Updated: Sep 14
These summer months have built many new family memories, as we’ve explored some new campgrounds, and trails. With childrens’ propensity for checking things out, mine began running into the bush for different things, only to hear my motherly voice admonishing them to stay out of the bush to avoid an encounter with poison ivy.
They seemed to listen for awhile. But then, they began to pay less attention, after all, they hadn’t gotten any itchy rash so far, maybe my cautionary stance was unfounded.
This happens to me sometimes. I hear the cautionary words of Scripture, the admonishment to guard my heart, to confess my sin, to pursue a deeper abiding with Him, and I heed His Word fo awhile, but then, I slip up, and if nothing seems to “happen” I carry on in my slothful, unintentional ways, entering the bush as if there is no poison ivy to be found.
In the book, “With All Your Heart: Orienting Your Mind, Desires and Will Toward Christ” by Craig Troxel, he describes the heart as central to who we are, as it encompasses what we know, what we love and what we choose. These three aspects of our being are intertwined together, influencing and revealing the other.
Scripture teaches us that our hearts are deceitful above all else; our sinful nature ever nagging at each of them. As we understand our heart, and our sinful tendencies within it, we are better equipped for reorienting ourselves toward Him, with a greater reason to pursue a life that abides in the Vine, a reason to stay out of the bush and become more intentional in our own obedience.
What We Know
Most often, we don’t equate knowledge with the heart, it is usually relegated to the head, and separated from the realm of our feeling. However, he points out that, “our thought life is shaped and manipulated by the state of the whole heart and its wider and deeper agenda, whether it is polluted or sanctified.“
Our thoughts influence how we feel. Just imagine what happens when you think to yourself, “that was really dumb,” you probably feel embarrassed, or frustrated. In the same way, when our thoughts are oriented only ourselves, we feel sad, down or even angry when what we want isn’t happening.
This easily happens to me, when I have a plan to do something throughout the day and my task gets lost in the shuffle of life. I feel irritated and can miss what God has in store for me.
Our thought life will slowly transform as we invest our thoughts in His Word. This isn’t a particularly new concept, I hope, but it helps us to see the importance of knowing Scripture and spending time in His Word. We grow in our knowledge. We progress toward maturity.
This is part of our sanctification, and is so relevant as we live in the World because, “a Christian’s growth necessitates his or her maturity of mind, and with increasing maturity, the Christian is able to answer the lies of the world and of our deceitful hearts.”
We are bombarded daily with news, the pressure to buy this new thing, or conform to culture in some way. The slippery slope to temptation from the influences around us, or from the longings within us, can be answered as we orientate our minds to Him.
How does what you know impact your faith?
What We Love
We are created to desire. It’s a beautiful piece of our uniqueness; we are passionate about different things. Thus, we are led to glorify God and serve others in many diverse ways; this is the beauty of the body of Christ.
Our desires reveal what we love. Like the gum inside of a tootsie pop, what we love is beneath the surface of the things we long for.
The author reminds that they can become sinful when they are out of balance, developing into idols, because “the problem with idols has always been as much about the desire for them as it has been about the object.”
So, we learn to become aware of our longings, understanding that, “some desires are to be encouraged, others to be subdued; some to be fanned into flame, others to be smothered; some to be loosened and set free, others to be harnessed and disciplined.”
Our challenge is to continue pursuing spiritual growth, that we can continually hold our loves with open hands before the Father, gaining His wisdom as we figure out what to do with them.
How do your desires impact your faith?
What We Choose
We make good choices, we make poor choices; obedient, and disobedient. Our hearts can be stubborn, proud and weak, they can also be surrendered and strengthened.
“The heart’s resistance and lack of resistance suggest what is familiar to us all: the struggle of our willpower, which tortures us when we feel caught in a constant tug-of-war between what we know and what we desire.“
We are reminded that, “The heart we have by nature must be renewed by God’s grace and have fresh infusions of life poured into it by God’s Spirit.” For our hearts to be obedient, we need Christ, His strength, His mercy and His grace.
All the residual sin we daily battle, causes us frustration and pain, and for as long as we live on earth, we will be continually growing in grace, until the day of His coming, when He will complete our sanctification.
This is hard. We would prefer to just be perfect, to not continue making mistakes, or giving in to temptation. It forces us to confession, repentance, humility and true dependance on the Father. It might seem like a hard trade, but oh how our character and integrity can grow!
How do your choices impact your faith?
How We Keep Our Heart
The author points us to the ultimate Keeper of our heart, that even though we put much effort into preserving and protecting our heart, He is ultimately the One who keeps us, strengthens us and empowers us.
“You seek to love Christ faithfully with all your heart’s knowing, desiring, and choosing. But your deeper confidence is in Christ’s love for you and his keeping, preserving, and protecting you.“
We are encouraged to preserve and protect our hearts through our practice of meditating on the Word and through prayer. We are reminded to maintain vigilance over what we see, and what we hear. We are admonished to gauge the words we speak, and what it indicates about our spiritual life.
When we look at our heart, it’s mind, desires and choices, we begin to understand more of who we are on the inside, the depth of our sin, and the greatness of God’s grace.
“Just as nothing in our nature has escaped the wreckage of sin, so also nothing in our nature escapes the touch of his reforming grace.”
Scripture teaches us that our hearts are deceitful above all else, perhaps drowning us in guilt and uncertainty. Trusting what we know from the Word, surrendering our desires, and acting in obedience to Christ can be a difficult path at times, but as we abide in the Vine, our thoughts become more like His, our love aligns to what He loves, and our actions transform more to reflect His glory.
I really enjoyed this book, giving it 5 stars. It could be one I return to every year, to remind myself of my heart’s depravity, and of the greatness of God’s grace in my sanctification. I think it’s important for the life of the believer, to recognize the complexities of our hearts and this book provides an opportunity to do that.
How will understanding the complexities of your heart help you abide in the Vine today?
Thank you to Crossway for the complimentary copy of this book, and the opportunity to post an honest review.