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Posts Tagged ‘heart’

I was reading Hebrews today, and this verse:

 

Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

 

made me think of something.

 

I’m not going to even start to say I know exactly what it means.  But what it made me think of was Manichaeanism.  I know that most of my readers are very intelligent scholars who know terms for ancient heresies.  And if they’re not they are the independent learners who stopped to Google the word before reading another sentence.  And if they’re not, they’re wondering why I bothered using a word that my audience doesn’t know, and hoping that I mean to tell them more about it.  I do mean to.  That ancient heresy was related to Gnosticism, but specifically it taught that salvation came by escaping the flesh.  Flesh – body – material things, they were bad.  And yeah, if you want to know about it, I find Wikipedia an exciting source of information about theology.  (I’m not kidding!)

 

The verse in Hebrews has to do with that in that it mentions our hearts sprinkled (by the blood of Christ, metaphorically) accomplishing spiritual purification: regeneration (Titus 3:5 anyone?) and forgiveness (1 John 1:9 – all these “clean” words).  But it doesn’t ONLY mention that spiritual thing; it mentions having our bodies washed.  And that’s weird.  The rest of the chapter and the one before it were talking about how under the Old Covenant things were sprinkled with mortal blood; that blood was a picture of Christ’s blood, and our things down here: temple, book, priest are pictures or shadows of the original things, the eternal things, the spiritual things.  (Things that are seen are temporal, but the unseen last – and last goes on and on because there is nothing coming after to displace it – I’ve been reading Pilgrim’s Progress, too.)  All of a sudden in verse 22 he says something not about sprinkling with blood, but about washing with pure water.

 

Now, I’ve been doing a ton of thinking about baptism lately, and studying it too, and discussing it even, so my brain sort of goes that way when anything like baptism is mentioned.  I’m not going to say that the author of Hebrews was talking about baptism.  I don’t know if he was.  And I’m not going to say that baptism, the kind where you’re washed with water, saves you.  (This is because I don’t really believe that, even though, um, some parts of the Bible kind of say that baptism has to do with salvation, like Mark 16 and Acts 2.)  But if we keep with the flesh and earthly things being shadows of the eternal, like Hebrews is teaching, then salvation isn’t escape from the body.  Rather, we use our bodies to picture eternal spiritual realities.  And we make it real in the flesh.

 

I liked this thought – and really for me it was only one quick thought because all the other things I added in for your sake had already been founded for me over the past few weeks – so I decided to share it.  And I know that it confused a bunch of you readers, so I’m sorry.  I can’t say that I totally get my thought anyway; it’s more like a door into lots of thoughts that, if you are ever in the same room with me, I’d be happy to discuss, especially if we are eating at the time.  I’m not a Manichaenist.  (How many syllables do you need in one name for a cult, anyway?)

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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In high school Awana (Journey 24-7), students are required to read through the Bible in four years.  For each book they read, they most also give a summary to a leader.  I’m a leader (strange – I feel like a teenager still, even though I’m almost twenty four – unbelievable!), and tonight I listened to a young man summarize Ephesians, one of my favorite books of the Bible.  I don’t know if I mentioned studying the book this year to where each chapter explodes with meaning now (the word of God is living and powerful – energes).  Anyway, as a leader I get to ask questions to see if the student has really read the book or just the provided summary.  My leaders loved this privilege, and I follow their example. 
 
“What does ‘breastplate of righteousness’ mean?” I ask. 
 
This is from Ephesians 6:14, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.” 
 
The most annoying thing about this passage of Scripture is commentaries.  I open a commentary and the most common observations are the purpose of the pieces of armor – as though we needed help to understand that a helmet protects the head and a shield is to defend ourselves.  I believe the focus of the text is on the virtues listed, and the study ought to be 1. How they protect us.  2.  How to implement them. 
 
Much has been said about the grace issue here.  I believe in grace.  Righteousness is not something of our own.  Nor can it possibly be referring only to Christ’s righteousness imputed on our behalf in this verse.  Righteousness describes a way of life.  How do we live that life?  The New Testament is filled with the message: grace, faith, abiding in Christ.  “For I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law then Christ is dead in vain.”  (Galatians 2:20-21)
 
How does righteousness serve as armor?  How does it protect our hearts? 
 
Earlier in Ephesians, Paul writes: “(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth)  Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:9-10)  What is righteousness?  Strong’s says it has to do with “integrity, virtue, purity, correctness of thinking and feeling and acting.”  The figure of a breastplate is often associated with sobriety.  Sober is, also according to Strong’s, “1) to be sober, to be calm and collected in spirit 2) to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect.”  Purity of thought and action, truth over passion are all consistent with righteousness.  And these are conditions of the heart, or things which may affect a heart.  Think of this: if a heart is unprotected by truth and integrity, why shouldn’t it demand that its passions rule?  Why should it check its passions and prevent some that are not pleasing to God, not pure?  How would it even know to do so? 
 
