Monthly Archives: June 2011

♣ A Consistent Mindset

“Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear Me and to keep all My commandments…” – Deuteronomy 5: 29

Israel had just encountered the glory of the Lord in a way that removed all pretense and dull mindedness. Never had such a nation – set apart by God Himself – been so mindful of falling short of the glory of God. So intense was the experience that their human frame failed to withstand the greatness for fear of being consumed by the blazing holiness of Almighty God. Never before had Israel realized their utter frailty, weakness, helplessness – even under the cruel, tyrannical empire of Pharaoh – as when they stood at the foot of the mountain to behold the all-glorious Shekinah. The children of Israel were in no greater state of sober mindedness, and all hardness of heart was totally absent. I am sure that Israel in this state were most pleasing to God than any other time, not because they were great in themselves or deserved the smile of God in any sense of the form, but because they were broken and undone before God just like Isaiah who lost all trace of self confidence and self righteousness and could only utter, “Woe is me, I am undone for I have seen the Lord of hosts.” A proud spirit God will always reject but a contrite heart and a broken spirit are the perfect conditions before a compassionate and merciful God.

“Oh that they had such a mind as this always…” is one of those precious verses in Scripture where God expresses an intense desire and longing for His people. The New King James and New American Standard Versions are slightly different to the English Standard Version which reads: “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always…” but certainly implies the same idea, but the ESV, I believe, certainly brings out and clarifies the real intent and meaning. The inevitability of having a right mind-set towards God shows itself in obedience. Being Calvinistic in my approach to soteriology, no doubt this verse will cause some turbulence for many who hold to the doctrine of election and predestination and ‘give’ the upper hand to Arminianism. Let me say one thing. It took me years to come to an adherence of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty through predestination – Calvin was just a man who wonderfully explored – never discovered – the biblical doctrine of election and predestination. I read, I prayed, I asked lots of questions until I could no longer argue with what the Scriptures revealed that salvation is of the Lord, from beginning to end. But I will say this, that God is bigger than Calvinism and Arminianism. We are arrogant to confine God within our theological suitcases. Salvation of the Lord is a mystery, too much for our finite minds to fully comprehend, and there is nothing worse than hearing someone attempting to explain in a clinical manner the ABC’s of God’s method of salvation. When we cease to stand in awe, beyond human comprehension, when considering the salvation of the Lord we are on the wrong line. This expression of God, “Oh that they had such a mind as this always…” expresses the very same thought that the apostle Peter under divine inspiration wrote: “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) and another passage in Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” Here is the intense longing of God, a mystery where human language fails, but one that touches to the very core of our depths. As Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones would frequently exhort while expositing the Word of God, “Here we are dealing with the mind of God, we’re standing upon holy ground, let us take off our shoes.”

What is baffling above all things is how Israel turned away so quickly from the Lord after witnessing His power, His glory, His great deliverances on their behalf. One moment they live soberly under the fear of God, and the next they are living as if in denial of what took place. Psalm 78 gives a heart wrenching account of Israel’s repetitive wanderings from the Living God to whoring after idols. As well as being surprised of Israel’s history it’s also biographical of our selves too. How many times we have wandered from our First Love and He as the Great Shepherd of our souls has brought us back safe to His side –

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;

Israel’s problem was a divided heart and David was well aware of the corruptions within himself and in turn cried to God, “Give me an undivided heart that I may fear Your name.” or as the ESV has it, “unite my heart to fear Your name.” “Bind my wandering heart to Thee” as the hymnist put it so well. If we are acutely aware of our inward corruption, then we ought to be constrained to uttering words of a similar kind. A heart weaned from this world to God Himself –

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art;
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

No wonder the apostle Paul exhorts us to be renewed in the spirit of our minds in Romans and Ephesians, and he’s not necessarily writing to new converts but to established churches; it’s an ongoing exhortation, not a once and for all act as some of us are accustomed to thinking, which is a reason why many of us become stale, apathetic and lukewarm in devotion to God. Devotion is not a five minute regulation in the mornings where we sit quiet before God, rush through our daily readings, etc to charge our batteries only to diminish as the day goes on; devotion is continual, moment by moment wherever we are, not just in the sanctuary or our prayer closet but amidst the mundane.

