This post is not about taking the law into our own hands but at the heart of the dynamic of a vigilante is a sense that something has to change and someone should do something about it. Their frustration with the ruling authority’s inability or reluctance to act drives them to action. These thoughts are all contained within the 23rd verse of Proverbs 4 –
“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts!” The Message
The ruling authority, God, is informing us that He is not going to do what only we can do – it’s ‘our heart!’
The short three-word sentence; keep vigilant watch, translates this way –
keep with more vigilance than you would use for anything else. Barnes commentary.
The NIV puts it this way – “above all else!”
The number one priority and discipline is to guard our heart as if it were the most valuable resource, commodity or treasure. The language of this verse seems over the top but actually, it is the language of a very concerned Father, who is seeking to help a beloved child, as they take their place in this world. Chapter four starts with this counsel – listen and pay attention to a father’s instruction. God as our Father, is trying to get us in the loop and see what’s vital and important, as we start out into adulthood – Guard your heart.
The last part of the verse – for that’s where life starts, carries the idea of the fountainhead or spring, i.e. the starting point of a river. Just as the spring of a river has its starting point deep within the ground, so too does the ‘downstream of our lives!’ The state and condition of the river are directly affected by the state and condition of the source, that is the spring. Making sure the spring was fenced off and protected from debris and dead animals would result in the downstream river quality being at its best. So, it is with the heart!
I have learnt, the hard way, that I cannot change me or my circumstances without first making the effort to go to the source and see if I have allowed anything in into my heart, that is directly affecting what it is I am seeking to change. This is vitally important because if I take new actions but still hold the same heart attitude, eventually my heart will win and my actions will wane and I will be discouraged.
Life, literally in the Hebrew, means boundaries and they are set within our heart and so, real transformations have to begin in the heart!
The context of verse 23 is from verse 20 to 25 and contains hints and warnings about how debris and death will try to get into the heart, so as to affect the downstream –
- Ears – Pay attention, to what it is our ears are listening closely to v 20
- Eyes – The words we continually focus on will get into our hearts
- His Words are life & health to our downstream life v 22
- Lips – put & keep far away perverse & corrupt speech v 24
God, as ruling authority, as our Father, is letting us into how He set up the system and informing us of our part. How vigilant we are, is our decision because love does not insist on its own way. However, love desires the best for us and as a father, He is not a passive observer regarding our life. Therefore, He will try to influence us for good and for change.
His influence centres around the event that lead to the ongoing discipline called self-discipline. The event is to show and reveal any perceptions, thoughts & attitudes that are in our heart. The saying is often true: the way we see the problem is the problem! Biblical transformation begins and only happens by the entire renewal of the mind. Roms 12:2.
After event number one comes to the ongoing process which will regularly lead to more of event number ones, and that is self-discipline or self-control. This is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and He longs to help us through this ongoing event and process of transformation.
When the spring that’s producing our downstream is cleared of debris and death, the water and flow of our lives will run clearer.
It is a wonderful thing to be led back to the double take in the margins which was written in your own hand.
It’s one of the great joys of the Holy Spirit to double take us, get our attention and lead us into truth.
I know that when He is engaging me in this process I will experience more freedom and liberty in my soul, mind, emotions and then down stream into my life and contexts! I am learning to honour these moments with my full attention.
Pay attention is all the way through both the book of proverbs and my school days!
What did I write in the margin? Wow and appropriate.
These were in response to an amazingly succinct sentence written by Alec Motyer in his commentary on Philippians –
“As we become in experience what we already are by grace!”
As we become in experience is the language of appropriation and this is a lost spiritual discipline. This discipline empowers and enables us to become in our day to day what we are already, the day we reunited with His grace.
” yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name He gave the right to become children of God.” Jn 1:12 NIV
He gave the right are vital words to grasp in relation to the dynamic of appropriation.
The use of appropriate in our culture is predominately about taking what you have no permission or authority to take.
It’s not yours so you cannot take, use or appropriate it!
The Father gave permission and authority to ALL who received and believed His Son and His work, to make their own, ALL He has given us in Christ.
Who we are. What we been given. What we can do.
Identifying with His work is the beginning but not the end of our journey back to Father.
Making real to our experience and contexts, all He has done, given and commanded is!
And the shorthand for that is appropriation
We cannot be more connected, loved, empowered, resourced, protected and thought of because we are in Christ and seated at the right hand of Father.
We have the best seat in the house. This is hospitality beyond five star.
These and many more truths are a part of being in Christ and yet for many the reality of their day to day is anything but!
Every time I eat the appropriate nutrition, take in the appropriate hydration and lift the appropriate weights I appropriate to my body, life and world what is there but needs to become visible!
The Holy Spirit’s primary role after conferring on us the spirit of sonship (adoption) is to testify or witness to our spirits that we are children, heirs and co-heirs!
He double takes us, show us the truth that’s already been given and reveals to us the principles we need to work to make His finished work a reality in our day to day.
I call this my ‘road work!’ My punch the clock workouts!
The only work that made me worthy and deserving of His grace has been done. My ‘road work’ empowers me to become in experience what I already am by grace.
To make visible what is invisible at the moment!
To bring from His dimension into my dimension.
To use theological language justification is all gift. Sanctification is graft!