Question: Hi Bob, Have been reading your site more. It's not for speed readers, that's for sure, but must be studied and savored. It's awesome! Today, re-reading your comments about Sundays and focusing on the Lord, I was so struck with these words...
"But I would not downplay the wonderful benefits of trying to capture every step, every moment for Him...To some extent, at least, I have found this in my own life and have seen it at work in the lives of others..."
That is what I want! It is what I am fasting and praying for currently. I know it is possible to live a life in the Presence of our wonderful Lord, walking with Him, really letting Him live this life through us. I know the joy of that, the supernatural love of that Walk. But how briefly and fleetingly and uncommonly, so far, I have experienced it. Really any other kind of life is a life of putting idols before Him. And it is interesting how when I find myself in His Presence, I actually enjoy the things of the world - which I have put before Him so often, so sadly often - more. But not in the tainted way - with greed and self interest, if you know what I mean.
Thanks for any advice or tips or pointers on how you and or others came to walk more consistently with our Wonderful Savior. In Christ,
Response : On the "step-by-step" walk with Jesus, this is an area that I have always been very much interested in and continue to pursue (in research and, as much as I can, in practice). I can sympathize with what you say about the difficulty of really doing this (and of doing it in the right way and consistently). As our Lord told us, the spirit is willing to do it (and the Spirit is willing to guide and help us do it), but we are weak in our flesh. That is not to say that we cannot make continual progress in this quest (in fact we are commanded to do so).
On the positive side of things, we see many examples in the Old Testament of how we are supposed to approach this. The Psalms in particular are filled with the mind-set of total occupation with the Lord, His goodness and might, right from the beginning: Psalm 1 tells us that the man is blessed who meditates in the law (literally "teaching") of the Lord day and night and finds his delight in that law/teaching. The number of passages which deal with this subject directly in the Bible are numerous indeed, and the number of passages which deal with it indirectly are myriad. All of them inevitably contain, directly or indirectly, references to how we conduct ourselves in the inner person. That is to say, the critical factor in this unique focus upon God and Christ which we all seek always involves the way in which we control how we think and how we feel.
One could do worse than to memorize and concentrate upon Colossians 3:1-17. Here Paul tells us to "seek" the things above, and to "think about" the things above - not the things on this earth. Later he goes on to show us how to do this, putting to death the sinful nature (i.e., turning our will completely away from sin), and striving to let Christ's peace rule in our hearts (i.e., turning our will completely towards God). But the fundamental point here in learning this technique is that it involves the individual believer and the choices he or she makes regarding what is felt and what is thought all the time.
Inevitably, we are responsible for what goes on in our head and in our heart (indistinguishable really in divine terms, for our inner person is an inseparable combination of the physical and the spiritual). We are responsible whether the content of our thinking and our emotions is good, bad, or neutral. We are responsible if we allow our thoughts to fall into sin (anger, jealously, lust, fear, etc.), or whether we allow day-dreaming or pointless vanity to take over in a vacuum. The bottom line is that "setting our hearts to seek" the things above and then actually "thinking the things above" are not automatic and they are often not easy. This takes effort and it takes persistence. This takes a total renovation of our values and our application of how we think.
Equally important, I would say, is that we have to have the spiritual underpinning to do this in the first place. What I mean to say is that a brand new believer will find this harder than someone who has spent years learning and believing the Bible, because he or she has less "ammunition". I do believe that the Spirit is ready and willing to compensate for deficiencies (whether functional or culpable), but it is certainly true that principles of truth in the heart learned and believed are a sort of fulcrum that the Spirit may use for leverage. Although the Spirit definitely helps our spirit (cf. Rom.8:16; 1Cor.2:12-16), we are still the ones who have to answer the Spirit's call and focus our minds and hearts on these principles of truth we have learned.
Memorizing scriptures which we find particularly encouraging can be helpful, but 1) when we recall them, we have to focus on the meaning rather than the words (i.e., it is not rote repetition, but the power behind the words that is beneficial in growing closer to the Lord in our inner life), and 2) we must focus upon the principles these scriptures embody - these are really the "above things". We must never let a rote repetition of the words get in the way of the truth scripture represents (i.e., they mustn't become merely some kind of a "catechism" for us).
