Christianity 201

February 9, 2020

Keeping Moral Purity

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
 – Jeremiah 17:9

For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness.
– Mark 7:22-23

For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts.
 – Romans 1:21

Once again we’re back with Arnold Reimer, for many years the pastor of Bayview Glen Alliance Church in Toronto, and his blog titled Finishing Well.

Moral Purity

The news and the courts seem crowded with disturbing cases of sexual impropriety involving people of all social levels of wealth, fame, power and commonality. The number of women who have been violated is staggering. One wonders how so many have been so vulnerable, and where their parents, siblings, friends and associates were while all this was happening? It is not a happy commentary on family and social responsibility. After all, we really are our brothers’ (sisters’) keeper!

One thing is very clear: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?” Jesus spelled it out bluntly, “The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man (or woman), for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile . . .

Painful is the number of clergy and those of Christian profession who are found among the reprobates. Nothing reveals the depths of human depravity more than a person who proclaims the Word of God with its clear commands, calls for obedience to its truths, and warns of the consequences of disobedience, while living in moral hypocrisy. Great harm has been done to the cause of Christ because of it. No place on earth should be safer to be, nor persons safer to be with, than the church and its leaders. Thankfully, for the most part that remains true; but that is little comfort to the abused.

…I wish to underline some Scriptural/spiritual principles that bless and protect one’s moral purity. In a world that is increasingly becoming a cesspool of moral failure, misinformation, indecent dress and selfish unrestraint, we need biblical disciplines with boundaries strong and true. So . . .

1. KEEP YOUR HEART – with all diligence for out of it come the issues of life. Our Creator has set the standards and fixed the values governing sexual behaviour. Moral purity is suppose to be the norm. To aid and abet that, marriage is a sacred and exclusive relationship between one man and one woman. Sexual acts outside that bond are wrong. It is critical that we fill and guard our mind with truth. Learn the biblical principles and illustrations that teach and enable purity, loyalty and faithfulness. Meditate on them day and night. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and obey Him, while making no provision for the flesh. The Word of God, the work of Christ and the voice of the Holy Spirit are sufficient protection and guidance for every temptation we face.

2. KEEP YOUR EYES – Our eyes feed the thoughts which motivate our body. What and who we allow our eyes to look at indiscriminately will make a huge difference in how we think and what we do. A life informed by Scripture and yielded to the Spirit bears the fruit that starts with genuine love and ends with the strong disciplines of self-control. God wants us to see others as those He values and loves. No one is a commodity.

3. KEEP YOUR SPOUSE – Next to God, Himself, our relationship with our spouse is critical to all we are. There is a reason why God has instructed us to leave father and mother and to cling to our wife/husband in order to become one flesh. That takes time, love, togetherness, forgiveness, communication, trust, commitment, wisdom and understanding – a lot more, but nothing less! No one else is half as valuable to our well-being, and certainly not to the maintenance of moral purity. Nurture, build, protect, value and reward the spousal relationship.

To a large degree we are living with the consequences of a society that places little value on purity. Our laws, educational systems and social values have increasingly looked the other way as immorality infiltrates behaviour, especially among vulnerable youth. It is taken for granted in sex education that immorality will occur, to the point of aiding it in the hopes of limiting pregnancies or STDs. Little emphasis or consideration is given to the serious physical, psychological and social consequences of unleashed sexuality. The acceptance of homosexuality as normal behaviour has hugely complicated the issue. Its influence and demands are spreading at an alarming rate

Only a profound revival of biblical influence into our culture will save us from the devastating consequences of rampant, moral impurity. Critical to that will be strong, godly marriages and faithful churches committed to teaching and living the whole counsel of God. We desperately need to put on the whole armour of God, holding firmly the shield of faith to protect us from every flaming missile hurled at us. Sorely needed are prophetic voices warning of the consequences of moral impurity, and a multitude of saints demonstrating what it looks like.

May 8, 2014

Chaos in the Heart

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:20 pm
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I’m a huge fan of Andy Stanley, but a lot of his writing online is limited to leadership issues. Still, a number of people who read C201 are leaders in their local churches, and while he made have had pastors in mind when he wrote this, it really applies broadly. This article appeared in 2011 at ChurchLeaders.com under the title The State of Heart Leadership.

In Matthew 15:19, Jesus warned that

“. . . out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

Can you think of anyone who derailed his or her organization or career because of anything on that list? I’ll bet you can. In fact, I know far more stories of failure rooted in these issues than those resulting from a lack of competence or skill.

Andy Stanley 2013The simple truth is that leaders who fail to monitor their hearts jeopardize their organizations. If we neglect the arduous work of monitoring what’s going on inside of us, our organizations will suffer.

Look at Jesus’ words again. Everything we say and do springs from our hearts. The implications of this verse are huge for those who manage people. What’s in our hearts eventually affects our ability to lead effectively. Consequently, learning to guard our hearts is critical to our success as leaders. There are three things in particular that if ignored have the potential to create chaos in the heart of a leader and, consequently, in his or her sphere of organizational influence.

The first is guilt. Leaders that carry unresolved guilt are forced to hide a part of themselves from those closest to them. They have secrets. They expend time and energy ensuring that no one finds them out because they know they are not completely trustworthy. And because they are suspect, they begin to suspect others. Their inability to trust others makes it almost impossible for them to build cohesive teams.

The second enemy of the heart is anger. Angry people live as if the world owes them something—something they can never quite identify. Angry leaders are impossible to please. They attract employees that are more concerned with making their bosses happy than doing what’s best for the organization. This leads to poor decisions, eventually putting them at odds with their angry bosses and the cycle of dysfunction continues.

The third heart issue that can derail a leader is jealousy. Professional jealousy is understandable, maybe even unavoidable to some extent. But when it is unrecognized and ignored, it has the potential to destroy the synergy of a team. Jealous leaders measure their success by the failure of others. An organization cannot sustain momentum when its leadership is focused on how well others are not doing rather than looking for ways to move forward. Maybe most crippling of all, leaders who carry jealousy in their hearts rarely surround themselves with competent and talented people. They feel threatened. And their insecurity stifles the growth all organizations need.

If you can identify with the ailments cited above, welcome to the human race. We all wrestle with guilt, anger, and jealousy at some level. That’s why we need a Savior. The good news is that through Christ we can bring these enemies of the heart under control. They might never be eliminated, but they certainly don’t have to control our lives or contaminate our organizations.

If you have a secret, tell somebody. Confess. Confession eradicates guilt. Chances are you’ve confessed to God. Now go confess to the person you’ve wronged. Angry? Forgive. Forgiveness is simply a decision to cancel a debt. Take time to decipher what you think the people who’ve hurt you owe you and cancel those debts. Otherwise, you will make the people closest to you pay. Jealous? Look for ways to celebrate the successes of people who’ve pulled ahead of you. Write ’em a letter. Praise their accomplishments in public. Refuse to allow jealousy to take up residence in your heart.

The writer of Proverbs summarized it this way, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” You live from the heart. You love from the heart. And yes, you lead from your heart. So pay attention to your heart. It impacts everything you do.

Adapted from Enemies of the Heart (Multnomah Books: 2011)by Andy Stanley.