Faithful Living in a Faithless Generation-Jumonville, PA Feb 2014
Page 1 of 1
Faithful Living in a Faithless Generation
How to Maintain our Daily Spiritual Life
“… that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”PHI 2:15
The Biblical Mindset
The book of Philippians is above all else a book of the mind. That is to say, its theme is focused on having a spiritual mental attitude. The verse cited above finds its foundation in PHI 2:5, where Paul exhorts, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus …” The challenge is to face daily life with the mind of Christ. We all struggle with how this is to be done.
The Power of the Heart
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life …
The “heart,” in these passages, is referring to the mind in all its facets and functions. When God searches the souls of men, He looks at “the thoughts and intents of the heart” (HEB 4:12b). The reason this is so, is that every word and deed finds its origin in the thought-life of the individual. All of Scripture illustrates what we might call “the thought continuum,” or “the stream of life”:
It is clear from the above illustration that “out of the heart spring the issues of life” (PRO 4:23) which is why the same verse tells us to “Keep [guard] your heart with all diligence.”
The key factor, then, in maintaining our spiritual life on a daily basis, is to fight the battle of the mind. In the well-known passage from 2CO 10:3-6, Paul speaks of fighting a spiritual war using spiritual weapons—but the battlefield is the mind.
Some years ago, I was wrestling with finding a way to convey within the culture of people we work with in third-world countries how to maintain their daily spiritual life. Having observed in many places their daily round of activities, I came upon the idea of caring for the soul in the same ways we care for the body. Using traditional activities from many different cultures, led to five ways to care for the soul. Since that time, this has become the most popular—and best-remembered—class that I teach.
“Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify
and cleanse her with the washing of the water by the word.”EPH 5:25-26
In many places, such as Papua New Guinea, people will go to the river first thing in the morning, for a bath. In Zambia, water is drawn from a hand-dug well, and heated for a morning bath. In India, the custom is to fill a bucket and bathe from it. But all around the world, in the early morning, people are bathing.
How would it affect our spiritual life if we were as disciplined to the cleansing of our soul? If early in the morning we spent time in applying the “water of the word” to our spiritual needs? The necessity and methods for spiritual cleansing are clearly presented in the Bible:
Confession of sin is not designed to tell God something He doesn’t know. Neither is confession in prayer an end in itself. Rather, it is the beginning of victory over sin by defeating the deception of sin. We call it what it is, and having identified it for what it is, seek grace through God’s Spirit and Word to claim the victory over it. 1JO 1:9 should lead to 1JO 1:7!
Confession without correction is nothing but a gimmick. To simply mouth the words “I have sinned,” with no intention to overcome it by faith, means nothing. Divine discipline is very helpful toward this end (HEB 12:3-11). It is most painful to continue in sin for the child of God. Spiritual victory over any sin is assured when God’s Word is brought to bear by the power of God’s Spirit—by faith, and faith alone.
Under the Old Covenant, the priests were to wash daily at the laver of cleansing before they could enter the tabernacle for service (EXO 30:17-21). The point of cleansing, as declared in the citation from 2Co 6 above, is that we might have communion with God. While there are those who argue that we have been cleansed by the blood of Christ once for all (and with this we agree), and therefore do not need to be cleansed daily, I would answer: the priests were inaugurated into their service with a ritual bath, after which they washed daily. Isn’t this the truth Jesus was teaching Peter and the disciples in the Upper Room (JOH 13:6-10)? Just because you had the bath doesn’t mean you don’t need foot washing!
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”MAT 4:4
Usually after bathing in the morning, a small amount will be eaten. People in poor countries are amazed at how much Americans eat. Their breakfast may be a banana or some piece of fruit. Where fruit is not available, it will most likely be whatever is left over from the previous day. It doesn’t have to be a lot, usually a handful will do.
In the same way, we should begin the day by feeding on God’s Word. Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life” (JOH 6:35), and “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him.” The focus here is not salvation, but fellowship. Later Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed”JOH 8:31.
The daily practice of beginning with God’s Word—though only a small portion—can have tremendous effect in our lives if it is sustained as a discipline. As we feed on the Word, our minds are renewed and our spirit is strengthened in faith for whatever the day may bring. It is also quite interesting to reflect through the day on the morning’s reading, and consider how relevant it is in relation to the day’s events.
