Posts Tagged With: discernment

Understanding the Deep Waters of the Heart

“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Proverbs 20:5).

When studying the topic of “renewal of the mind” and its impact on a believer’s life, it is easy to think of Christianity as something that goes on purely within one’s brain, disconnected from the rest of the world. However, nothing can be further from the truth. Renewing our minds is simply one part of the Christian life, intertwined with other aspects. Our minds are renewed not only through Bible study and prayer, but also through corporate worship, ministry to others, and fellowship.

Proverbs 20:5 is a difficult Scripture to understand, mainly because we are forced to begin with this question: Is the man in the first part of the verse the same as the “man of understanding” in the second part? I believe they are two different persons, and will write from that perspective. (While the ESV uses the word “man” both times, it might be better to say “person”; we can just as accurately speak about the purpose of a woman’s heart and a woman of understanding.) Even great men need wise counselors, and King Solomon (to whom God gave wisdom and understanding “beyond measure,” according to 1 Kings 4:29) realized he needed such counsel.

The Amplified Bible translates this verse slightly differently, hoping to make the first half of the passage more clear:

“A plan (motive, wise counsel) in the heart of a man is like water in a deep well,
But a man of understanding draws it out.”

The Hebrew word “etzah” (“purpose” in the ESV) is usually translated “counsel,” but can also mean “plan” or “advice.” It refers to what a person hopes to accomplish, including his goals and strategies. These are closely intertwined with one’s motives. What one hopes to do, how he hopes to do it, and why he wants to do it are important questions.

However, such things are often “deep water.” John Wesley said this means that such things are “secret and hard to be discovered.” The Amplified Bible envisions someone who trying to water from a deep well.

 

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Hirondella gigea, a native of the Mariana Trench. By Daiju Azuma (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Mariana Trench is the deepest underwater location on Earth. In the Pacific Ocean, it is 36,000 feet below sea level (more than a mile deeper than the height of Mount Everest!) and hosts some of the most unique lifeforms on Earth. Until scientists could develop equipment capable of descending to that depth (the water pressure would crush most undersea probes), we had no idea what kind of creatures were there. Men needed understanding and wisdom to find out what lived there.

A person of understanding will draw these depths out of your soul. He can give good advice. He can hear what seems to be lacking in your explanations and ask you the tough questions that you need to think about while you pursue your goals.

I remember a time when I was in college, when I ran into a friend at a Christian group’s meeting. I asked how she was doing, and she began to talk about a situation in her life that had her troubled. I asked her a few questions; she kept talking about the problem. I asked something else; she talked further. After a few minutes, she said something like, “You know what? I think I should….” Then, she thanked me for my advice. At no point did I give her actual advice or tell her what I thought she should do. I had simply asked a few questions and listened. As she thought about her situation while speaking, she realized what she needed to do. (I can think of a few times when I have been on the receiving end of such “advice that was not really advice,” when I encountered someone who was willing to listen and care.)

Often, that is all that a person needs. We are tempted to tell people what they must do, when instead we simply need to ask questions, listen, and silently ask the Holy Spirit to give wisdom. The person of understanding may ask questions about why they want to do something, how the situation developed, who will be affected by its outcome, or what options they have considered. The list can go on. We can often look back at our own experiences to provide wisdom, not by telling people what to do, but simply by remembering what a similar situation was like for us.

Finally, “deep water” can make us think of one of Jesus’ images for the Holy Spirit:

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37–39).

The deep water reminds us of the “rivers of living water” flowing with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, which we often have difficulty discerning. Some Christians are particularly gifted with wisdom and can help others discern exactly what the Holy Spirit is saying to them. We would be wise to seek such counsel, even when we think we have heard from the Holy Spirit. A person of understanding can provide clarity and perspective, and help us see when we are allowing our own selfish carnal thinking to pollute divine guidance.

This is why “renewal of the mind” must occur within the context of fellowship. Left to our own devices with the Word of God, we can be tempted to simply reinforce harmful thought patterns, plans, and motives by distorting Scripture to suit our agendas. However, a trusted person of understanding can help us confront the negative thinking and fine-tune our perspective.

