The Hidden Person of the Heart Part 5

I wrote that I believe strongly that our beliefs empower our behaviour. It is because our beliefs, heart beliefs, determine our actions that the scriptures say so much about our thinking. It is thus important that we embrace what Paul taught in the following scriptures.

5  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:5 (NKJV)

1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

These two powerful passages are significant in our spiritual walk. What about that little word “let.” It highlights both choice and responsibility. Our mind is not renewed by some mysterious force acting upon us. It is renewed by embracing Jesus life and actively engaging with Him through His word and presence. So how do we do that?

A friend of mine often says things like, “We need to hear what the Spirit is saying.” Or “It needs to be mediated by the Spirit.” What I then see him do is inwardly pay attention to tune into what the Spirit is saying. In fact he is frequently in this state of inward attention. He is actively turning theory into practice. Knowingly or not he is demonstrating the truths revealed in the passages below. The hidden person of the heart functions by learning to be quiet, to become internally calm and hear His voice on an ongoing basis.

Have you ever thought of connecting the two passages below?

10  Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10 (NKJV) 11  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:11-12 (NKJV)

This is part of ‘letting’ Jesus mind be in us guiding our behaviour. The other part is being grounded in His word. For our beliefs to align with scripture we need to know and adhere to what the scriptures teach, in particular the New Testament, as it defines how we are to live as Christians. At the same time what we learn above from 1 Corinthians 2 is that the Holy Spirit can reveal to us the mind of Christ as we learn to depend on Him and weigh what we hear against His word. After all, Paul who told us that we are to let Jesus mind be in us summed up this section of 1 Corinthians 2 by saying that the spiritually mature have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). I believe that as Christians we all have access to His mind, the mature have cultivated a lifestyle of hearing Jesus heart and mind.

Where are we at?

The Hidden Person of the Heart Part 4

Do you know anyone who never struggles or has never struggled with sin since their conversion? It is a rhetorical question. However, that being said, how do we walk in victory in this ongoing battle?

I think a large part of the answer to that question lies in where we put our focus. If I focus on sin and failure I cause it to grow in my life. If I focus on walking with Jesus His presence grows in my life (2 Cor. 3:18). To be clear I am not suggesting there is no need for repentance when we sin, we need to be sensitive to conviction from and by the Holy Spirit and address issues. However, we will never overcome sin by giving most of our time and attention to it. Imagine being locked in a hold in Greco-Roman Wrestling. Even if you pin your opponent to the mat and hold him there you are still in contact with him and focused on him. That is not how we walk in spiritual victory.

We walk in spiritual victory by focusing on Jesus and addressing any issues the Holy Spirit highlights as they come up through ongoing and immediate repentance. In theory this is simply profound and profoundly simple yet we are often drawn away to the wrong focus. Why is that? I think we need to recognize what Romans teaches us, even though we are no longer in the ‘flesh’ once we are born again, there is still ‘flesh’ in us. What dominates is really a matter of what we feed and nurture. To understand how to nurture and feed our spirits we need to understand something about ‘flesh.’

In Romans 7 and 8 and other places the Greek word sarx is translated as flesh, carnal or carnally. Some translations refer to our ‘flesh’ in Romans 7 and 8 as our ‘sinful nature.’ However I think this translation is one reason for so many in the church failing so often in dealing with temptation. I believe strongly that our beliefs empower our behaviour. If we believe our very nature is sinful we will expect to fail. Yet we do not have two natures, we have a new nature at conversion (2 Cor. 5:17-21). There is still something in us that has a propensity toward sin but it is not our nature or identity.

18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. Rom. 7:18 (NKJV)

However, Paul, like us, had Christ within him and so he taught the value of a right focus.

6  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Romans 8:6 (NKJV)

The word ‘carnally’ above is again the Greek sarx. Paul’s says if we focus our minds on our flesh we produce death, if we focus on the things of Christ we experience life and peace. A clear choice with clear consequences.

Paul in his letters often focused on our identity as being ‘in Christ’ or similar phrases. He focused on our new identity and new nature and thus empowered his readers and hearers to walk in victory. When in faith they applied his teaching they could be victorious and thus their expectation and experience would be walking in intimacy with Jesus and victory over sin.

