a connection between temptation and true peace

“True peace of heart, then, is found in resisting passions, not in satisfying them. There is no peace in the carnal man, in the man given to vain attractions, but there is peace in the fervent and spiritual man.”
(Thomas à Kempis. The Imitation of Christ. Chapter 6)

Giving into temptation isn’t “relieving the pressure,” it’s more like pouring gasoline on a wildfire. Rationalization’s shadow comes in all shapes and sizes, but their darkness is only cast out by the light of truth.

profit vs. polish

“TRUTH, not eloquence, is to be sought in reading the Holy Scriptures; and every part must be read in the spirit in which it was written. For in the Scriptures we ought to seek profit rather than polished diction.”
(Thomas à Kempis. The Imitation of Christ. Chapter 5)

When our spirality is more about looking good rather than being good, we are in trouble.

 

uprooting and planting better than …

“If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations.” (Imitation, chapter 3)

Yikes!
What insight!
What a great challenge!

It’s so much easier to talk about problems! If I can work on external troubles I don’t need to worry about the internal condition of my soul.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

So then, what are the “vices” we must uproot–the plank we must remove? What are the “virtues” we must plant?

How shall we accomplish this task? After submission to God in humility and prayer, ready for his Spirit to work, what is our responsibility and obedience? What actions do we take to weed the garden of our soul? How do we sow seeds of christ-like character?

It starts with self awareness, which can only come from observation and reflection. Jesus says, “Do not judge” (Matthew 7:1), so we must be watching for moments when we judge others.

I think it includes an understanding of the consequences. Jesus also says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” The consequences of our vices ought to be vivid reminders of why we need to resist temptation.

Confession and accountability are solid guard rails that keep us from driving off the road and into the ravine. We are better together, we need others!

We can find so many more commands in scripture to keep us from vise and growing in virtue, but the point is this: which holds more of our attention: the problems of others or our own?

 

struggling against self

“Who is forced to struggle more than he who tries to master himself? This ought to be our purpose, then: to conquer self, to become stronger each day, to advance in virtue.” (Imitation, Chapter 3)

“14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! 

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:14-25)

+++++++++++++++++++++++
A note about Imitating-Christ.com

Recently I made a shift to focus this blog specifically on reflections based on the devotional classic, Imitating Christ, by Thomas a Kempis. I blog about my other ideas on two other sites:

www.hokma.com :: hokma is Hebrew for wisdom and this blog about it’s pursuit
www.nextgen.church :: a blog about serving kids and students in the church

 

 

Winning against weariness

“I am often wearied by the many things I hear and read, but in You is all that I long for. Let the learned be still, let all creatures be silent before You; You alone speak to me.” (Chapter 3)

Nearly everything we experience takes a toll and leads to weariness: work, relationships, responsibilities, conflicts, uncertainty… So many things drain the gas tank. 

We look to so many false sources of comfort and renewal: achievement and accumulation, control and power, diversions and amusements … 

Let us focus less on the things that weary us, let us stop looking to hollow answers.

True rest is found in the voice of Jesus. Speak Lord, your servant is listening. 

the wisdom of humility

Pride is a trap for every growing Christian. So very few make spiritual maturity a priority it is difficult not to compare our progress with the lack of progress in others.

Any comparison where I come out on top actually leads to me loosing.

I love the following chapter from Imitation, it’s as if Thomas was writing it specifically for my personal struggles. For this reason, I make it a goal to read it a few times every week. Here are a few of the ways that I am challenged by this teaching:

  1. Understanding and knowledge lack value when isolated from humility and love. Being intellectual may impress people, but it doesn’t impress God.
  2. Knowledge leads to anxiety. The more we know, the more we can worry.
  3. Knowledge also leads to delusion—false belief. When we are so confident in one area, we become confident in all areas—even when we shouldn’t be so convinced.
  4. A good life makes a deeper impact than understanding. When we are smarter than others, they see something beyond their grasp. When we life a good life, they are inspirited to do the same.
  5. More knowledge means more responsibility. Knowledge definitely isn’t unless in the kingdom, far from it! In fact, the more we understand, the more will be judged. To whom much is given, much is expected. And what is expected? That we would love others int he humility of Christ.


Having a Humble Opinion of Self (Book 1. Ch. 2)

EVERY man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars. He who knows himself well becomes mean in his own eyes and is not happy when praised by men.

If I knew all things in the world and had not charity, what would it profit me before God Who will judge me by my deeds?

Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise.

Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God.

The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you. If you think you know many things and understand them well enough, realize at the same time that there is much you do not know. Hence, do not affect wisdom, but admit your ignorance. Why prefer yourself to anyone else when many are more learned, more cultured than you?

If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is the best and most perfect counsel. To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself.

true knowledge

“Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God.” (Book 1, Chapter 1)

It’s not too difficult to learn a lot and have all the answers … especially in a church community filled with people who don’t ask many questions or connect too deeply.

For the spiritual life, true knowledge, makes a real and lasting impact in our thoughts and words and actions.