Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it….A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say and do flows from what is in your heart. (Proverbs 4:23; Luke 6:45)
Input and Output
I took my first computer class fifty years ago and we learned the concept of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). It means that inputting flawed or nonsense data produces flawed or nonsense output or “garbage.” Using wrong numbers or corrupt information can never bring right answers. The same concept is true of athletes and the rest of us regarding food we eat. Junk food digested in us can lead to poor performance in sports, and in our thinking, working, and serving Christ. I confess that I need to be more careful about what I eat.
The concept of GIGO is even more powerful and telling in our spiritual life. If we allow garbage into our hearts and minds, out will come anger, hate, grudge holding, sexual immorality, stealing, lying, gossiping, backbiting, bragging, discontentment, envy, jealousy, and more bad character and conduct. But if God dwells in our hearts and we follow His word, seek His help in prayer, and are sharpened by Christ-like people, everything can be different. Our attitudes and actions will show the fruit of the Holy Spirit—love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.1 No wonder Jesus sent Paul to teach us:
Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
Focus on Jesus
When Paul tells us to ponder and practice godly things, he’s really telling us to focus on Christ who embodies these eight virtues. We are to follow Jesus in our thinking, being, and doing. He wants followers, not a fan club. Focus on the Lord and His ways helps us develop spiritual muscles and a good mental filter. With God’s help, we can avoid life-sapping, love-sapping habits. We can steer clear of behaviors that are false, dishonest, sinful, or impure. Paul says: Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.2
Let’s look at these Christ-like qualities in Philippians 4:8-9. God can help us to grow in these virtues and I am making these items for prayer and renewed focus in this new year.
Let Us Think and Practice Truth
Jesus taught that God (the Father, Son, and Spirit) is true and cannot lie, while Satan is a liar and the father of lies.3 Christ is the Truth, He is Faithful and True, His word is truth, and His truth sets us free from selfishness to serve God and other people.4 Christians must show and tell that the Holy Spirit of truth dwells in us and that we don’t belong to the devil’s domain any more. Because we live in a fallen world, we need God’s constant help to be truthful, trustworthy, and honest. Then we will resemble and reflect Jesus more and better in these dark days.
What We Learn from Genesis 3
Remember that Satan’s first lies in Eden were half truths. God made Adam and Eve holy and happy. But the devil said that if they ate the forbidden fruit, their eyes would be opened and they would know good and evil. Yes, their eyes were opened, but they became sinners, saw themselves as fallen, and were ashamed. They didn’t gain anything, but lost everything. Yes, Adam and Eve did experience good and evil, but it would have been better for them to have known only good, trusting and obeying God. Satan said that they would not die. No, they did not physically die immediately, but they brought spiritual guilt, death, and misery on themselves and on every human being born after them. The devil’s half truths were perilous in Paradise and they are also poisonous in our century.
No wonder R. C. Trench (1807–1886) said Genesis 3 is the most important chapter in the whole Bible. It is the only chapter which, if removed, would leave all the rest of Scripture incomprehensible. Take away this chapter and you take away the key of understanding all the rest. The Scriptures teach that the biggest problem in the world is human sinfulness and that Jesus is the only solution. Christ saves us by His sinless life, His crucifixion and atoning death, His bodily resurrection, His eternal alive-ness, His presence with us, His ongoing help and prayers for us, and His certain return for us at the end of the age. Until Jesus’ Second Advent, how can we survive and thrive?
We Need God’s Spirit Working With His Bible
The Old and New Testaments were breathed out by God the Spirit through human authors.5 So Jesus taught us to live by every word that comes from the Lord’s mouth.6 His Scriptures are perfect, refreshing the soul. His words are trustworthy, making us wise. His precepts are right, giving joy to the heart. His commands are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The Spirit uses His Bible to warn us, to show us our errors and hidden faults, and to bring us back to God repeatedly for forgiveness and purification.7 Thank the Lord that He has given us His Scriptures!
Psalm 19 closes with this prayer: Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
To be continued
Notes (various translations): 1 Gal 5:22-23. 2 1 Cor 6:19-20. 3 John 3:33, 7:28, 8:26, 17:17, 8:44, many more. 4 John 8:32, 14:6, 17:17, Rev 19:11. 5 2 Tim 3:16-17; 1 Pet 1:10-12; 2 Pet 1:20-21. 6 Matt 4:4. 7 Psalm 19:7-13.