The same is equally (or perhaps doubly) true of music. Music is a very effective means of galvanizing our emotions, but it often does so independently of (or at least disproportionately more influentially than) the meaning of the lyrics - the only part of the song having any potential for true biblical content. Given that very little Christian music is taken straight from the scripture without emendation, I am more than a little worried about relying on it to any great degree. Whenever I hear a "Christian lyric", there always seems to be at least some parts of what is said that is not really scriptural, so that one is often relying emotionally on incorrect interpretations of the scripture rather than scripture itself (and that has much potential for steering us in the wrong direction altogether).
This is also my main problem with "tongues" as it is currently practiced in the main - it may be a powerful emotional crutch, but any truth that flows must come the same way it must come without the tongue (i.e., the person has learned and believed scriptural truth, and is now applying it).
In short, it is not enough to have made a one time commitment to our Lord - one must continue to follow Him in pursuit of and in application of His Word. And it is not enough to have learned Bible truth - one has also to truly believe it and make it a part of one's heart. And it is even not enough to have believed it - one then has to take the jump of applying it to one's life in general, and then - our subject here - in particular in one's day-to-day walk and moment-to-moment Sabbath fellowship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Life is busy, life is distracting, life is filled with tests, with trials, with temptations (in which we all stumble from time to time). And just as the hard times can test our resolve, so the good times can prove so distracting that we may find ourselves "enjoying our lives" more than deliberately and consciously setting our joy in the life to come. Clearly, none of us is going to attain perfection in this - what a high standard it is to which we have been called! But we can all make improvements and we can all aspire to growing closer day by day to this standard of a perfect walk with Jesus Christ.
I mentioned above that this inevitably comes around to our taking charge of what we think and how we think, and what we feel and how we feel. The more we know about our Master and the closer we have come to Him through His Word, the easier (potentially) this process will be. But it still requires commitment and persistence. Not only that, virtually every page of the New Testament deals with this issue in one way or another, because what are the virtues of the Bible, faith and hope and love first and foremost, if not righteous patterns of thinking and feeling to which we are called in Jesus Christ? And of course, proper thinking and feeling inevitable gives way to saying and doing what is good and right as well until the entire life blends into one unsullied walk for Jesus Christ. I do think that what goes on in our hearts is a very under-appreciated and under-discussed topic of the utmost importance in the Christian life for exactly this reason:
"As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is."
Proverbs 23:7 KJV
But in spite of the challenge, we have been given everything we need for this enviable pursuit:
1) we have control over our own minds and hearts, free will and the ability to choose what we think and feel;
2) we have the ministry of the indwelling Spirit who is with us "to will and to do" (Phil.2:13; cf. Gal.5:17-18), to empower every good decision we make in this regard (2Tim.1:7);
3) we have the Word of truth, and opportunities to learn its truths individually and through the teaching of others;
4) and finally we have daily opportunities to enter into the peace Jesus left to us, to let our hearts be governed by that peace, to give our thinking and our emotions over to the One who died for us, to make it a priority to be ever walking in growing Christian virtue, faith, hope and love, all of which begin with who we are in the inner person (and I haven't even broached the subject of prayer, where our right-thinking flows naturally and effortlessly into an unending conversation with our Lord).
Here a few passages to consider: Rom.8:1-17; Rom.12:1-3; 1Cor.2:12-16; 1Cor.13:11-13; 2Cor.10:5; Eph.4:23; Phil.2:1-11; Phil.3:12-16; Phil.4:8; Eph.2:1-3; Eph.4:17-20; Eph.5:15-20.
While most of this is scheduled to be covered in part 6B of the Basics series ("Peripateology: the Christian Walk), I do have some things "in print" on this subject now:
An Introduction to "Virtue Thinking"
Techniques of "Virtue Thinking"
Imitating Christ: Peter #17
Pursuing a Deeper Relationship with Jesus
The Christian Walk
Walking the Path of Faith
I know that this is rudimentary - one could fill a book with these wonderful things - but I hope the above is helpful in some way.
In Him who is all our joy, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,