Forthright Magazine

Start from within

So many times our study and use of Scripture in different contexts and for various needs dovetail because there are so many connections to be made.

In a few days my wife and I will travel to the northeast region of Brazil where I will preach and teach for several days. One lesson I will give there focuses on the priority we must give to the inner life.

Also, the next issue of our Brazilian magazine will feature the theme of favorite proverbs from the Bible — already 10 people on three continents have promised articles for it.

None of them have chosen, however, Proverbs 4.23 — there are so many good ones to choose from. The proverb says:

Above all else, be very careful about what you think. Your thoughts control your life. IEB.

This translation of the International English Bible agrees with several other versions, because, as the NET Bible footnote observes here,

Anatomically the Hebrew word לֵב (lev) refers to the “heart.” But abstractly it can refer to one’s inner self, will, understanding, or mind. They did not see the heart and mind in opposition, such that the advice here includes both one’s thinking and feelings.

Today, most people think of the heart solely as the place of emotion. It is much more than that.

There is some truth to the idea that we should act before we feel, and then the feelings will follow. But there should always be the thought before the action.

God thought before creation. His purpose is eternal, that is, he had in mind what he would do before his spoke the first word to create light and all else that followed. Before he created humans, he said, "Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness" Genesis 1.26. He thought it through.

This truth means we should not only plan our actions, but consider if they are good ones, what the possible consequences will be, and whether they reflect the will of God or not.

This truth also means that we must choose the right thoughts to think. Mostly, our thought should be centered on God.

Finally, brothers, think about good things and things that will bring praise ─ whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. Philippians 4.8 IEB.

After we think about these things, says the apostle Paul, then we should "Practice the things you learned from me, …" v. 9.

In his mental paralysis, David decided to "remember what happened long ago" when God evidenced his salvation, aid, and providence. So then he said, "I ponder everything You have done. I think about all the You have made" Psalm 143.5 IEB.

People today are passive and reactive. They listen or watch what’s in front of them. They are like the prey of some animals that inject venom to paralyze in order to consume them.

Christians resist such attempts to be controlled by the world, Romans 12.1-2. They "live according to the Spirit [in order to] have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit" Romans 8.5 NET. This begins by aligning their thinking with God’s by thinking his thought (Scripture!), meditating on his great acts of salvation, and doing his will in the world.

And it all starts from within, from the new birth, John 3.3, 5, to the realization of the hope that is within us, 1 Peter 3.15!


J. Randal Matheny
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