“No man that wars entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who has chosen him to be a soldier.” 2 Timothy 2:4
I’m currently dejunking my house and life, and it is an ongoing process. I have found that all of life will naturally involves the accretion of “stuff”. I keep records of everything, by paper or photograph or digital file. I keep stuff from our past, stuff is out that is in-progress, and stuff I hope to use in the future. Keeping up with this unasked-for accretion is a battle. It is especially dense work when one works from home. Some are able to deal with the battle better than others depending on one’s framework, I think.
In the same way that one can get entangled with material things, it is also easy to get entangled in disputes, desires, worry, relationships, commitments, expectations, and lose focus on the primary goal, the main point, the eternal value l should be seeking. Entanglement subdues one from moving freely, and when trapped aren’t we more prone to worry, stress and anger? We get dirty by overhandling the cares and enticements of this world. Entanglement disqualifies us from being in readiness for the call of Christ. It holds us in the mire until we can be extricated by confession, repentance and reconciliation.
I was reminded of this verse while reading the autobiography of English missionary nurse and author Patricia St. John. She, too, was reading a missionary biography and quoted Padgett Wilkes of Japan who said:
I want to be “wholly clean” before God. Not merely focusing on behavior, I want to love the Lord my God with ALL my heart, and soul and mind and strength. Christ must be the centerpiece of my life, not a side issue. The Christian life is a relationship with a beautiful wonderful Person, who died for me and lives to intercede for me before the Father!
But life is littered with lesser things. Trivial matters that haunt our concerns. And beyond those necessary matters lie Investments of time and resources that don’t yield spiritual profit. Emotional expenditures that don’t unify the Body of Christ. It’s time to dejunk my heart!
Paul used the analogy of running a race unhindered:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,..” (Hebrews 12:1)
As much as I want to live for Christ, I slip back into the things of this world. The good things. The compromising things. Even bad things. Paul says there are things that hinder (circumstances) and things that entangle (our owninordinateaffections). This may be parallelism (saying the same thing two different ways) or there may be a slight difference.
Distractions come at us from the enemy unasked for. Who asks for injustice? But we are entangled by our own rebellious hearts when we shift focus from the goal ahead to the distraction. We either feel like God is not enough and the weight of our concerns are on us alone, or we are distracted by enticements to love and invest in another goal (even if it is a negative love, such as revenge). Like getting tangled in Medea’s serpent hair, we become enwrapped in concerns or frivolities that not only slow us down, but can disqualify us from the race entirely.
Two posts back,we looked at the reality of our enemy. We saw that though the war has been won, the daily battles still rage in the hearts and minds of man. Right in the center of Heth (Ps 119:57-64) is this kernel: the enemy is a robber and a thief. He is at the root of both my distraction and my rebellion.
Sin’s consequences are not always immediate. I may not see the enemy at work in my sinful nature, enticing it to respond to my circumstances in a way that will dishonor God and destroy me. He robs me of my peace, my poise, and my compassion. Little by little, I acquiesce, justify, rationalize, and react. A distraction becomes entanglement and the consequences are just as serious, just as imprisoning to me, as if I’d openly rebelled.
What entangles? Fear. Fear that I will not have, that I will be thought less of, that I will be wrong, that I will not be protected, that I will die, that I will be rejected, and so on the list goes. My sinful nature says, “God is not enough to save that which I cherish most.” And what I cherish most is not God. I have superimposed an idol over the character of God in my heart. I have crucified the Creator and supplanted my created self on the throne instead.
What has God said? My enemy comes quickly to twist the truth; this is how my enemy entangles my heart. “What did God say?” was said by the serpent in a twisted kind of way.
It’s a good question, though. Rather than listen to what the enemy interprets of God’s Word, however, I can read them first hand! “Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18; read all of ch. 4!). Christ’s sacrifice is enough; Christ’s finished work on the cross and his Resurrection over sin and death covers all. God is sufficient for all my needs.
Isnt’ that what Christ did for us in the wilderness of his own temptation? He upended and made right what man in Adam had made wrong. Adam and Eve listened to the enemy’s twisted interpretation of the mind and heart (His character) and expressed Word of God. Christ, however, wielded God’s actual Word like a master. For every temptation, “God said…”
Like the nacre coats the grit in an oyster, so the Lord’s goodness surrounds this kernel about the enemy in HETH. Read HETH again. The psalmist, ultimately our Lord, staked his faith in God’s actual Word as an anchor to his own soul. I’m paraphrasing below.
