Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Spiritual Check-up pt. 2

Your vitals were checked last week. Now let's do a brain scan!

What's on your mind? What do you spend most of your time thinking about? On what do your thoughts dwell? Listen to what the apostle Paul said in Romans 8:6-8, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."

Having a carnal mind is simply following your human nature as opposed to your spiritual nature. In which category do your thoughts fall: carnal or spiritual? All of us are continually filling up the memory bank of our minds; depending on how long you’ve been around is what determines the size of your particular memory bank. All of us, young and old, are consistently filing stuff away in our memory bank, and I’ll promise you this, if you stick stuff in there that is sinful, Satan is really good at recycling that garbage. Images you shouldn’t have seen, lyrics you shouldn’t have heard, actions you shouldn’t have taken, or should have taken. On and on and on and on…what are you downloading into your memory bank?

Here are two multiple-choice questions that you need to answer.

1. How would you describe your understanding of the Bible? (Pick one of the following phrases that best sums up your ability to understand the Bible.)

  • a) Bible? What's a Bible?
  • b) I can't ever find anything I need when I need it!
  • c) I'm OK with the NT, but the OT is like a foreign film with subtitles.
  • d) I'm beginning to understand it.
  • e) I'm a Biblical genius- next stop is memorization of Leviticus

2. How would you describe your ability to fight off temptation? (Choose the phrase that best describes your approach.)

  • a) Hot dog! This looks like fun!
  • b) Honk if you love Jesus.
  • c) Get out of Dodge.
  • d) Pray
  • e) Get with people who are spiritually stronger than me.

The brain scan is complete, please open up and say "Ahhhhh!" Let's have a look at your tongue. The Bible teaches that you will know a person's character by their speech. So what does your speech, and I'm not talking about your grammar, say about you? Are you like the fool in Proverbs who talks with a perverse mouth, a lying and deceitful tongue, who pours forth foolishness from his mouth? I hope not. As Christians our speech should be, as Paul put it in Ephesians 4:29, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (cf. Colossians 4:6)

Does your speech uplift people, or tear them down? Do you spread gossip or put a stop to it? Do you tell the truth, or do people have to doubt the reliability of everything you say? You should never underestimate the power of a soft answer and an encouraging word. My former pastor told me a story about a 4th grade class in a small-town that was having a hard time with their Math lesson one day. Everyone was starting to get on each other’s nerves, so the teacher told the class to put their Math books away and get out one sheet of paper and a pencil. On the paper they were to write only their name and nothing else. Then they were told to pass their paper to the student next to them who was then to write down something nice about that person. When it was all said and done each kid in the class had a sheet full of compliments and the tension and anxiety of just a few minutes earlier was all gone. The story does not end there.

Many years later one of the boys from that class died in Vietnam. His 4th grade teacher attended the funeral, along with many of his ex-classmates. After the funeral, the boys parents pulled the teacher aside, showed her the piece of paper from the day many years ago and said, "This was found in one of our son's pockets when he died." And one by one that teacher's former students admitted that they too still had their papers. Some had them in their hope chest, others in their desk drawer. And they all said that when they are depressed, discouraged, or stressed out, they pull out that sheet of paper, and remember the day years ago when their 4th grade teacher taught them the power of an encouraging word.

What are your words saying to your family, your friends, your co-workers, and even the strangers you meet? Does your speech reflect Satan or does it reflect the Lord?

The examination is almost finished; all that remains is a visiona nd hearing test, and then a check of your reflexes.

Please step up to the eye chart. Do you have a vision for how God might use you? What are the blind spots in your life that seem to keep getting you in trouble? Two of my all-time favorite hymns are Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and Be Thou My Vision. Those hymns are excellent reminders for me to constantly keep my eyes, my attention, and my desires focused on Jesus Christ. When I do that, as the songwriter says, the "the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." Or in the words of Be Thou My Vision's fourth stanza: "Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,Thou mine inheritance, now and always:Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art."

Please step away from the eye-chart and I'll have a look into your ears. Do you hear the Spirit of God speaking to you, or are other voices and sounds drowning out what God wants you to hear? Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God." Be still, waiting on and listening to your God. There are a myriad of voices that seek to drown out God's words. He speaks to us today, not in an audible sense but through His relevant, powerful, Word of life. The question has never been "Is God speaking?" The question has always been "Are you listening?"

Once we have checked your hands and feet will be finished! Are your hands involved in the work of the Lord? We all need to have our sleeves rolled up and be elbow deep in service to Christ through His church. Are you involved in the Lord’s work, or are you just sitting on your hands? Do you maintain a meaningful membership in one of the Lord's churches, or do you operate as a Christian free-agent. Search the scriptures. You won't find any free-agents in there.

How are your feet? Maybe I should ask, what are you doing with your feet? Where are they taking you? Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

On what path are you walking? After whose footsteps are you following? Do y ou realize that there are others who are following after you? Where are you leading them?

The spiritual check-up is finished. What is your diagnosis?

(HT: this and the previous post are grateful to Duffy Robbins' book The Ministry of Nurture.)

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