Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 23 2019 - Proverbs 4 – Guard your heart

Proverbs chapter 4 continues with the exhortation to listen and learn. But the learning that is advocated is not academic. It is not a matter of learning and remembering four new facts before breakfast each day – or learning one unusual English word each morning and trying to inject it into your conversations. It is learning the pattern of life that is pleasing to God, the pattern of life designed for human flourishing, and then living that life. It is mastering the art of living a righteous life more fully every day.

Such a life begins in the heart: "Above all else," says Solomon, "guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (v. 23). This theme runs throughout the chapter: "Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live" (v. 4); "My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart" (vv. 20-21). Solomon may be writing instruction for his son and successor but we also need to ensure that there is no part of our heart and affections which is not fully surrendered to the Lord. If he does not reign there, he does not reign at all.

Such a life is displayed in the words we speak: "Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips" (v. 24). The tongue is an unruly member which it is more difficult for us to tame than a wild animal (see James 3:1-12). But wisdom given by the Spirit of God, accompanied by the indwelling life and power of the Spirit can bring our tongues into captivity to the service of Christ.

Such a life is characterised by careful walking in the way mapped out for us by Jesus who walked this path before us:

Let your eyes look straight ahead;
   fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
   and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
   keep your foot from evil. (vv. 25-27)

Such a life, proceeding from a heart that is centred upon Christ and lived for the glory of God, becomes second nature; we habitually and increasingly turn away from what displeases God and become more and more conformed to the image of Christ: "The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day" (v. 18).

This is the good life – the life that is pleasing to God, brings pleasure and blessing to the one living it and shows the world something of the beauty and glory of Christ. This is the life that has power to heal and bless a broken world.

O for a heart to praise my God,
a heart from sin set free;
a heart that's sprinkled with the blood
so freely shed for me:

A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
my great Redeemer's throne;
where only Christ is heard to speak,
where Jesus reigns alone.

Righteous Father, teach me your way and help me to listen to your call upon my life. Help me by your Spirit to guard my heart, watch my tongue and take care to follow closely in the way of Christ my Saviour, for I know that I cannot live such a life by my own strength. May my life always be pleasing to you and a blessing to those around me. May it point others to Jesus our Saviour.

May 23 2013 - John 13:1-30 – The servant is not greater than his master

John alone among the Evangelists tells of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. It was an act of love (see 13:1), foreshadowing that ultimate act of love that was now just a few hours away.

But John introduces this extraordinary incident in an equally extraordinary manner. He tells us that Jesus knew that the Father had placed everything in his hands and that he had come from the Father and was about to return to the Father. It was this knowledge that prompted Jesus to rise from the table and set about the task of the most menial of servants. Knowledge that he is Lord of all enables Jesus to act as servant of all.

In this act Jesus shows what he has come into the world to do. He came not to be served but to serve and to lay down his life as a ransom for many. His entire ministry was one of service. He ministered to the crowds in all their need, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, teaching them about the kingdom, not only through parables but also by the character of his life. He had time also for individuals in all their varied needs: the woman at the well in Samaria; Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector; Lazarus his beloved friend whom he raised from the dead. His life was lived entirely for the blessing and benefit of others.

And Jesus taught his disciples that he and the Father are one. He does only what the Father has given him to do and says only what the Father has first spoken to him. He is the one who reveals the Father heart of God.

Those who do not believe in God accuse us of creating a projection of our own need for an authority figure. Sadly, that is sometimes what we do. We are used to human models of authority. Those with positions of great authority and power in this world are often domineering and demanding. All too often we project this image upon God and imagine that he is there to whip us into shape and to bark out the orders.

Jesus shows us what God is really like. He declares, “I and the Father are one.” Make no mistake, God is God; he is the sovereign ruler of the universe. But he is also the God who stoops and serves. He is filled with love and compassion towards the world he has made, determined to give himself to its mending and flourishing. Jesus shows us what God is like and forces us to throw away all those distorted images based on twisted human models of power.

It’s not always easy to live with such a Lord – see Peter’s response in 13:8. We seem to be more comfortable with law than grace.

Having washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus then says that he has left them an example that they should do as he has done. Confidence in who we are and where we are going should drive us also to joyful acts of selfless service. “If you know such things you will be blessed if you do them.” We were created that we might image God. We need to learn afresh what this means. We need to stop being precious about our own dignity and jockeying for position in the kingdom. We need to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way we will show the world what God is really like.

Father God, thank you that you do not treat us as our sins deserve but are full of compassion and intent to bless. You did not spare your own Son but gave him for our redemption. Thank you that he is the image of the invisible God, the one who has revealed your character. Help me by your Spirit to be conformed to the image of your Son; make me like Jesus. As his character is formed in me, help me to serve others and so to make you known.

Peter Misselbrook