How do we maintain such a consistency where we do have the mindset that God desires, knowing our weaknesses and our proneness to sin and to grow cold? Where does our responsibility come in? Salvation is of the Lord but that doesn’t mean we just sit back, let go and let the Spirit energize or ‘zap’ and all is well. We are exhorted to work out what God works in, and here is where many confuse the matter. Paul’s teaching in Romans 6 exhorts believers to not let sin reign in their bodies. The difference in this area between the believer and non-believer is that the regenerated person now has the power to not sin. As unregenerate people we could do nothing but obey the law and nature of sin within us. The Spirit sanctifies and we obey, we grow, and if salvation has come to us we will live according to the life of the incorruptible seed within us. Obviously this does not mean we never fall into sin as some propagated the belief of sinless perfection and still do, but on the other hand there is a slackness nowadays where a prevailing mentality thrives in that it doesn’t matter how we live so long as we have been justified by faith, God has imputed his righteousness to us so He doesn’t see our sin, He sees the righteousness of His Son. Such thinking is a complete misunderstanding which Paul rectifies in Romans 6. The proof that we have been saved is that we exhibit the imparted righteousness of Christ in our daily living; we were regenerated to be a holy people unto God, not theoretically but in heart practicality – “blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”. John states, “And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure (1 John 3:3). The seed of God within a regenerate believer inevitably produces the desire to grow in conformity to Jesus Christ. Salvation is of the Lord from beginning to end, but that never condones for one moment that a believer is ever passive in their obedience to God. We always stand by grace, but if we truly know grace we do not use it as a route to licentiousness and loose living.

In Philippians 4:8 Paul states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer…And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We are not to be anxious, but to turn our thoughts to God in prayer. God does not do it for us – we refuse to be anxious. Further on Paul exhorts us to think in such honourable ways – “…practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.” If we give into worry don’t expect to know the peace of God. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You…(Isaiah 26:3). ” Earlier in chapter two of Philippians he states, “Have this mind in you which is yours in Christ Jesus.” There is this “straining forward” this pressing on towards the goal in Christ Jesus – “Let those of us who are mature think this way…” You notice how Paul is saying through all of this that we  have to do

The same idea is expressed in Colossians 1:29 “For this I  toil, struggling  with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.” And I think here is the very essence of the meaning of working out our salvation with fear and trembling – the mystery of God working in  and the recipient working out  through their very finger tips God’s salvation; they are already saved but the evidence of that is shown in their daily living.

Paul further on in Colossians 3 tells us to seek, set our minds on things above (where Christ is) and not on things of the earth. Who does the thinking? God will not do it for us. Here Paul is really saying, “whatever your mind is set on will effect the course of your actions.” It’s no surprise why we fall into various sin because of the very things we fill our minds with. And logically whatever we desire we will seek out until we obtain it – “where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” “If  then you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

Yes, it is discipline and yes it will be a struggle, but in the midst of conflict is where we are proven to be choice ones. Innocence is not purity but naivety. Purity is the outcome of character tested; victorious over evil through conflict. It will mean turning off that TV channel, avoiding that particular website, refusing to partake in that loose conversation, refusing to read/look at junk and smut in some magazines, stopping those thoughts that bombard your mind. We have the power of God at our disposal; the grace of God is sufficient to empower us to overcome. “Be  soberminded, be  watchful…” says Peter, otherwise we are an easy target and prey to the devil, the world and the flesh. It’s not just a command to stop these things but to be in pursuit of righteousness, to discern what pleases God, to be steadfast in these things – to fight the good fight in the power of His might. “Therefore, preparing  your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set  your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13). If we steer away from the very atmosphere that cultivates  such a mind set to please God, we become dull, careless and lukewarm – the very thing God loathes – and therefore become susceptible to any form of disobedience.

“Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear Me and to keep all My commandments…”

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

 (Hymn by Robert Robinson, 1735 – 90)

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