IN THE last article we discussed two simple and powerful methods on character development: (1) subjecting the heart to the influence of God’s Word, and (2) displacing the evil by the opposite good. These methods are not only taught and implied in our text, but they are likewise taught in other Scriptures:
Proverbs 23: 7: “As he [a man] thinketh in his heart [not simply in his mind], so is he.” As the thoughts of God are taken into the heart (not simply in his mind) from the love of them, the new heart, mind, and will, subjecting the heart to these thoughts, develops accordingly. The disposition becomes like these thoughts, and thus overcoming is made possible. As good, kind, wise, self-controlling, patient, just, loving thoughts give the heart their qualities, so evil, unkind, foolish, rash, inconstant, unjust, selfish thoughts impress upon the heart their qualities.
Proverbs 4: 23: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Conscious, constant keeping of the heart by the exertion of the new will along the lines of the Lord’s Word results in character and destiny.
Matthew 12: 34, 35: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure [of his heart] bringeth forth evil things.”
Matthew 15: 18: “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” Jesus is speaking here of the evil heart, made so by evil thoughts.
John 15: 3: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” As we allow that Word to rest in our minds, and then by constant, conscious exertion of the will lay hold on it, and subject our affections to its sway, we are cleansed of evil.
John 15: 11: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” “These things” refer to the many things of the Lord’s Word that Jesus had been speaking to His disciples, and joy is one of the fruits of the spirit developed by the Word.
John 17: 17: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
John 20: 31: “But these [things] are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” “These [things] are written,” the thoughts of the Lord’s Word are to be taken into the mind, “that ye might believe.” They work faith in the submissive heart, when held there.
Acts 11: 13, 14: “. . . Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; Who shall tell thee words [thoughts, to which your heart being subject will develop your affections], whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.”
Acts 20: 32: “. . . I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” The Word builds up and develops character.
Romans 1: 16: “. . . For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Paul says that we are kept by the power of God which is the Gospel. God has given the thoughts, and we take these thoughts into our hearts and minds until Godlikeness is developed. Then we are in a condition to be kept by the power of God through faith, as we are also put into this condition by the same power held upon the heart.
1 Peter 1: 5: “. . . Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Peter corroborates the thought of the passage.
Romans 10: 17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Faith, one of the qualities or fruits of the spirit, is developed by the Word of God.
2 Corinthians 3: 18: “We all, with open [unveiled] face [the eyes of our understanding opened] beholding [the will keeping the thoughts in the heart] as in a glass [mirror, the Divine plan] the glory of the Lord [His Wisdom, Justice, Love, and Power in their blending], are [by looking] changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The new heart, mind, and will makes the change by holding the Word upon the heart until it is subject to the influence of the Word.
Philippians 4: 8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Let us make sure that this thinking is done by consciously exerting the will. The new heart, mind, and will, constantly holding on the heart these things: the true, the just, the honest, the pure, the reputable, the lovely, the virtuous, and the praiseworthy, develops these qualities into the disposition. The Apostle emphasized our thinking on these things because he knew the transforming power of God’s Word, when the new heart, mind, and will lays hold of, and subjects the affections to it.
2 Timothy 3: 15-17: “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” It is profitable for doctrine – what we ought to believe; for reproof – what we ought not to believe; for correction – what we ought not to do; for instruction in righteousness – what we ought to do. “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Conscious exertion of the will on these thoughts, produces acts, and these acts, repeated continually, develop habits; and these habits strengthen and crystallize into character. Let us sow a character of God’s spirit, and thereby reap eternal life!
Hebrews 5: 14: “Have their senses exercised [by reason of use].” This passage shows how acts develop the disposition.
One mistake that probably all of the Lord’s people have made that has delayed their growth is fighting the flesh only, and not developing the spirit. On that account many have become discouraged because they made little progress compared with what they ought to have made; and comparing the time used with that yet remaining, many have thought that it would be impossible for them to be overcomers in this life. God’s Word points out a better plan. We should not fight the flesh simply, but fixing our attention on the spirit, let it constantly exert itself by holding the Lord’s Word upon the affections, subjecting these by habitual action to its power, and the flesh will be displaced by the spirit.
As we cannot walk in two directions, and as we cannot put two things into the same space at one and the same time, so neither can we walk according to the spirit and according to the flesh at the same time. The new heart, mind, and will, by walking in the spirit, will displace the flesh.
II. SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS
We previously discussed the seven steps that must be taken in walking in the spirit: (1) deadness to self and the world, (2) meditation on the Lord’s Word, (3) watchfulness, (4) prayer, (5) spreading the Lord’s Word, (6) developing character in harmony with the Lord’s Word, and (7) enduring evil for loyalty to the Lord’s Word.
Unless we take these seven steps, or if we succeed in some, but fail in others, we will fail to be completely faithful. We will learn these seven steps by applying the seven general methods for developing good, previously explained, in applying the two special methods discussed in this and the previous article. They will support us in every effort to apply the methods of subjecting the heart to the influence of God’s Word, and of displacing the evil by the opposite good. In the next article we will apply these two special methods to the seven steps of the spirit’s walk.
(to be continued)