If we only give the hand unto the Lord and do not give our hearts to Him, whatever our pretensions, professions, and present feelings of devotion may be, we are but as a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol.
Submitting our actions to Christ’s lordship is hard. Submitting our words to His authority is harder. Submitting our thoughts to Him is killer tough, impossible to do perfectly, and clearly required.
Look again at the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) and you’ll see a recurring theme: “Don’t content yourself with religious activity. Strive for
The Bar Got Raised
Funny how some folks think Christ lightened our moral standards, when, in fact, He upped them considerably! He changed the definition of adultery to include inner as well as outer unfaithfulness (Matthew 5:28); of piety to be inner communion with God rather than ceremonial showing-off (Matthew 6:5-6); and of true giving to be inner-motivated rather than applause seeking. (Matthew 6:2-4) It was a sobering message He preached that day: God sees, and responds to, the inner man.
That wasn’t a new thought, mind you. Consider Samuel being reminded that God looks on a person’s inside (I Samuel 16:7) along with David’s admission that our inner parts are being scrutinized by Him (Psalm 51:6) and God’s disgust, expressed through Isaiah, with insincere outward worship. ( Isaiah 1:12-16)
All of which tells me He has to be Lord of my interior if I’m to be under His lordship at all, a humbling and frustrating concept.
Humbling, because I want to fancy myself as a good guy. But just when my speech and behavior are inching towards the Good Guy finish line, my thoughts trip me up like an untied shoelace, and down I go.
Frustrating, because I like projects to have a clear start, middle, and finish. I like to begin well, build momentum, see consistency, and chart the
But no such markers show up in my quest for inner holiness. Rather, I veer with no rhyme nor reason between good, so-so, and I-should-go-to-hell-for-what-I’m-thinking days. The brain is one unruly sucker, and I’ve found that when it comes to mental versus physical sins, my most overt physical wrongdoings were conquered quickly and simply (I didn’t say “easily”) but my thoughts were, and remain, a relentless battlefield.
I Surrender All (that anyone else can see)
So relentless that I, and I suspect quite a few other Christians, have at times waved the white flag. It’s tiring and demoralizing to keep watch over our mental focus. We drift the wrong way before we catch the error, we’re bombarded with plenty of material to feed the wrong thinking, and striving to keep our mind sound and godly can be, let’s admit it, exhausting.
It’s easier to content ourselves with a respectable lifestyle and leave the cesspool of the mind untouched. And what a creative, diverse little cesspool it is! Yours may include lustful imagery, or childish daydreams, or (my favorite) a mental replaying of events you regret, so you take a cue from Walter Mitty and rewrite the past by fantasizing a whole new script in which you say something brilliant or do something admirable.
Whatever mental sin you’re inclined to default to, it can become, like Israel’s oft-visited high places, an inner bit of territory you cling to. At some point, your Lord will surely point to it, declaring as He did to a number of churches in The Revelation, “I have somewhat against thee.”
When He does, I’d suggest joining me in making a request I find myself making these days more often than ever:
Perfect that which concerns me and forsake not the work of Thine own hands ( Psalm 138:8) by bringing my mind into the soundness You have declared it to have (II Timothy 1:7) taking every thought captive (II Corinthians 10:5) and bringing it to my attention when my mind wanders by leading me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24) Then You’ll be pleased by what You see within me as well as without (Psalm 19:14) and I, in turn, can enjoy the blessings of perfect peace by keeping my mind stayed on You. (Isaiah 26:3)