires to see you succeed. He is a loving God who understands that we aren’t perfect. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” (Psalms 103:13,14) He never said that we wouldn’t fall in our endeavor to live for Him. On the contrary, He knew we would so He made a provision to take care of it when we do. “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” (Psalms 37:24) He also made a way so that we could get back up and go forward. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Fear of failure is one of the enemy’s devices that he uses against us. He is the accuser of the brethren. If we never try, we will never achieve the goal. Our attempt to go deeper in our relationship with the Lord is one of faith. We have to step out in faith, not by what we see or how we feel. I am told that the donkeys at the canyon are sure-footed and have walked those trails so many times that you don’t even have to hold on to the reigns- they could walk around the canyon wall with their eyes closed and not miss a step. Those who take the donkey ride have to put some confidence in those little burros before they get on their backs and go for the ride. In no way am I comparing our Holy, Wonderful Lord to a donkey, but we have to put our trust and faith in Him when we make the step to go deeper that He will carry us, uphold us, strengthen us, and help us arrive at our intended destination.
There’s also the fear of what others may think about them that keep some from going deeper. They are afraid that they may be classified as a “fanatic” if they get “too heavenly minded”. Then there’s the fear of what they may have to “give up”- after all, Jesus did tell the rich young ruler to sell everything and follow Him. “Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22) Sure there are some sacrifices that will have to be made, some self-denial applied, some loss suffered, but it will be worth it all for the privilege of knowing the Lord in a deeper, more intimate way. “Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One).” (Philippians 3:8- Amplified Bible) Until the joy of what will be gained out weighs the fear of what may be lost these people will never advance toward a deeper relationship with the Lord-- they will always remain shallow.
There is another group of “shallow” Christians I want to talk about. They are the ones who don’t see the need to go any deeper. They are convinced that a “little of God is enough”. They don’t think you have to have “all that other stuff” (as they put it) to be saved. They think that as long as they are “ok” then what does it matter. They think that just because they say they love God that this is enough. While they may say they “love God”, you don’t see much (if any) sign of it in their lives. They “talk” about God (to some degree) but they never go to church, they never read the Bible, they don’t associate with other Christians, they seldom pray, they don’t share their faith with others, or do any of the things that exhibit a Christian life-- you don’t see the evidence in their lives. They are happy with the way they are “spiritually” and don’t see any reason to change it. They are shallow because they are “superficial”-- external or outward; concerned with or comprehending only what is on the surface. In other words, they just “scratch the surface” of their Christianity. They are content with “riding the rim” and stopping occasionally to look at the view. As far as they are concerned, they can see all they want to see from where they are-- why go any deeper.
I found these people in the Bible. They are talked about in the Old Testament and the New Testament. “And the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips but remove their hearts and minds far from Me, and their fear and reverence for Me are a commandment of men that is learned by repetition [without any thought as to the meaning].”(Isaiah 29:13- Amplified Bible) “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8) They say they love God but they don’t practice it. It’s sad because they are deceived into believing that talking about having a relationship with Him or just believing that He is real is enough. It’s not. The devils believe and tremble but they don’t have a relationship with the Lord. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19) The rich young ruler acknowledged Jesus; he called Him ‘good Master’. He recognized that Jesus was from God and had power and authority. But He didn’t have a relationship with Him. He wasn’t willing to go any deeper than the surface. Jesus called him into a deeper place-- a heart felt walk with Him when He told him to sell all he had and follow Him. Jesus was trying to get him away from surface belief (religious practices) and come into a personal relationship with Him.
When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus’ reply was, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30) Did you notice that Jesus did not include “with all thy mouth” in the verse? It’s because He doesn’t want just mere “lip service”. He wants your heart. He wants your love. He wants you to love Him from your heart. If you love Him from your heart, it will produce a desire to practice it (live it) instead of just talk about it. “If ye love me, keep my commandments. Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words.” (John 14:14,23a) Love from the heart goes deeper than the shallow expression from the lips.