* praise– v57 “God you are all I really need.”
* Ask for God’s blessing– v58a “I begged for your blessing with my whole heart.”
* Ask for God’s mercy– v58b “God, your word says that you are merciful. I need your mercy.”
* Self-evaluate– v59 “I was honest before you about myself, saw my sin, and recalibrated my direction to follow you alone.” This is repentance!
* Obey immediately– v60 “I got moving and did not procrastinate in keeping your commands.”
* Stay the course– v61 “I have known pain and loss and suffering–I have been robbed by the enemy; yet I read your word and do not forget.
* Keep vigil diligently– v62 “At midnight I will rise to give thanks to you because your ways are true.”
* Keep company with God’s People– v63 “I am a companion of all them that fear You, and keep Your precepts.”
* Be a lifelong (humble) learner– v64 “The earth, O LORD, is full of Your mercy; teach me Your statutes!”
What does this look like?
I enter the throne room of heaven through praise. I look up to the Father in thankfulness, acknowledging His Sovereignty. That must come first. (Lord, give me the ability to come to you, for if you do not draw me to you, my heart will not look to you for strength!)
With my heart and mind focused now in the right direction, I can begin to ask the Lord for what I need (Phil 4:6). I can tell the truth about myself, because in God’s holy presence I see myself for what I really am.
This gives me the holy opportunity to make things right before God. I don’t argue about what I see, I confess it and ask God to give me the power to overcome my sin. I appropriate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross every time I do this. Christ’s work becomes real in my life this instant that I ask for and receive the mercy Christ came to buy for me. I have the ability to go now and walk in the newness of life, which means…I can obey what I know I need to do. God will always show me what needs to happen next. I do this without delay, for delay is yet another way of saying “No” to God. It is compounding my sin. I release my sin when I obey!
Though the enemy enticed me and robbed me, I look to God’s Word to now nourish me in truth. The more I read it and pray it before God, the less I forget it in time of battle. I am so caught up in gratefulness in seeing God at work in my life that I rise up even in the quiet night hours when I’m alone with my true self and give Him praise.
My heart longs to share the joy of a good relationship. I seek out other believers and we encourage one another and help one another along. How? By reading God’s Word together and by responding according to that same Word in admonishment and praise. I don’t try to go life alone. “It is not good that man is alone” (Gen 2:18) was not said only about marriage, but about friendship and the corporate Church! It is true about all of us. We need other believers in our lives.
Finally, in overflowing praise (for surely you will have cause to rejoice!), I remain a perpetual learner at my Master’s feet. If I have come this far with Him, I will go with Him forever for he will keep me from falling utterly. Lord, teach me your law, for Your law is love!
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude v. 24-25).
Holy Father, I see myself compared with the radiant light of your holy saints. They burned brightly for you in their humanness like brilliant lights in earthen vessels. Lives were changed and kingdoms rose and fell according to your truth. My own righteousness is dilution by comparison. I’m distracted from the goal that you have placed before me. I don’t worship only you nor do I love people as my one true mission. I allow things into my head, my heart, my home, my time that waste your resources meant for kingdom life. I need your mercy, your Resurrection, and the convicting power of your Holy Spirit to cleanse me from the inside out. My body and pride resists, yet I begin now by standing firm, saying no, and throwing off the junk that weighs my heart down. Give me the grace to get rid of all this world’s goods and allurements that have left their residue on my soul. Cleanse me from all impurity with your refining fire and make my heart wholly clean. For the sake of those whom you have given me to lead and influence, and for all glory to you, My Lord and Savior. In Your Name, I pray and do. Amen.
copyright 2019, http://www.readpsalm119.com
“Wholly Clean”by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in Morning and Eveningat Back to the Bible (www.backtothebible.org/devotions/wholly-clean). Brief devotional paragraph.
“Purify My Heart” (“Refiner’s Fire”)by Brian Doerksen, uploaded to YouTube by Haebel Abraham, Sept 18, 2012. Music video with lyrics.
[i]St. John, Patricia. 2017. In Her Words, 10Publishing, a division of 10ofthose.com, pg 100.