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
My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings...
Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.
- Proverbs 4.20, 23
Keeping focused on Jesus and His Kingdom is a daily struggle. If we’re not struggling here, fighting the good fight to stay on the path to Jesus, relishing each glimpse of our King that He reveals along the way, we’re falling behind. Each day is a struggle to make all our thoughts obey Jesus (2 Cor. 10.3-5), our desires be what He desires (Mk. 10.42-45), and our values align with His priorities (Matt. 6.33).
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. And the values and priorities of this world too often overrule those of the Kingdom in our conscience.
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.
This is why it is so important to keep up the struggle to see Jesus with the eye of the heart, to think with His mind, and to cherish the values of His Law and Word (Eph. 1.15-23; 1 Cor. 2.16: Rom. 2.14, 15).
Whatever we focus on in our soul will determine the course of our lives. 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 and the vision of Christ, exalted in glory.
The consequences of not struggling to discipline the soul can be disastrous, as Solomon knew.
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 contemplating the beauty of the Lord. Let the Spirit of truth and all comfort shape your heart for loving God and your neighbor (Matt. 22.34-40)!
Strengthen your conscience in the Law of God, so that seeking the Kingdom is at all times 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. We need soul friends to encourage and hold us accountable. We need prayer without ceasing to keep us in communion with the One we so earnestly seek. We need reminders and guidelines and times of retreat for prayer throughout the day if we are to engage and prevail in this struggle for our soul.
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).
Only by disciplining our mind, heart, and conscience to seek Christ’s rule of love for 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. Yes, it is a struggle, and we much prefer not to engage it. But if we will take on this challenge daily – like Jacob, wrestling the angel – it will yield the beautiful fruit of righteousness, peace, and joy in ever-increasing abundance.
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 keep 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, give me grace for the struggle of disciplining my soul, so that I…
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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.