Early in our marriage, my husband and I stumbled onto a means of cutting to the chase in determining the state of our union. Protracted silences, a perceived “mood,” a brusque response, or an air of impatience always triggers THE QUESTION: “Are we o.k.?” Of course, the success of this little drill presupposes a level of honesty, transparency, and a willingness to change on both sides, but it has been a path toward maintaining our marital peace for nearly twenty-five years.
In Chapter 13 of John Owen’s Mortification of Sin, he warns against a false peace in our relationship with God. “Take heed thou speakest not peace to thyself before God speaks it, but hearken what He says to thy soul.” The impression I gained from this rather lengthy chapter was that our Christian life must be viewed as a relationship rather than as a transaction. There is a tendency to base the entire foundation of one’s faith on a prayer that was prayed at the age of six, and, therefore, “I’m safe! I can do as I please and know that I’m forgiven.” This reduces the blood of Christ to a token that is slid into a vending machine for the prize of forgiveness.
The kind of thoughtful, discerning attentiveness to the Master’s voice which John Owen describes in Chapter 13 comes only through relationship. “Faith knows the voice of Christ” in the same way the sheep know the shepherd’s voice. If the relationship is otherwise sound and being maintained through regular communion in the Word of God and a right understanding of it, a vibrant prayer life, and a ready obedience, then the least grain of sand in the works of that relationship will bring the gears to a grinding halt, prompting the question: “Are we ok?”
When forgiveness of sins is transactional instead of relational, it is possible for the wound of sin to be healed lightly. However, if the heart of the believer is committed to “acquaintance and communion with Him, you will easily discern between his voice and the voice of a stranger.” If prayer is a formula in which forgiveness of sin is listed along with a variety of other requests, then the voice of the stranger may be our own feelings, speaking peace to us because of a callous conscience. (What would you do to a friend who lied to you as often as your feelings have?) But if prayer is a time in which the heart is present to God in submission to the searchlight of His Spirit and the washing of His Word, the conviction of peace can be trusted.
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