My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings...
Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it springthe issues of life.
- Proverbs 4.20, 23
O beloved, truly chaste Christ, to whom every eye is clear, may the grace of the sevenfold Spirit come to keep [my thoughts], to hold them in check.
Rule this heart of mine, O swift God of the elements, that you may be my love, and that I may do your will!
- Anonymous, “On the Flightiness of Thought,” Irish, 8th/9th century
Keep our soul focused on Jesus and His Kingdom is a daily struggle. If we’re not struggling here, fighting the good fight to keep our soul in the path of Jesus, we’re falling behind.
Our thoughts can sometimes get out of hand, sending us off into fancies of folly or meditations of meanness which are totally unbecoming a follower of Jesus Christ. Similarly, our hearts can become unruly, so that we harbor affections that are not conducive to love for God and neighbors.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this?
The heart and mind are two of the components of the human spirit, or soul. Along with the conscience they make up that mysterious gearbox of spiritual energy which processes thoughts and feelings, ideas and impressions, through the grid of values, priorities, and will, into words and deeds.
Whatever we store up in our mind and heart will determine the bent of our soul. What happens in our soul determines what we say and do. What we say and do defines who we are. The person who is growing spiritually conducts an ongoing vigil over his soul, keeping heart, mind, and conscience in line with the teaching of Scripture.
The consequences of not paying attention to heart and mind can be disastrous, as Solomon knew.
This is why it’s so important that we daily reinforce the works of the Law, which God has written on our hearts (Rom. 2.14, 15; Ezek. 36.26, 27), with the spiritual buttressing of His Word (Heb. 4.12).
Enlighten your mind with the truth of God. Let the mind of Christ, which you possess, become the mind that guides your thoughts, as He teaches you His Word. Work at this discipline every day.
Renew your affections by the counsel of the Lord. Let the Spirit of truth and all comfort shape your heart by the love of God and neighbor encoded in God’s Law (Matt. 22.34-40).
Strengthen your conscience so that love for God and man is the default priority. Thus your conscience will keep your heart and mind in check, and fit them for proper service to the Lord.
We are not strong enough to do this on our own; we need God’s Spirit daily bolstering our resolve, renewing our mind, purifying our heart, and shoring-up our conscience.
Here, then, is a summons to prayer.
Cry out to God’s Spirit, and listen for His promptings. He will guide you in the path you must walk (Ps. 139.23, 24; 1 Jn. 2.1-6).
Is your daily regimen of reading, meditation, and study in God’s Word sufficient to allow the Spirit to shape your soul in the direction of loving God and your neighbors? Are your prayers sufficient, and in tune with the Spirit, to allow Him to plant the Word of God deep in the soil of your soul?
Only by disciplining our mind, heart, and conscience to love God and our neighbors will we realize the freedom (from self and sin) and fullness (of Christ and the Spirit) God intends for all who know Him.
Plead with God to guard your heart and mind, and to fortify your conscience. Feed on His Word under the tutelage of His Spirit. Let the love of Christ skeep your thoughts and heart, and cleanse and renew your conscience.
Then go forth in Him to love God and neighbors as Christ has loved you.
Psalm 139.1-5 (Ripley: Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul)
You have searched, me, Lord, and known me, when I sit and when I rise;
From afar, my thoughts discerning, all my path before You lies.
Every word, before it’s spoken, You behold and know it well.
Both behind me and before me, Your sweet presence I can tell.
Lord, renew Your light in me by Your holy Word and Spirit; let Your truth conceive in my soul, so that I might know You, Lord. Adapted from Eriugena, Homily on John 1.1-14
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Davies, p. 263.