“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
I recently finished a Bible study in the book of James with a group of ladies. In my personal time studying through the book, the theme that continued to jump out at me was the differences between being double-minded or having singleness of heart. It seemed that the concept was mentioned in every other verse—it’s not really, it just seemed like it to me because that’s what God has been working on in my heart. So I had planned to start this week in sharing, and trying to sort out a little more for myself, what it means to be single-minded instead of “two-souled” (which is the literal translation from the Greek). I had a different post ruminating in my mind but earlier this week I was made aware of something that has broken my heart so I wanted to share it with you.
On Tuesday afternoon, a friend told me that a man in the ministry that I highly esteem in the faith has given up on his marriage and has left his wife and kids. This is the same man who, in the not too distant past, had shown me wonderful things about the Scriptures, who had increased my love for theology, and whose voice I still hear in my head when I read certain passages of Scripture. I don’t know the whole story. I don’t know what is going on in his heart, but I do know that it breaks my heart, the hearts of his family and friends, and most importantly, the heart of God.
This frightens me. I have heard of men and women, seemingly completely given over to Christ, who then become entangled in sin or who’ve given up on the Faith altogether. But this is the first time it has been someone who is important to me personally and that I looked up to as a spiritual leader. How does someone go from being so steeped in Scripture and having such an outward appearance of godliness to abandoning it all for whatever reason?
It alarms me sometimes how long I can go on gleaning what I think are amazing jewels from the Scriptures with great anticipation of sharing my wisdom and insight without it ever having even the smallest effect on my relationship with Christ, my soul, or my behavior. The study of the Scriptures is, first and foremost, for communion with God, then for development of godly character from the inside out, and then for sharing with others. Actions speak far louder than words and if my life does not match up to what I am saying….my words mean nothing. I am just a clanging gong… or for me, maybe more like an annoying air horn.
My agenda, my esteem, my ambitions, my thirst for greater knowledge becomes an idol in my heart—the master that I choose to serve over and against Christ. Even the Scriptures can become a tool I use to worship my idols instead of becoming a source of increasing worship to God. Satan proved that possibility in the wilderness temptation of Christ when he was quoting the scriptures to the Word of God Himself.
It’s so easy to lose sight of the reasons I started down this path of godliness in the first place. I begin the dangerous drifting that leads to the abandonment of the love I had in the beginning (Rev 2:4-5). I forget how much I’ve gained and how much was given for me—it wasn’t gold or silver that was given to purchase me (1 Cor 6:20, 7:23). I (we) become two-souled, divided between two masters. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matt 6:24a)
So how can we guard against this in our own hearts? I know I am capable of doing far worse than my friend who left his family. I am prone to wander and sometimes the sinfulness I find in my own heart scares me. So what can we possibly do? We cling to Jesus. We humble ourselves before Him repeatedly to express our deep need for Him. We soak ourselves in Scripture, not to show others how godly we are, but so that it changes us from the inside out. We seek out Christian relationships to encourage one another daily. And we keep a close watch over our hearts and lives, making sure that we are staying close to Christ.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13