Real time 'inner' dramas of being a follower of Jesus
Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ unleashes an unseen and unrelenting spiritual battle within our hearts and minds, (it becomes a self discipline issue that is taken over by Christ within our lives). Last month I spoke of the outward conflict this brings and detailed the persecutions.
In this letter I wish to look at the inward conflict of the follower of Jesus Christ. This is the unseen area, the battle within the heart and mind. Along with this are the temptations that confront the Christian in ways that are particularly savage.
I would like to illustrate how dominant our hearts and minds function in every day life. Imagine a rectangle, the four lines that make up a box. In one corner imagine drawing a straight line diagonally (ie, a small triangle in the one corner). Now fill that small triangle in with a texta.
What you have now is a huge blank space and one small triangle (see attached diagram).
Please follow me with this. The entire rectangle is the 'real me'. The only bit of the 'real me' that anyone physically sees, is that small coloured-in triangle. We actually live out our lives in our hearts and minds.
Here is a simple example: I'm watching a television 'who-done-it'. My wife Delma walks past and sees me on the lounge 'watching TV'. But where in my heart and mind? I'm trying to figure out who 'done it'! I'm thinking that I must pay the electricity bill tomorrow. I'm considering my options regarding a new ministry project. I'm giving some thought to one of our children wanting to purchase a baby-car-seat. There is a thousand things going on in my heart and mind that no one (but on one) sees except the Lord.
That huge blank area of that rectangle, is the part no one else can see. That's the area of our hearts and minds that the Lord speaks to. That's what the Apostle Paul refers to when he speaks of the Lord who brings a peace that passeth understanding. This huge area is the 'real me'.
Part of this is also where our conscience resides. No wonder we struggle with our conscience when it occupies 95% of the 'real me'. This letter touches on this huge area - the 'real me'.
Let us look at 'some other' realities that occupy this large blank area of our rectangle. One thing that causes drama, is our relationships with other people. Spouse, children, parents, in-laws, work associates, sports friends, mates ….. Another is the nature of our decision making. Decisions concerning business, social outings, what motor vehicle to purchase, this flight or the next one, what school will our children attend … the list is endless.
Now it shouldn't come as a surprise, that how we think (in that huge blank area and the decisions we make) - directly affects what we physically do – (that's the small triangle area, what other people see of us).
Let us take for example, an area common to everyone, that of temptations. Jesus was confronted with three temptations that directly related to his Mission. Jesus had fasted and prayed for 40 days so we'd assume he was hungry.
The first temptation therefore by Satan related to turning a stone into bread so he might have some nourishment. But Jesus knew better and said that real nourishment is not what we eat but what we receive from the Word of God.
The second temptation by Satan related to physical protection as Satan quoted only half the story of God's promise. Jesus cautioned Satan that misleading anyone is a very dangerous path to take.
The third temptation concerned temporal power and Jesus responded by saying that there is no real power outside of God, and no true worship outside the Lord God, and Him only shall you serve.
Statement: These three temptations are common to us all. The first relates to cravings and coveting whether it be possessions, wealth, reputation, illicit sexual desires … whatever. The second relates to truth and lies and their consequences for good or evil. The third, relates to the thirst for power, whether it seeks for temporal and created power or seeks to honour the eternal power of the Creator.
Everyone one of us are in this 'constant battle' of the heart and the mind.
Jesus Christ offers us some very helpful insights into handling this and so it is not surprising, Christians place such an emphasis on the 'mind of Christ' and 'following Jesus'.
Next month we shall look at how the New Testament speaks of these things.