Paul was perhaps at his most pointed in his shortest letter

4  I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5  hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6  that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. Philemon 1:4-6 (NKJV) – emphasis mine. See also Eph. 4:20-24, Col. 3:1-2, 2 Cor. 5:17

Again, Paul’s point is that we walk in victory by focusing on who and what Jesus is in us. Focusing on sin and failure only leads to more of the same. So let us lock in our focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2).

The Hidden Person of the Heart Part 3

In continuing to look at the hidden person of the heart let me share an obvious aspect of our culture. In our culture there is a strong propensity to shift responsibility anywhere except to ourselves. This is not just true in the dominant culture, it has deeply infected the church. However, Jesus tells us to look to our hearts. He has a different standard, one that calls us both higher and deeper at the same time. If we embrace pursuing His kingdom first (Matt. 6:33) then we will walk deeply in truth, integrity and responsibility. We will be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-14) and be a preserving and illuminating influence in our culture. We all know people like this and perhaps we are those people already.

If we are not like this I pray we would develop the attitude of Daniel.

8  But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Daniel 1:8 (NKJV)

Other translations say Daniel “made up his mind’ or something similar but I believe that misses the heart of the verse. The primary meaning of the Hebrew word translated as ‘purposed’ means to ‘put’ or ‘set.’ Daniel set as a seal upon his heart an overriding principle that guided his decisions and thus his behaviour. There is the expression, ‘A man makes the decision and the decision makes the man.’ This speaks to the reality of what Daniel did.

Daniel was one of the greatest examples in scriptural history of being salt and light. What made him salt and light was how he stewarded internal realities. He made heart decisions that produced the amazing influence he had. If we had been able to gaze into Daniel’s internal reality we would have seen his character rooted in the character of Yahweh. As it was his internal reality was externally visible for time and eternity. As Francis Frangipane has put it.

“It is not hard to recognize one who has spent extended time at a newsstand: his conversation overflows with the drama of current affairs. And it is not hard to discern a person who has come from a sporting event, as their face reveals the outcome of the game. Likewise, people can tell when an individual has spent extended time seeking God. An imperturbable calm guards their heart, and their countenance is radiant with light, as with the morning dew of Heaven.”

What are we reflecting to others?

The Hidden Person of the Heart Part 2

Have you ever considered what your heart is? Obviously I am not talking about the physical organ. However, our physical heart is reflective of spiritual realities. We can live without some organs; one kidney, no gall bladder, an amputated limb or other things, we can’t live without our heart. It is meant to be reflective of spiritual reality and just as Eden was, is a garden that needs to be cultivated. Consider some things the scriptures say about our heart.

Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Prov. 4:23 (NKJV) Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Matt. 5:8 (NKJV) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt. 6:21 (NKJV) Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. Matt. 12:34-35 (NKJV)

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12  Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13  But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14  Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15  But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. Lk. 8:11-15 (NKJV)

There is a lot in the verses above. The first injunction from Proverbs is to keep or guard our hearts. Secondly Jesus tells us that seeing Him is connected to purity of heart. Next Jesus tells us that what comes out of our mouth is reflective of what we have cultivated in our hearts. Lastly, we find in the parable of the sower that what we produce comes from our hearts and is dependent on the condition of the soil (our heart) that receives the word. The conclusion being that if we are not producing the crop that we desire in our lives we may need to check the condition of our soil (heart).

Have we allowed the soil to become hard through lack of use? Have we allowed weeds like anger, bitterness, apathy or lust to take root and grow? (For a fuller list of some weeds see Romans 1:28-31, Galatians 5:19-21 and Colossians 3:5-9). Have we sufficiently watered the soil with worship so that it is prepared to receive new seed from His word? Have we exposed the soil to the light of His presence?

If we have watered and prepared the soil of our hearts the main issue is the removal of weeds. In my own experience I am effective in weed removal when I practice keeping my heart attuned to His presence and purpose during the day. Many things seek to draw my heart away and many still do, yet when I consciously choose to set my heart upon Jesus weeds are removed and the light of His presence breaks afresh upon my heart.

Happy sowing and weeding.