Section Two: The Personal Characteristics of a Godly Life.
Our current theme: Characteristic Three: Being Extremely Valued.
Our reading for today: Matthew 12: 35-37 (MsgB)
If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree. You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.
Let’s be honest, friends. Jesus doesn’t mince His words.
While the Master is, indeed, the compassionate shepherd who loves all of us beyond description, He’s not here to sympathize with me when it comes to the undisciplined way I allow bad fruit to grow in my life’s orchard! As we say around our church in Cedar Rapids, Jesus has come to love “the hell” out of us and it’s comments like what we find here in Matthew’s gospel that prove that point well.
My mind, you see, is a marvelous tool. An amazing processor of information that has yet to be duplicated or matched by the biggest and best computers built by mankind. Yet this well-oiled thinking tank that dwells deep within the grey matter of my skull abides by the same golden rule that controls all computers, large and small, in our high-tech society…
Garbage in. Garbage out.
So while I may have the IQ of an Einstein, my childish, un-tempered, undisciplined thinking will trip me up every time. And Jesus is spot-on correct when He states that the outflow of my thinker…my words, my actions, and my daily existence, will bear a striking likeness to the thoughts I’m pondering on the inside.
Thus, it behooves us, as followers of Christ, to make it a daily priority to sort through the good, the bad, and the ugly that has accumulated in our thought-life. Back in blog session 13.2 we presented to you the ancient spiritual discipline called the Examen (pronounced x-zA-min). I hope and pray that you’re learning to practice this helpful tool on a regular basis. Because, like Jesus states here, an honest evaluation of the words and deeds you and I produce on a daily basis can become a tried-and-true measuring stick on how well (or how poorly) the transformation of our minds is progressing. Get it?
In other words, as I sit down with the Examen, inviting the indwelling presence of God to join with me at the end of my day, I can honestly test the fruit of each day, which in turn, leads me to where my mind has been over the last 24 hours.
With the Examen, I should ask myself questions such as:
What were the major feelings, emotions, desires, attractions, repulsions, and moods in my life today?
Examples can include: joy, peace, sadness, anxiety, confusion, hope, compassion, regret, anger, confidence, jealousy, self-doubt, boredom, or excitement. Next up, ponder this question:
Which feelings and emotions were the strongest, and most dominant?
Then, with the help of God’s presence, you might ask the Holy Spirit:
Help me understand what aroused those feelings and where did those feelings lead me today?
Giving the Spirit time, pondering a bit on this, should then lead you to the following questions:
Did they draw me closer to God? Did they help me grow in faith, hope and love? Did they bring me life, wholeness or a sense of worth for both others and myself? Or, did these feelings and emotions lead me away from God, making me less faithful, hopeful or loving? Did they cause me to become more self-centered, controlling or anxious? Did they lure me into doubt and confusion? Did they lead to a day with less life and wholeness in it, destroying a sense of worth for both others and myself?
You see, in all honesty, there will be days when my Examen will confirm for me that Jesus was right when He said…
You have minds like a snake pit!
But here’s the good news. Tomorrow, I can get out of bed, invite Jesus, once again, to join with me in my day, inviting Him to help me choose better thoughts and feelings than I did the day before. In other words, as I clean up my snake pit, I’m confessing my sinful thinking, inviting the Holy Spirit to transform that pit of vipers into a sanctuary where God and His thoughts rule supreme. The first option is where I’m in control. The second is when I’m allowing Jesus to guide my thinking, making my thoughts conform more to the mind of Christ. And slowly, over time, God’s Word promises that I will find myself living out a better, more fruit-filled life than yesterday.
So, personalizing what Paul states in Romans 12: 2, today I choose to…
Not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Then I will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.
To that, I say a hearty amen.
My prayer: Jesus, I take Your hard words and receive them in a sober way. Indeed, there are days when my mind allows itself to wallow in a snake pit. And that’s wrong. Simply wrong. Holy Spirit, give me a better awareness of where and when my thoughts are going down the wrong path, and the strength I need to turn around and go the other way. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So what patterns in my thinking am I starting to find as I use the Examen on a regular basis? Am I falling into the same snake pit day after day? And what action steps can give me the freedoms I need to turn away from that pattern of thought and follow the mind of Christ instead?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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