Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Guarding Our Hearts

One of the things that concerns me about the future of the United States and the Church in the West is how entertainment driven and self-absorbed we are. This fact hit me square in the face at church camp. I was helping with a High School week of camp and I was driving a van full of campers to and from a service project that was planned at an area church.

I allowed the campers to listen to the radio, which might have been a mistake on my part, and as they listened to the music I heard more than one of the teen girls say how much she missed her iPod (after a whole 3 days without it). I just chuckled and thought about how all our technology had a very isolating capacity, which is really seen with personal music players and earphones.

It was on the ride back to camp that I was given a shock. A couple of miles from camp the song Rock Star by the band Nickelback came on. Having heard the song and knowing that it was inappropriate I turned off the radio and said that we were not going to listen to that song. The result was that this van full of fourteen “Christian” youths belted out the song anyway.

I was so surprised that they would continue to sing a song after I had said that I didn’t think it was appropriate to listen to. They had no shame or guilt about singing a song that talked about joining the mile high club and partying with easy girls and cheap drugs. These are High School students who, the majority, had supposedly given their lives to Jesus, but there sure didn’t seem to be any difference between them and the rest of the world.

This is so frightening to me. Of course it is easy to put the blame on these High School students, but let’s face it, that is not where the problem begins. The root of the problem is with an American Church that refuses to talk about the truth of holiness. We emphasis God’s forgiveness and compassion and gloss over His holiness and justice. The entire Gospel is not preached if we are not preaching ethical purity.

John Stott in his book What Christ Thinks of the Church wrote:
The second central truth which cannot at any price be sacrificed is an ethical one. It concerns holiness. The Christian faith is essentially concerned with the person and work of Christ on the one hand and the life of righteousness on the other. Christianity exalts Christ and promotes holiness. To deny Christ and to follow evil are to surrender the citadel of Christianity to the enemy and to haul down the standard of truth. The New Testament writers insist on the defense of these two bastions. They are as savage in their denunciation of immoral people as they are of those who forsake Christ and his gospel. (p. 55)
We, as the Church of Jesus Christ, need to get back to insisting on righteous behavior of people who claim to be followers of Christ. This all begins with what we are listening to, watching, and reading. What we put into our mind filters into our hearts and out of our hearts how we live. Remember what Jesus said about the connection of our hearts and our actions?
21 "For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil thoughts come, as well as sexual immorality, stealing, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, cheating, shameless lust, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. 23 All these things come from within and make a person unclean.” (Mark 7:21-23; ISV)
The way we live life is an indication of what we have put into our hearts. If we are allowing the wrong type of thoughts, philosophies, and dreams into our lives then they will show themselves through our actions. We can’t hope to partake in the offerings of this world and not be affected by them. There is no doubt that we must live by a different standard than the rest of the world lives by.

James wrote to people who had made compromises with the world. He called them “adulterers” and “enemies of God”. Then he goes on to tell them to change:
7 Therefore, submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. 8 Come close to God, and he will come close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable, mourn, and cry. Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:7-10; ISV)
While I believe it is true that God gives us new hearts at our baptism, I also believe that we have a responsibility in guarding our hearts. Here James urges these Christians to take actions to purify their hearts. How is it possible for us to purify our hearts? It is possible by changing what we think about and what we put into our minds, and thus allowing the Holy Spirit to work.

The Apostle Paul wrote:
4 Keep on rejoicing in the Lord at all times. I will say it again: Keep on rejoicing! 5 Let your forbearing spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near: 6 Never worry about anything, but in every situation let your petitions be made known to God in prayers and requests, with thanksgiving. 7 Then God's peace, which goes far beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is fair, whatever is pure, whatever is acceptable, whatever is commendable, if there is anything of excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—keep thinking about these things. 9 Likewise, keep practicing these things: what you have learned, received, heard, and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9; ISV)
See how Paul relates the guarding of our hearts to our rejoicing, our prayers, and our thoughts. Those are the actions which allow the Holy Spirit to bring peace and security to our hearts.

Followers of Jesus Christ are to be people who live righteous lives. Righteousness is the result of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts, but we are quench the Spirit’s work by putting the wrong thoughts, philosophies, and dreams into our minds. Let’s partner with the Spirit as He changes us from the inside out by thinking and meditating on what is noble, good, pure, and true. It is time we make God’s Word the source of our thoughts and dreams.

2 comments:

HeartnSoul said...

That was very good. Recently I've tried to get my kids' names off the "calling tree" as the recorded messages from the Jr/ Sr High group are telling the girls to wear their eyeliner and tight jeans and meet the group at such-and-such place. This is from the youth pastor!

In church the Sr. pastor states the church must be relevant to today's culture so the nonchurched will want to come and call the church "home"... sigh. I just started writing along the same thoughts as you on my HeartnSoul blog.

blessings

Paul said...

HeartnSoul,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It certainly is easy for us to be distracted by the things of this world and ignore what God has called us to do. It sounds like you have a youth pastor who is more interested in being the students buddy than being a leader. Relevant sure is a buzz word lately, I think we often forget that God's Word is relevant and if we would just dedicate ourselves to it then God will be able to use it to speak to the hearts of people.

~ Paul

Our Identity

{Philippians 1:1-2; NLT}   This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God's holy people i...