When we were standing at the first lookout point looking into the Grand Canyon, the area looked so vast. You could see down to the bottom of the canyon but you could not judge the distance. What appeared to only be a short distance from us was in reality miles away. My husband read one of the information signs and it said that when Coronado and his men came upon the Grand Canyon in their explorations, he sent some of his best men down into the canyon to find a passage through it. It said that after three days of going down into the canyon the men still had not reached the bottom of it. One man noted that a rock that was down in the canyon looked to be the size of a man from the top of the ridge, but when they reached it the formation was actually enormous-- it made the men look tiny as they stood beside it. This next group of “shallow” Christians are the ones who don’t realize how shallow they actually are because they think they are “pretty spiritual”. They see themselves as “closer” than they really are. They don’t realize that they still have a long way to go before they reach the “bottom”-- that deep spiritual relationship. These are people like Nicodemus. He knew the law, he was a teacher of the law, he did the sacrifices, he could quote the law (sounds pretty spiritual to me), yet he was still shallow. He was shallow because he did not have an understanding of spiritual things. “Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ ‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Nicodemus. ‘How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again? How are these things possible?’ Nicodemus asked. Jesus replied, ‘You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things?’” (John 3:3,4,9,10- New Living Translation) Although Nicodemus was a teacher of the Law he did not have enough depth in him to understand what Jesus was talking about. He had a “superficial” understanding-- he understood only those things that are on the “surface” not the deeper things of the spirit. He tried to understand spiritual things through natural means. (I feel that this is how most of the church operates today-- on a natural level. We seem spiritual, but in most cases we are walking after the flesh and dictates of this world.) Are you like Nicodemus? You have a “surface” knowledge of the things of God but not a deeper, spiritual understanding? You can quote Bible verse after Bible verse. You can name all the books of the Bible. You can name all the tribes of Israel, the apostles, the disciples. You can quote the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. You know the Lord’s Prayer and the Twenty- Third Psalms by heart. But when it comes to deeper, spiritual matters you fall short. If your Christianity is about “facts and figures” and not about an intimate relationship with God then you aren’t as spiritual as you thought you were-- you haven’t reached the bottom yet.
There is one last group that I want to talk about. When we went to the Grand Canyon, we didn’t realize that there was so much available to make our experience more memorable and enjoyable. We didn’t know until we got there that there were two completely separate rims of the canyon to travel. We didn’t know that there were cabins in the park that we could stay in. We made some wonderful discoveries that we didn’t know before. This last group are those who don’t know that there is more to the Christian walk than they are experiencing and it’s available to them. They think that it’s just about religious duties. They don’t know that there is an abundant life that is awaiting them. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b) They aren’t aware of the promises and blessings that the Lord has for them. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises.” (2 Peter 1:4a) “A faithful man shall abound with blessings.” (Proverbs 28:20a) They don’t know that they can have an intimate relationship with the Father, the Creator of the universe. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12) They haven’t realized the things that the Lord has prepared for them and the wonderful plans He has for their lives. They don’t know that the Lord desires to take them into a deeper and higher spiritual walk with Him. They don’t know that they can have spiritual understanding and insight. “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9,10) They are shallow because of a lack of knowledge.
There are depths in God that we will never be able to fathom. “Can you find out the deep things of God, or can you by searching find out the limits of the Almighty [explore His depths, ascend to His heights, extend to His breadths, and comprehend His infinite perfection]?” (Job 11:7- Amplified Bible) But there are depths in Him that He has invited us to come and see and experience for ourselves. “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19) Whichever one of these groups you may be in, you don't have to stay in it. You don’t have to remain a “shallow” Christian. I believe the Lord is putting out a call to His people for all of us to come into a deeper place spiritually, a deeper understanding, and a deeper love for Him. “Deep calleth unto deep..” (Psalms 42:7a) Are you willing to go deeper and explore the vastness of who He is? He is making Himself available to you. I never would have had the pleasure and joy that I experienced in seeing the Grand Canyon if I had not made the effort to take the trip. I won’t experience the deeper things of God either if I don’t make the effort to go deeper and stop being shallow.