In condensing three 45-minute teachings given to some 400 plus men of the Diocese of South Carolina I have found it necessary not only to leave out many precepts but even more reluctantly the illustrations that gave it whatever flame and power it had to grip the mind and heart with truth. Nevertheless it cannot be helped—what is offered is but a skeleton. The theme of the day was—You Matter to God—Your Mind Matters, Your Body Matters and Your Heart Matters.
Your Mind Matters
Donald Coggan, the 101st Archbishop of Canterbury noted that “The journey from the head to the heart is the longest and most difficult we know.” I would hasten to add it is also one of the most important we shall ever make. It is a journey some never begin and others abandoned long before it is finished. What makes it important is that it is the road we travel with God—one he delights for us to make. Jesus when asked by one of the religious leaders of his day “What is the greatest commandment?” answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” St. Paul writing to early Christians in Rome admonished the believers to not “Be conformed to this world (this age), but be transformed by the renewal of your minds.” The great teachings of the Bible and the Christian faith—such as the Creation, Revelation, the Fractured human condition, along with God’s Redemption, Judgment and Eternity all imply that we have the duty to think, and to act upon what we think and know. To be sure our minds just as our bodies and our hearts have partaken of what Christian theologians refer to as the fall. The result of this participation is that there is a fracture not unlike fault lines across a geographical region. It runs through our minds so that we do not always think rightly. It runs through our bodily appetites and desires so that we don’t always desire rightly. And it runs through our hearts so that we don’t always “feel” or emotionally desire rightly. Yet this gives us no reason to retreat from thought. Rather it is a motivation to avail ourselves of what God has revealed and think carefully and deeply about it. As the Anglican theologian and statesman, John Stott wrote some forty years ago in a marvelous short book entitled, Your Mind Matters, “Faith is not an illogical belief in the improbable—faith is a reasoning trust in the character and promises of God.”
Often when I meet with the new members I am confirming or receiving into the Church I remind them of what the Anglican reformers were keen to teach—that “What the heart desires, the will chooses and the mind justifies.” That is, what the heart gives itself to think about, meditate upon, or yield to, sooner or later the will chooses; and once the will has chosen what the heart desired the mind will go to work to justify what the heart desired and the will chose.
A contemporary Christian writer and preacher, Tim Keller, has put it this way: “Whatever captures the heart’s trust and love also controls the feelings and behavior. What the heart most wants the mind finds reasonable and the will finds doable.” This may at first blush suggest to the reader that the heart is more important than the mind. However this fails to take into account an important truth, namely that “the good which the mind cannot discover, the will cannot choose, nor the affections cleave to.” (John Owen) Thus we are back to the Christian’s mind being able to understand what God has revealed so that the heart can yearn for that which is eternal and gloriously good. Once the mind has received the greater good that God has revealed the heart can then yearn for, the will can then through God’s grace choose, and the mind can find imminently reasonable and therein cooperatively embrace. Indeed, God renews our minds as we allow his Word and his Spirit to form and shape our thoughts and imaginations and thereby gain a Spirit-formed mind. As we study God’s Word and reflect upon what He has revealed his Holy Spirit both humbles and expands our mind bringing an understanding that comforts us even as it challenges us; strengthens us even as it tears down and uproots our pride.
Your Body Matters
The Psalmist declares of God: “With your very own hands you formed me; now breathe your wisdom over me so I can understand you.” (Psalm 119:73) Then in Psalm 139 we come across these well-known words: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made….” The great theologian, St. Augustine of Hippo, summarized well this wonder that we too often neglect: “Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.”
Since God chose to give us physical bodies we are not to despise, neglect, or see them as inferior to the mind or the heart. Body and Person are interchangeable. We are not a mere soul with a body or a body with a soul. Certainly Jesus suggested the body was secondary to the soul and yet we should remember that he spent much of his ministry healing people’s bodies or to say it more correctly, healing them. Both our minds and our resurrected bodies are destined for eternity.
Nevertheless, the body, though wonderfully made, shares in the fracture of the fall. Its desires and appetites can lead us astray just as much as the desires of the heart or the wrong thinking of the mind. As a pastor I’ve noticed through the years that students who are walking with God while in high school too often fall away while in college. In my experience this usually has more to do with yielding to the appetites of the body—excessive drinking, partying, sexual experimentation, and the like, than with intellectual doubts—at least to begin with. But of course what was desired by body and heart and chosen by the will needed at some point to enlist the mind to justify. When we are led by a sin darkened mind “the bodily passions war against us and so lead us into sin”— but the body guided by a renewed mind can be used for great good—
So what do the Scriptures teach us regarding our bodies?
- We are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice…. (Romans 12:1)
- We are taught not to yield or give over any part of our bodies as instruments of sin—eyes to pornography, bodily members to inappropriate actions…. (I Cor 6:13)
- Our bodies are actually members of Christ and as such belong to him—and if married to our spouse. (I Corinthians 6:19)
- Our bodies are “temples” literally indwelt by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:20)
- We are expected to glorify God in our bodies (I Corinthians 6:20)
- We are to become students of our bodies, knowing how to control them in honor
(I Thessalonians 4:4)
- We are to recognize that physical exercise/training is of some value (I Timothy 4:8)
Your Heart Matters
It is all too common for us to give intellectual assent or belief in Jesus Christ and in the gospel but to actually set our hearts on someone or something else for our sense of worth or life’s value. The head may then be in one place and the heart in another. All heart and no head brings us one set of problems; all head and no heart brings us quite another. What
is the Heart? Biblically speaking the heart is our inner center—the inner person where our emotions and will reside. It is “…the spring of all our desires, motives and moral choices.” It is here that many spiritual and moral battles are fought and won or fought and lost. Why does it matter? Along with Jesus’ teaching that we are to love God with all our mind he also references the commandment to love God with all our heart. “Man” said God to the prophet Samuel when he was sent to anoint David (“a man after God’s own heart”) to replace King Saul “looks on the outside of a person but God looks on the heart.” “Blessed are the pure in heart they shall see God” declared Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. “God searches the heart” wrote St. Paul. Elsewhere he notes that God shines in our hearts with the light that comes from Jesus. The Book of Proverbs admonishes to “Keep vigilant watch over your heart, that’s where life starts” or as another translation puts it: “Watch over your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.” To watch over or keep the heart is to protect our hearts by God’s grace and Spirit from the influences that might jeopardize our integrity. It is also to grow in our capacity to understand others, to care for people, to seek after God and follow his will. Our minds often reason but our hearts are needed to understand. For in the midst of life’s challenges the heart can be bruised. “Insults have broken my heart so that I am in despair.” (Psalm 69:30) Thus all too often it is in the heart that resentments and bitterness take root. But as we open our hearts to God he pours his Spirit into us to heal and to reshape or re-program us. Indeed, St. Paul prays for the early Christians in Ephesus and elsewhere that God will enlighten the eyes of their hearts to see what God has called them to and to be strengthened in the inner person that Christ may dwell in their hearts.
Life’s Great Journey
Our lives are often filled with many journeys; some across diverse habitats and landscapes or into foreign or exotic lands. But one of the greatest of all journeys is the journey with God from the head to the heart; it courses through mind, body and emotions. It is as Archbishop Donald Coggan noted “…the longest and most difficult that we know.” Yet perhaps the most important we shall ever make. It begins when at God’s call we say “Yes” and take the next step. You may find, then, as did John Wesley, quite by surprise, your heart “strangely warmed.”
This article first appeared in the Carolina Compass. It is reprinted with permission.