In part one, we dealt with the truth that lasting change will not occur without a radical shift in our values. And since realigning our hearts to treasure Christ is the only surefire way to kill lesser desires and be fulfilled with greater desires, it would behoove us to know what that looks like. To that end, I’d like to give some practical advice in the form of an acronym.
Think of your life as a computer. Over time, viruses and junk files (sin & hindrances) fill your hard drive (your life). As a result, your computer slows down, it becomes unresponsive, and the next thing you know you are threatening to throw “the rusted hunk of junk” out of the window because it’s too slow. It’s ineffective. In tech terms, the process of removing all the bad viruses and junk files from your computer and starting over is known as “wiping” your hard drive. So, too, our hearts need to be wiped clean, and realigned to desire God.
Wash your heart frequently with scripture
We need frequent encounters with the scripture. It is God’s revelation to mankind. And, as Paul’s second letter to Timothy says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God wants and expects you to use it to become more like him.
That said, different people are at different places in their walks with the Lord Jesus. We all can’t be expected to read one hundred chapters three times a day. The goal is not to read so much that you are only able to get through the physical process of your eyes scanning the words. Instead, each person ought to read what they’re able to (and still get something from it) at least once a day. As you continue to grow in your walk, make a concerted effort to stretch the amount you are able to read. Perhaps add a chapter, or read twice a day, and so on. The point is to grow. As you read the scripture frequently, you are able to better apply it into your life – thus helping to fulfill God’s sanctifying (scrubbing clean) work in your life.
Intentionally meditate on God
While reading the scripture is valuable, meditating on God is equally valuable. After all, as much as we may want to, we cannot spend 24/7 reading scripture. Let me be clear about what I mean when I say to meditate on God. What I do not mean is what so often pops in our head when we hear the word “meditate”; that is, sitting cross-legged and chanting the “Ohm” somewhere in the Himalayas. What I am saying is that we must make the effort to think frequently and deeply about God.
Meditation is merely keeping God at the forefront of your mind. So, for all those other times where we are not able to read scripture, we ought to be thinking about God, about what we have recently read in Scripture, about how we can apply it to our lives, about all of the good qualities of God (his love, his wisdom, his forgiveness, etc.), about the meaning of troubling and seemingly mysterious verses, and about what the new heaven and new earth will be like, among other things. Meditating on God causes the focus of our mind’s eye to be fixed on Jesus, just as Hebrews suggested. By keeping our mind’s eye fixed on Jesus, he becomes more and more valuable to us.
Prayer, simply stated, is talking to God. When we pray, we must bear in mind that we are not talking to thin air, to a mystical force, or to an idea that we have conjured in our heads. We are talking to a real person. As with any relationship with other people, our relationship with God (after we are saved) improves as we talk to him more, as we are more honest and transparent with ourselves before Him, and the more that we seek satisfaction from speaking with Him.
Suffering comes in various ways: cancer, financial collapse, car wrecks, adultery, looting, natural disaster, militant opposition to the Gospel. Regardless of its source, our sovereign God has orchestrated—whether by design or permission—suffering as a means of His grace.
I’m not about to say suffering isn’t hard. Nor am I saying to just put a smile on your face. But I am saying that you can choose deeper joy in God, even in the face of your calamity. God has (perhaps) trillions of reasons for allowing calamity in our lives. One common reason is to kick from underneath us anything that we’re leaning on aside from him – much like a hangman kicks a stool from underneath a convict. But there is one glorious difference: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good,” for, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Gen. 50:20 & Rom. 8:38-39)
Embracing suffering—pains and all—allows us to taste and see God as better than anything else, and allows us to be more and more like our Lord. This is the essence of sanctification.
Finally, let us say with Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:7-11)