Watch your head

“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17 NKJV).

The average Nepali man living in villages and in the mountains does not stretch much over five feet in height. Since materials for buildings are expensive and must sometimes be transported considerable distances, houses are built with lower ceilings, and doorframes are much shorter than those to which the normal American is accustomed. A frequent warning issued to me when I am entering those structures is “Watch your head.”

On my last trip to the mountains I came home with at least three healing scars on my head from careless encounters. And that did not count the time I tried to leave the barn we were sleeping in in the dark and hit a roof beam so hard it literally knocked me down. Yes, sometimes I seem to be a slow learner.

The New Testament warns us of dangers to the head as well, but not our physical cranium. These warnings are addressed towards our minds. In a wonderful passage about the need to learn and understand Jesus properly, Paul warns of the pagan life based on ignorance and shows how the Gospel enlightens the hearer and enables him to “be renewed in [his] mind” and to “put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:17-24).

Moderns are attracted to mysticism and subjective experiential religion. We often hear the desire for more spirituality and for worship assemblies (and other programs) which are more exciting or enthusiastic. Applause, waving of hands, and other outward displays are encouraged as apparent signs of such spirituality.

At issue is the definition of spirituality. In Scripture it is the quality of God-likeness, or of Christ-likeness.

“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:9-10).

Enthusiasm is not a sign of spirituality. It may be a sign of the joy of worship or other positive emotions, but biblically spirituality is not an emotion. It is the presence of Jesus within us. More properly, in Romans 8 at least, it is the fact that the character of Jesus (which is his Spirit) is in us. One who is not like Jesus in basic character does not belong to him.

To return to our discussion of the head, Paul (and other inspired writers) make it crystal clear that there is a strong and essential intellectual aspect to Christian faith. “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). In the passage previously referred to in Ephesians 4 we read, “But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus” (Romans 10:20-21).

This is in no way to suggest that Christianity has no room for emotions or for enthusiasm. But let us strive to understand their role and what they actually constitute, and not mistake them for something entirely different. We love God “with all our hearts.” We also serve him “with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding . . . increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10).

Sin thrives on ignorance. Salvation is achieved through truth (John 8:32; 17:17). In order to please God one must always watch his head.

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