Ok.  So most of us know mentally about purity and right from wrong.  We even know the truth.  But our hearts forget.  Some teachers rightly advise wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God against heart temptations.  Paul suggests an additional strategy.  A life built on reality, a life meet for the God who created us and the way He created us, is the best way to condition and exercise our hearts to submit to the truth.  What does James say about sin?  James 1:14-16, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.  Do not err, my beloved brethren.”  The heart and the righteousness go together.  Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  This goes back and forth.  The heart must be kept to maintain our walk.  Our walk must be maintained to keep the heart.  And none of these are our work. 
 
This is my experience.  When I neglect my relationship with God (even if it is when I get caught up in “doing” things for Him), I slip up.  The temptation-induced lust in my heart births disobedience.  And then I don’t care in what category I put that sin, inevitably my heart is more vulnerable.  I experience more spiritual attack on my heart (desires, imaginations) and am more likely to get more and more distracted from my walk with God.  Once my focus, in fact, is on the things my heart wants and senses, my tone towards God gets accusatory, and for the silliest things I doubt His love.  This is because my heart thinks love equals worship and submission, but is not interested in loving anyone else, including God. 
 
Yet my experience with walking with God is so unaccountably opposite.  I believe these are spiritual realities.  But logic does not say how spending time in conversation with and dependence on a Being I cannot physically see or hear could so much affect my life. 
 
I have marveled so many times: “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Apparently one of my favorite pet hobbies is worse than unpopular.  It’s irrelevant to the world around me.  I love to study words.  Their roots and history, and how they got from start to present, are fascinating to me.  When I find the etymology of a word, I feel like that word is full of color and life and intense meaning that before was cloudy and uncertain.  When I write I want the best word not only to say exactly what I mean, but with the tone and connotations I intend.  Etymology helps me do that (I hope). 

In any case, being a linguist helped JRR Tolkien.  Jane Austen and Charles Dickens also employed word selection to aid their plots and descriptions.  The more I improve my vocabulary, the more I appreciate classic authors and their works.  I marvel at the subconscious effect their word choice had on me before I understood.  Their literature comes alive when I really know what their language indicates. 

But today, in an increasingly post-modern, non-absolutist, highly individual world, adhering to one definition for a word is less feasible than adhering to one faith in one truth about one reality.  And this makes debate completely useless.  This makes computerized discernment and classification impossible.  In other words, we can no longer test someone’s words to see what they believe.  Either they sound heretical, but were really just trying to use hip lingo and got sloppy, or they sound orthodox and mean something mystical.  In both cases knowledge of what the words inherently mean, and are supposed to still mean, is no help at all.  In fact, it’s confusing. 

So what we need instead of the computerized classification or test such as evangelicals gave to presidential candidates last century (asking them whether they were born-again; how long do you think it took for the candidates to catch on and learn to say the right thing?  They’re politicians!), is real discernment.  People who have studied truth need to test all things, but not with clichés.  They need to pray for God to guide them with His eyes.  They need to be Samuel, who so leaned on God’s insight, who yielded to God’s vision of man’s heart instead of human sight of the outward appearance. 

There is a spiritual gift, like teaching, like giving, like service, and like compassion.  Through the supernatural empowering of the Holy Spirit, those who have called on the name of the Lord and are therefore indwelt by the Holy Spirit and led by Him into all truth need to examine the words of men and discern spirits.  After studying the gift of discernment, I think there are several reasons Paul calls it “discerning of spirits.”  This analysis provides another reason: in a postmodern culture that defies definitions, discerning words is basically useless.  We need to discern (discover, classify, penetrate, understand, identify as true or false) where a speaker is coming from, and what they really mean. 

The other reasons I have considered are: 1.  Discernment is spiritual.  It has to do with the spirit-world, and can often involve identifying demonic activity or influence.  2.  Discernment of a spirit can be of a message, due to the Greek word (pneuma)’s double meaning of breath and spirit.  3.  Discernment might have to do with insight into the spiritual needs of an individual.  Beyond whether an individual is right or wrong, where are they weak and where are they strong?  What is the spiritual reality going on in their life, behind the service and the teaching or the sin and the doubt? 

I believe God gifts members of His body as needed to see all these things, and I believe there is an incredible need in the Church today for those who can identify the spiritual truth of a situation, message, or person.  These people, using their gifts, are an incredible contribution to the community and cooperation of believers.  They are indispensable in edification.  And in a world where there are many books, many teachers, and much mesmerizing media, the Church needs to seek God’s direction and discretion as they choose their courses of ministry and belief. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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