“If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”1JO 1:7
After a bath and a bit of food, village people are often off to their gardens or fields to care for the crops. Many of the poor people of this world only eat if they are able to grow their food. So off they go in twos and threes to the work of the day.
Many times, these fields or gardens are miles distant, so the morning walk is a time for talk as well. Often, as I observe villagers going off to work, I see a picture of Jesus and the disciples on the road to Emmaus (LUK 24:13-27). As they were walking, He drew near, and listened to and entered into their discussion.
Walking is one of the most common biblical figures for living by faith. “Enoch walked with God” (GEN 5:24). This is the first picture of a life of fellowship. “Walking in the light” is a picture of a life of obedience (JOH 8:12). The habit of washing with the Word, and feeding on the Word, leads to living in the Word. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to “guide [us] into all the truth” (JOH 16:13). As anticipated by the prophet Isaiah, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’” (ISA 30:21). When we walk “in the light”—that is obedience to God’s Word—we have fellowship with Him who is the Light—Jesus Christ. The Bible knows of no fellowship outside these parameters.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”EPH 2:10
Following the walk to the field, comes the work. Again, there is a great difference between the work of poor villagers and that of their counterparts in America and the Western world. While the villagers work leisurely, they continue to talk, joke, and laugh. There is not the hyper-active, stressed-out, frantic need to outperform what was done yesterday in their work. We could learn much from them to apply in our culture of the bee-hive mentality!
Jesus illustrated in parables that each one of us is given a personal work (MAR 13:34), and this work is according to our ability (MAT 25:15). Paul tells us that we have each been spiritually gifted for a ministry that will glorify God (1CO 12:4-7). Since we are commanded to “redeem the time, because the days are evil” (EPH 5:16), it would stand to reason that each and every day provides opportunity to do that work.
If we enter into each day cleansed, nourished, and having conscious fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, it will be easy to see and do the work He has for us to do. And that work will not be of the “stress and strain” variety, for He has said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (MAT 11:29-30). It is only when we carry burdens that are not of His giving that the Christian life becomes too difficult!
“For he who has entered His rest has himself ceased from his works as God did from His.”HEB 4:10
The end of the day is always a pleasant time in village life. As the light grows dim, fires are lit, food is prepared, the children play in the village square, and peace settles on the community. Little-by-little, the sound of talking, playing, and laughter begins to fade into a soft murmur, then ceases altogether. We are told in ECC 5:12:
“The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much;
but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.”
We, in America, have lost the art of rest. Having no peace in our souls, we give no rest to our bodies. The majority of diseases that plague our society are “stress-related,” brought on by our frantic and anxious lifestyle. This is as true of the average Christian as it is of the Christ-less souls around us!
The fourth chapter of Hebrews presents principles of the life of faith. One of the great evidences of that life is inner rest of the soul. He tells us that rest is entered by faith in God’s Word (HEB 4:3), that disobedience and unbelief rob us of that rest (HEB 4:5-7), that we can only enjoy His rest as we cease from our own works (HEB 4:9-10), and that it is worth laboring diligently to enter into that rest (HEB 4:11).
What we have seen in the five daily disciplines of the care of the soul is the “labor” that leads to that rest. Unless we are diligent and disciplined to implement simple, biblical practices into our daily lives, we will not know rest in our souls. Furthermore, our “work” must come from faith and not from self-effort.
The “faith-rest” lifestyle is the result of consistent attentiveness to our spiritual condition. In simple terms, we do for our soul what we unconsciously do every day for our body. We wash, eat, walk, work, and rest—all by faith.
The amazing thing is to see how these five disciplines relate to the “stream of life” or the “thought continuum” we saw earlier. Consider how they match up:
1. Wash—attitude (only daily cleansing can bring us to the mind of Christ)
2. Eat—priorities (feeding on God’s Word helps us see what is precious)
3. Walk—decisions (fellowship is a partnership in choosing right paths)
4. Work—actions (we can only work out what God is working in)
5. Rest—results (inner peace is one of God’s greatest blessings)
It is my prayer that each of us will learn to live in the presence and power of the living Christ. Anything less is not what the Bible calls life.