Part 14: Cultivating the Light Within

Letters on Spiritual Formation #14

Cultivating the Light Within

This is article is part of a series of letters on spiritual growth and maturity. To read the previous letter in the series, click here.

He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. 
— 1 Corinthians 6:17

Called to Light

Once you begin to understand that you are the Light of the world, and He who is Light has infused you with Light, nearly the entirety of the focus in spiritual forms around the concept of cultivating that light.

This principle is found in Proverbs 4:18,

"But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more to the perfect day." 

Jesus said this in a similar way in Matthew 6:22,

"The light of the body is the eye. Therefore if your eye is sound, your whole body shall be full of light."

It is part of our growth and maturity to be “full of light”.

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin
— 1 John 1:7

As we become followers of Jesus we are given a taste of His light in order to develop a hunger for more light.

The bible records numerous instances of Jesus removing himself from the people around him to go pray:  

“And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.” Luke 5:16

“And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.” Mark 6:46

“And very early, it being yet night, having risen, he went forth, and went away to a desert place, and was there praying.” Mark 1:35

“And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.” Mark 14:35

Jesus cultivated an intentional devotional life. He was continually seeking his father. A key for understanding Jesus’ approach to this life is found in this statement.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).”

The bread of life, true spiritual life, is then living from every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. As has been said previously, this statement Jesus makes is an experiential reality regarding his relationship with his father. He is directly referencing something that has taken place in his life. His life then reflects this consistent devotion to prayer.

John Paul Jackson has called this…

"discovering the rhythm of spiritual life."

If we are to be conformed to an image, it is helpful to have an idea of what that image will look like. The makeup of the image we are created in is conveyed to us by the word of God. His words are spirit and life (John 6:63), and those words are communicated to us in our prayer life. When we approach God, he speaks tenderly to us, and begins to bring to light who we are. It does not seem like a far stretch to assume that when Jesus removed himself to the wilderness to pray, he continued to hear words that proceeded from the mouth of God.

Christian history has utilized many metaphors to explain the idea of being a “partaker of the divine nature”. One such metaphor is pictured in the image of a sword lowered into a forge. The sword absorbs the fire, but never becomes the fire itself. It retains its distinction. To the degree the sword is immersed into the forge, the blade radiates the forge's heat. The blade has no heat of itself, but it is perfectly suited to carry the heat of the forge as it nears the fire. From the drop of water in a bottle of wine that becomes like the wine, to the warmth of the sun reflected by the air, we are assured throughout history that something mysterious has taken place.

This mystical union of Spirit with spirit is deep and profound. The more one speaks of it, the more it seems to echo the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3,

“The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell from where it came, and where it goes: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.”

Yet this Divine union has found a consistent expression throughout Christian history. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic have all held similar views towards embracing the spiritual journey, and prayer is central to all of them.

The Spiritual Disciplines

In recent years, the rediscovering of Christian spiritual disciplines has become popular.  In our day and age these are generally referred to as:

  • Silence/Meditation - Contemplation on the Word, purpose, ways and pleasures of God

  • Solitude - Removing yourself from others to be with God

  • Prayer - Communing with God regarding specific circumstances

  • Worship - Response of adoration to the heartbeat of the Father

  • Fasting - Conscious recognition of “Man does not live by bread alone…”

  • Simplicity - Treating our possessions as a gift from God

  • Submission - Willful submission to others in your life

  • Guidance - Being led by those who have gone before

  • Celebration - Celebrating the life of God in the believer

  • Confession - Confessing our faults to another in order to be heard and healed

  • Service - Serving others to free us from ourselves

  • Study - Time set aside to learn and grow in the Word and the ways of God

These are really, at their most basic, ways of cultivating a value for the presence of God (see the series on the Desert Fathers and Mothers for a more detailed analysis of Christian discipline).  

Developing disciplines in your life makes room on a consistent basis for God to speak to you, and for you to respond to his presence. The only way to grow in his light is to experience his light. Salvation is merely the beginning of the journey. Christian formation is ongoing, it is experiencing the embrace of the Father and becoming more and more like the image of the uncreated One. And maybe, as we gaze at our Creator, we continue to become like the one at whom we are gazing.  

“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

 Continue Reading Part 15…