The Sacred Path

The One "Necessary" Thing 

You were created for God—to be known and loved by him and to know and love him in return.  Engaging in this relationship ought to be the chief business (and delight!) of our lives.  This is why, for example, Jesus tells us in Luke 10:42 that sitting at his feet, listening to his word, spending time in close relationship with him—this is the one "necessary" thing for the disciple, for the Christian.  Everything else is secondary.  But not this. 

God didn't save you to merely work for him.  He saved you to be with him. 

And today, we understand, we can cultivate this relationship and pursue this one "necessary" thing by reading our Bibles and praying.  And yet, if we're honest, many of us simply don't do it.  For some, it may be because we're just lazy or uninterested.  But for others, it could be that we genuinely want to but we get tripped up and don't know how to do it.  The Bible is a big book and it's not always easy reading.  And prayer, while exhilarating at times, is often awkward and even dull.  We need help. 

And that is why, at Mercy Hill, we've developed what we call the "Sacred Path."  It's a path composed of five steps—all of which are intended to meaningfully guide your times with Jesus and lead you deeper into abiding relationship with him.  What follows is simply a brief summary of each step for you to consider, but in the Quick Links at the bottom of this page you can find many more resources that will help you walk all this out more fully.

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Get Alone with God

The first step is to simply get alone with God.  In the gospels, Jesus would regularly pull back for times of solitude with his Father (cf. Luke 4:42; 5:15-16; Matt 14:23).   And it's something he calls us into as well (cf. Mark 6:31).  There is great practical benefit to this solitude.   For one thing, it allows us to engage God with minimal distraction—meaning: you can actually focus on the Lord, his words to you, his presence with you.   But secondly, it  also allows you to engage God with minimal reservation—meaning: you can cry and sing and pray and yell and interact with him truly from your heart without concern for any onlookers nearby (cf. Jesus in Heb. 5:7).

Questions for Reflection:

How do you feel about solitude—being alone and away from others? Do you love it? Do you avoid it? Are you afraid of it? Why might it be important to pursue regular times of solitude with God? What practical steps can you take this week in an effort to grow in this? Where might you go?  How can you build such a thing into your daily rhythms and schedule?


Be Still and Know Him

The next step is to get quiet before God. Silence before God is a return to our place in the universe (cf. Ps. 46:10; Eccles. 5:1-3). It is saying without words: “You are God, and I am not.”  Putting silence here near the beginning of this Sacred Path is an attempt to let settle in our hearts the idea that it is God—his agenda, his will, his word—who is ultimate in this whole exchange. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: “We are silent at the beginning of the day because God should have the first word . . .” He is, after all, God.

In this place of silence two essential things start to happen.  First, we begin to open ourselves up to God as he really is.  And second, we come to see a bit more of ourselves as we really are.  As you attempt to enter into silence it often exposes the incessant noise of your interior world—a noise that's always been humming, but you've rarely even noticed it . . . until now. As you lift your thoughts upwards to God, you will find them continually dragged back down to earth by your own subconscious. But do not be discouraged or distressed by this. It is actually an important part of the process. When your thoughts will not quiet, when they will not tire, when they continue to rev though you are attempting to hit the brakes, ask yourself: What is it that I am thinking about? What is it that my thoughts continue to orbit around? Why am I stuck on this? How am I truly doing? What am I really feeling?

As these attempts at silence expose our inner noise—our anxieties and idolatries—we quickly begin to roll all of these things over towards God. We cast our cares, yield our wills, and open our hearts (and ears!) . . . to him.  In the silence, you see, we position ourselves for real Christianity, for an authentic encounter with Jesus. Finally, we begin to sit somewhat unhurriedly, undistractedly, undividedly, attentively. Now at last we are ready, willing, and even desperately longing, to hear from him! 

Questions for Reflection:

How do you feel about silence? Do you love it? Do you avoid it? Are you afraid of it? Why might it be important to pursue regular times of silence before God?  What practical steps might you take this week to pursue more of this?


Let Him Have the First Word

Realistically, in your times with God, you may give only a few minutes to the things we’ve been discussing thus far. But however long you sit in the silence alone with him, the point is to ready yourself to hear from him in Scripture.  Scripture is God's self-revelation to man.  It's the disclosure of his heart and will to us.  That is why we must give such special attention to it!  But it can be hard to know where to start.  Here are a few suggestions to get you going . . .

Questions for Reflection:

Why would it be important to let God have the first word? Looking at your own life and devotions, would you say that you actually do this? Have you ever tried to read the whole Bible through and through? If not, why not? If so, how did it go? What was good about it? What was hard?  What would you do differently this time?  Get a Bible, get a plan, get a method, and get going!


Find Renewal in His Presence

To understand this word “sanctum” it might help you to think of the related word “sanctuary.”  It’s the idea of a sacred meeting place between man and God.  It’s a word that in the Latin was used with reference to the Most Holy Place in the Jewish temple where God was said to dwell in his glory.  The basic sense here then is this: in our reading of the Bible, we trust, by God’s grace, there will be times where we will become suddenly, even surprisingly, aware that we are no longer merely reading words on a page, but are, in fact, sitting in the very presence of God; that God, by his Spirit, is speaking to us through the ink and paper; that Jesus is in the room!

But what does it actually look like to read the Bible in such a way that you encounter Jesus there?  For this, let us introduce you to what we call the DNA Method of Bible study.  DNA here is an acronym that stands for Discover, Nurture, and Apply. Below you'll find questions to reflect on for each of these three steps.  We encourage you to select some section of Scripture, pull out your journal and a pen, and try it out!


Pour Out Your Heart In Prayer

So you’ve discovered something of the truth of God and the gospel, you’ve nurtured these things in your heart through repentance and faith, and you’ve worked out how you might apply the text to your life in reliance upon Jesus and his grace. Is there anything else? Well, yes! All of this leads naturally to the last step in this Sacred Path: what we've here called “Solace.” With this we are referring simply to prayer. This is where we might set aside special time to intentionally take refuge in God—talking to him, worshiping him, requesting from him, and so on. No doubt prayer has been happening through each of the steps prior, but here it becomes our primary focus.

Consider the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on this point:

Scripture meditation leads to prayer. . . . [T]he most promising method of prayer is to allow oneself to be guided by the word of the Scriptures, to pray on the basis of a word of Scripture. In this way we shall not become the victims of our own emptiness. Prayer means nothing else but the readiness and willingness to receive and appropriate the Word, and, what is more, to accept it in one’s personal situation, particular tasks, decisions, sins, and temptations. . . . According to a word of Scripture we pray for the clarification of our day, for preservation from sin, for growth in sanctification, for faithfulness and strength in our work. And we may be certain that our prayer will be heard, because it is a response to God’s Word and promise. Because God’s Word has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, all prayers that we pray conforming to this Word are certainly heard and answered in Jesus Christ.

Questions for Reflection:

Consider your prayer life (or lack thereof!). How often do you pray? What does it look like? What’s been good? What’s been hard? How might reading Scripture first really help guide any of your prayers that follow? What can you do to incorporate more prayer into your daily rhythms?

How Can We Help?

Cultivating a relationship with Jesus through Bible reading and prayer, while so important, can feel quite confusing.  Our leaders at Mercy Hill would love to help you grow in this! If you’d like someone to chat, pray, or engage resources with along the way please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

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