People in Twelve-Step programs often speak of “sharing our experiences, strength, and hope with others.” May we each find people who can compassionately share their experience, strength, hope and wisdom with us so that that we can grow in our knowledge of Christ. Furthermore, may we all find the wisdom that we can share with others. This is how we grow as believers and become transformed by the renewing of our minds.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Renewing the Mind Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Judge Not

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, NASB)

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In last week’s Scripture Sabbath challenge, I discussed Philippians 4:13, particularly considering how many believers claim this verse without considering its context. This week, I would like to take a few minutes to look at a verse that is probably abused even more frequently by ignoring its context. Jesus’ instruction, “Do not judge,” is abused even more frequently, since the misapplication comes from those who are in open rebellion against God. Regrettably, many Christians have swallowed the bait of falsehood that has been presented to them.

Every Christian has fallen victim to this lie of the devil. (Yes, I will go so far as to call it demonically-inspired.) You say, “I believe in the sanctity of all human life and believe abortion is a sin.” The response: “Remember, Jesus said, ‘Do not judge.’” Or, you might say, “I believe in traditional marriage, between one man and one woman.” You hear the same response.

Do those who tell us that we cannot judge really believe it is an absolute rule that we can never say that something is immoral or wrong? Many of the same people who tell Christians that Jesus told us not to judge are quick to judge certain actions: Do they believe an adult should have sexual relations with a five-year-old? Do they think we should abuse animals? Do they think history has been too hard on Adolf Hitler, and maybe we should just assume he was doing what he thought was best for his nation? Can we murder? Can we steal? Is it wrong to own slaves, or to force teenage girls to be sex slaves? Many of the same people who will accuse Christians of being judgemental can get pretty vocal about these things.

It is a form of demonic deception. In Genesis 3, we read how the serpent (Satan) tempted Eve. He tricked her into believing that God’s command (you shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) was not true, or that it meant something different from what God had said. (Note that, in Genesis 3:3, Eve says that God forbade them from even touching the tree. God only said they could not eat its fruit. Adam and Eve were probably allowed to pick the fruit and throw it at the serpent’s head.)

Today, Satan has hijacked Matthew 7:1 away from Jesus and the church, and Christians have abdicated their authority to proclaim God’s word to the world. It has reached a point where many ministers are afraid to even confront sin amongst Christians, thereby failing to fulfill the last part of the Great Commission (“teaching {disciples} to observe all” that Jesus commands).

To understand the passage more clearly, let us look at the context (Matthew 7:1–6):

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

How does this passage affect how we speak about sin?

  • First, although Jesus came to forgive our sins, that does not mean He ignores them. Sin is still sin. The one who said, “Do not judge” and proclaimed forgiveness also told an adulterous woman, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more” (John 8:10). Sin still exists, and it would be a lie to pretend that it does not.
  • Immediately after saying, “Do not judge,” Jesus tells His disciples not to give holy things to dogs, and not to cast pearls before swine. How do we obey Jesus if we do not discern that we cannot give them what is holy or pearls? (This is an entire subject in itself!)
  • We should apply a consistent measure for ourselves and others. We commit the sin of judgementalism when we condemn others for a sin that we have in our own lives. We also sin if we commit a similar sin. For example, someone who is hooked on pornography really cannot look down on somebody who is having sex outside of marriage.
  • Before looking at other people, we need to look at our own lives. We are tempted to point out other people’s sins, but our responsibility is to deal with our own struggles.
  • Our job is to make disciples and teach them to observe all Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18–19). It is a ministry of reconciliation, which grows out of Christ’s work of redemption. Ours is not a ministry of condemnation.

It is true that some Christians go too far and focus too heavily on the sins of others. However, we have an obligation to proclaim God’s word, to show people their need of a Saviour, and to invite people to repent and come to Jesus for salvation. Let us fulfill Christ’s calling and not surrender our authority to the father of lies.

This post was written as part of the Scripture Sabbath Challenge.

This post copyright © 2016 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Character and Values, Christian Life, Christians and Culture, Scripture Sabbath | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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