Even experience a ministry train wreck? Been there, done that? If not, let my experience pay your tuition for you…
This week, I will guard my heart.
You can be shaped by the world without even realizing it — unless you set a watch at the gate.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
~ Proverbs 4:23
Crank up some heavy metal music on the car radio after work. Blast it loud, all the way home. Depending on your personal wiring and musical tastes, you’ll probably arrive at home either high-as-a-kite or really, really grumpy.
The world influences us. What we see, what we hear, what we smell shapes our moods. I have to take notice of the world’s work on me … pay attention to what’s seeping into me. I have to guard my heart.
And it’s my responsibility. This is not something God has agreed to do by magic. The apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:22, “…Keep yourself pure.” The term “keep” here is also sometimes translated as “hold fast,” or “preserve.” We might say “lock in” — in fact, this is actually a jailer’s term. The Bible says I need to be the steward, the manager, the jailer of my own heart and mind. I must take responsibility as the gatekeeper, the one who decides what stuff from my culture, my environment, from my world, I let in to my head, and into my spirit.
Does “Keep yourself pure” mean I need to become a legalistic, hyper-spiritual Puritan? No — Paul goes right on to talk about legalistic rules that we shouldn’t get hung up on. The term “pure” simply refers to God’s ideal design for our lives. Paul is saying, Measure everything coming in against God’s ideal for you. Don’t just default. Don’t just let any old junk in. Squint at it. Examine it. Make sure it’s good for you, by God’s standard. This is for your health. It’s for your benefit!
As someone serving in ministry, my own spiritual life impacts many others. I have extra incentive for keeping myself in tune with the Spirit of Christ. Fortunately, there are guidelines in the Scriptures. Paul talks in Philippians 4:8 about the kind of input that will be healthy for me: “…Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” It’s a proactive challenge. Don’t let the culture dictate your frame of mind.
Should I be afraid of the culture’s influence on me? No. Over and over, Jesus says, Don’t be afraid. In 1 John 4:4, we learn that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” I don’t have to be afraid of evil. I just want to guard against it because it’s not God’s best for me. I want God’s best. I want to set a standard of excellence for myself, so I can have the highest possible quality of life and ministry.
My Prayer for the Next Seven Days… Father, I want my ministry to reflect your character as purely as possible. Give me an added sensitivity this week to the influences pressing in on me which would undermine your work in my life and my ministry. Give me the strength, the courage, the means to screen out anything that doesn’t edify me and glorify you. Amen.