Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guard Your Heart, Day 4: Disciplines of the Mind, Part 3

Today I am finally finishing up the passage we have been looking at, in Proverbs. Proverbs 4:26-27 says: "Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil." These verses could simply be talking about keeping in mind the things of God and considering carefully where you are going in a broader, more general sense; but they could also be talking about planning where you will take your next step. Considering that the Proverbs tend to be both deeply spiritual and highly practical in nature, I am inclined to believe that both are the case here. With careful planning of where you are going and what you are desiring to do, and subsequently presenting and committing your plans to the Lord, you are much more focused on your goals and therefore less likely to fall into temptation and sin. This needs some explaining, so I will begin with an illustration from my own life.

Before we met, my husband and I made a lot of mistakes and poor decisions in our dating relationships with others. But God was gracious and forgiving, and as we repented of our pasts he forgave us and replaced our foolishness with wisdom. When we met we were both determined to be wise and to honor God in our relationship. For us this meant that we started our relationship with planning. We were very clear with each other that dating, was solely in order to discover if we were meant to get married and we agreed that if, at any point, either of us thought that we might be a good match for a God-honoring marriage, then we would break up. We wanted to be pure towards each other and before God. So as we were in the planning and discussion stage of our relationship we decided that we would in everything, and at all times, strive to have a relationship that would not keep us from being friends if we ever broke up.

This meant there were certain things that we did not do because they caused us to become too emotionally invested too early on. One of these things was holding hands, not that holding hands is bad, but for us, personally, this caused too close of an emotional connection. For me, personally, it meant that I strove very hard not to allow myself to think too specifically about a future with Brian. The whole time we were dating, until we became engaged, I never allowed myself to imagine our wedding or think about having a certain number of children with Brian. Let me stress that these things were personal applications of our desire and determination to be pure towards each other and not a prescription for how everyone can be pure in their relationships. I am merely using this as an illustration on how this passage can be applied in a practical manner so as to be pure in one area of life.

Additionally, I would like to stress that we must always be alert to grace. There are practical things we can do that will help us to remain pure, but we must never substitute these things in our minds for the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and the atoning work of Christ on the Cross*. In planning, we plan our time carefully in order to help us not to fall into sin, but this does not mean that if our plans fail, or do not work out properly that we have no means of remaining pure. True purity is found in Christ alone, and while there are practical applications of the state that we are in, that of being saved by grace through faith in Christ, nothing can fill in for the work that Christ has already done on our behalf. The Bible, practical planning, and self-discipline, are all means to help us in living out what we already have and already are in Christ.

*For those not as familiar with Christian terminology here are some definitions for you: 
1. To sanctify means to be set apart as holy. 2. Holy means to be dedicated or consecrated to God. 3. Consecrate means to be sacred; devoted to God for His purposes. 4. To atone means to make amends or reparation. Sanctification is generally considered an ongoing process that is accomplished by the Holy Spirit living within us. Atonment is the work that Christ did on the cross, and was completed when he rose from death to live forever. That our sin is atoned for does not mean that we are done with sin once we become a Christian. Christ died not only for the sins we committed before we were saved, but also for the sins we commit after we are saved. It is as though Christ gives us a clean page that only the good things we do are written on, and even our sinful motives in doing those good things are taken away in him.

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