Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Resisting the Corruption of the Soul

The Great Wall of China is one of the great feats of engineering of the ancient world. Built of bricks and stones, it is a massive man made structure that can be seen from space. Beginning in the 7th century BC, this 13,171 miles long fortification stretching from the northern eastern borders of China to the west was built to keep out the northern nomadic tribes. These tribes were making incursions into the Middle Kingdom. It was so effective that legends claimed that the walls were never breeched. The northern tribes were only able to gained access when corrupt officers or traitors opened the doors of the wall from within.

Edinburgh castle is a mountain fortress which dated from around the 12th century AD. It is an imposing structure built on a cliff and is accessible by a series of winding corridors protected by defensive gatehouses. Again, legend has it that the walls of Edinburgh castle were never breeched. The castle fell by treachery from within when treacherous persons opened the doors or when the besieged surrendered.

In spite of what many people think, the greatest challenge to our spiritual life comes not from outside. Perhaps exterior circumstances may be non-conducive to our growth into Christ-likeness. We may live in a truly pagan/non-Christian environment with little morality or are actively hostile towards Christianity. We may be under persecution for our faith. Even our family: father, mother, brothers and sister may be turning on us because we seek to be obedience to the teachings of Christ. Perhaps we are unevenly yoked to non-believing spouses who limit our opportunities for Christian fellowship. Yet, these challenges may not break us.  They may instead make us more resolved in our efforts to resist, stand our grounds, overcome them, and keep the faith.

The greatest challenge to our spiritual life often comes from within. In resisting external influences we may become successful. Unfortunately spiritual success as in other types of success carries with them the seed of their own destruction. Spiritual successes may lead to spiritual pride. Spiritual pride may lead to self sufficiency and self-righteousness. Spiritual successes may also lead to complacency or what the desert fathers call acedia. We became too confident and relax our defenses, thus allowing our enemy to gain a foothold. Both turn our attention from God, who is the true author of our successes, to ourselves. As the church in ancient Ephesus discovered; distraction from their first love (God) is a form of idolatry.

How then do we hold onto our center and maintain our vigilance against spiritual corruption? The answer lies in guarding our minds and our hearts. Paul writing to the church in Rome commends, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2a). The apostle knows that true transformation can only happen and be maintained by the renewing of the mind. It is an ‘action’ type of statement implying that renewing our mind is a continuing process, not a once off event.

The writer of Proverbs knows of the importance of the heart in the character of a person. In the times of the ancient Israelite, the heart is regarded as the seat of the soul, the point where emotions originate, and who the person is. The heart does not refer to the muscular organ that pumps blood around the body. We are warned: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

The biblical teachings is that we are to continually renew our minds and guard our hearts if we are to resist corruption from within that will allow the enemy to take a foothold in our spiritual life. We are told that the enemy is always looking for the weak points in our armors. Peter who knows from personal experience, advises, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

The key to continually renewing our minds and guarding our hearts is intentional discipleship. Discipleship involves living a life as if Jesus Christ is with us all the time (described as life with Christ) and following and obeying all his teachings. It is intentional because we have to make the effort to become a disciple. We do not automatically become a disciple just because we believe Jesus died for us on the cross. A person can become a Christian without becoming a disciple. However that person will be missing out on the greatest treasure of discipleship – that of growing into Christ-likeness. 

Living a life of intentional discipleship is living a disciplined life. That means we have to intentionally make time to pray, worship, studying the word of God, becoming aware of the presence of God, making the right choices, keeping our thoughts and behavior pure, and allowing the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in us (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) in our busy lives. Intentional discipleship is not works-righteousness. We are not doing this to earn merits from God. Intentional discipleship is creating spiritual habits that will transforms us into the likeness of His son.

Our minds and hearts are the gateways into our innermost being. It is through here that corruption is seeded to destroy us from within. Even as Christian, our old self/old man/old nature still remains as remnants. These remnants are easily stirred to life if we allow it. Intentional discipleship prevents that as intentional discipleship is all about removing the old self and putting on the new.

Soli Deo Gloria


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