“In Christ…”: “Above all else, guard your heart…”—Part 1

Beloved of God “running the good race” (1 Corinthians 9:24-26; Galatians 5:7; 2 Timothy 4:7), welcome to the Training Table where the menu is carefully selected as a Feast of the Heart!

For the next five or so feasts at the Training Table we’re going to be chewing on some differing, yet overlapping, “assertions” about God, existence, faith, life, death, consequences, morality, suffering, epistemology (origins, knowledge, nature) , etc.

The catalyst for this new series is three-fold:

1) Conformation: It will remind of who we are, “In Christ…”;

2) Biblical Cardiac Care: It will accrue to taking the best care of our heart (the seat of our self) as we (the Holy Spirit, ourselves, our community of faith) can; and

3) Catalyst of Catastrophes:  It’s good to regularly inspect and re-set the foundations of our faith (everyone has faith in something…), but especially in times of great suffering, chaos, and confusion—which is the norm today, not the anomaly!

1) It is God’s overarching desire, and the main course of His redemptive plan, that as many as He has ordained be saved, be conformed—to the person, image, likeness of Jesus Christ. Another description of this “centerpiece of God’s plan” is called, “Union with Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:23, 8:1, 39; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 15:18; Ephesians 1-2; Colossians 1-2; 1 Peter 5:10; Berkhoff, Systematic Theology). When Christ returns the “conformation”, union will be complete (Romans 6: 4; 1 Corinthians1:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 6:15-17)!

2) The Bible’s 1,500+ references to the heart (soul, mind, strength, values, beliefs, faith, etc) is not due to an ancient partnership between the Bible authors and Hallmark Cards! When God says through the author of Proverbs (The Book of Wisdom), “Above all else, guard your heart; for it is the wellspring of life” (4:23) it is the most loving and truthful command from God—the Creator and sustainer of the heart—to take very (E. g., priorty #1) good care, stewardship of what we place our faith (our heart’s core belief) in: Is it the God of the Bible, or something else? The difference has wide and deep, temporal and eternal, consequences.

3) In the purview of how God uses the unavoidable brokenness, suffering, trials, and testing of this fallen world that mankind caused (cause: Genesis 3; redeemed: Romans 8:28), He providentially orchestrates, controls, directs it all: From the tiniest paper cuts of disappointment to the most horrid atrocities of history, God desires, first, that we answer any sort of “freefall” (suffering) with a very close inspection of the foundations of our faith: a) If we rest on the foundations of Biblical faith and believe in the God of the Bible, God says, “Rest more completely. Go deeper! Be more conformed to the likeness and activities of my Son. The Holy Spirit has been sent to counsel, comfort, and point to Jesus, in order to help you, conform you, and guide you to help others!” b) If we rest on anything else other than the God of the Bible (E.g., idols, trapdoors, false foundations… which are GOOD things God made twisted into ONLY things), their fragility and inability to sustain any and all “freefalls of life” will be revealed for what they really are: Misplaced love of self, while displacing a love of God. In this case, God says, “It breaks my heart to see you freefalling and suffering so. I sent my only Son to suffer not so you wouldn’t suffer, but rather when you do, you could become more and more like Him! Repent of your Sin, and sins, and believe. And My unbreakable person and promises will never leave YOU, or forsake YOU! Never. If you believe you will be saved, sent, sanctified, and bathed in the unsearchable joy reserved for YOU on earth, as it is in heaven. “

Assertion #1: If any person or society insists on stripping God out of the heart and/or the culture, three main things rush into the God-shaped void—which, by nature, must be filled with something.

The Teacher Koheleth, the author of The Book of Ecclesiastes, includes a familiar refrain, “Meaningless, meaningless… Life under the sun is meaningless” (life without God). The letter teaches us that when any person or society inexorably moves in the direction of eradicating God from the heart and/or culture (as we have systematically done, mainly since the Enlightenment, forward), the three main worldviews (“ism’s”) that will rush in to take God’s place are, stoicism, hedonism, and existentialism.

Stoicism—a lifestyle that denies or avoids emotions, considering them irrelevant, and even highly dangerous to the self. Stoics deal with destructive emotions by means of extreme self-control and inner fortitude.

Hedonism—Stoicism’s opposite. This lifestyle focuses on experiencing as much unrestrained pleasure as possible, considering pleasure to be life’s chief end.

Existentialism—a lifestyle that grows out of despair, based on the belief that existence has no purpose or meaning.  Existentialists put on a brave front and face daily life with courage and even lofty convictions, despite the deep despair. Despair unchecked leads to “a living or actual” death.

Assertion #2: Unchurched and churched adults in power and influence have systematically replaced the God of the Bible with numerous lesser gods of the age. And the children (especially heart-breaking) have been orphaned to the above-referenced “-ism’s”.

The self- and other-destruction is only being constrained by God’s Common Grace, His manifold mercies, and His offer for us to turn back to Him, for our own good, and before it’s too late.

If we were more God-loving, sober-minded, and accountable, we would not be asking ad nauseam, “Why?! Why?! Why?!”, but rather, “Why is there not much, much more destruction in our land?! We have abandoned God and all the foundations of the faith.”

It’s only because God’s mercy is offering us another chance.

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Next week: “Compartmentalization: Active Volcanoes in the Land of Faux Volcanologists.”

Until we sup again,



“The Trouble with Christianity”, Pastor Timothy Keller


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