Still reading along in The Pursuit of Holiness. Reaching the end soon actually. The last post was on chapter 10 and the place of personal discipline. Chapter 11 gets a bit personal – the title of the chapter is Holiness in Body. He starts out by accusing us of indulging and pampering our bodies, quoting from Romans 12:1 (which is a recent Fighter Verse) “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Bridges points out that we do not do this – we give in to our desires and let them rule over us instead of being master of them.
One of his points in this chapter is that if we do not and cannot control our physical desires (eating, getting exercise, watching tv, etc) then we cannot expect to control other desires. We should flee temptation, take steps to avoid things that entice us to sin, and avoid thinking of ways to indulge our sins. We should even study our sinful desires to see how they rise up against us and be prepared.
After this very convicting chapter about how every part of our life is called to be involved in the work to be holy, he turns to Holiness in Spirit in chapter 11. Not only should our outward conduct be regulated, but our inner life as well. He points to the commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. It is not enough that we do not kill, we must also not hate. (Studying the Westminster Shorter Catechism a few years ago I found it interesting how “do not murder” applies to even being angry at someone or thinking bad thoughts about someone. Convicting!!)
Bridges touches on Phil 4:8 and points out that “we cannot focus on controlling the body while ignoring our thought life”. Then he points to Ephesians 5:3-4 and that “we need to be reminded to be careful what we expose ourselves to and what we allow ourselves to think.”
This leads right in to chapter 13 on Holiness and Our Wills. Before the fall, our mind and emotions and will worked in harmony with each other and sought the glory of God. After the fall our “reason was darkened, our desires were entangled, and our wills perverted.” With rebirth this is undone but not all at once and we still have conflicting desires and don’t always do what we know we should.
We should use our minds to reach a decision, our will to implement it, and then our emotions to affirm it. But we often work in reverse and let our emotions control our actions with no good reasoning involved. We must be on guard about what “enters our minds and influences our emotions.” This takes us back to the Word of God. “The protective influence…comes as a result of diligent, prayerful, and purposeful intake of Scripture.” So, we are back to discipline and having a structured plan.
I am always surprised at the failure of the mind and will to do what I want (Paul covered this in Romans). I have been doing the Desiring God Fighter Verses and also refreshing the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I find that at night after the lights are out it is helpful to rehearse my verses. And often in the morning as I am getting up and getting ready. The point is there are no other distractions during this time so I can focus. But I can construct a distraction out of thin air. One of the verses is Psalm 62:5-8 and this is often how it goes. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, [silence] hey, I fell asleep. What am I going to wear today? I should do my memory verses. Oh wait, I started those. where was I. Oh right. For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation… I have a meeting tonight, I need to remember to put that notebook out so I am ready. How did the toothpaste get moved over here? Oh yeah, where was I? He only is my rock and my salvation, I shall not be shaken….. (you get the idea).
So, I build my structure – I make my plans. I fall away frequently, but there is always a fresh start and at least there is a plan to come back to. What if I were to want to want to? That is what I am aiming for. For my will to want to do His will.