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What do you dedicate yourself to?

You have many options on what you choose to build your life on or out of. But they all begin with what you think about and what you focus or meditate on. Purely at a psychological level, let alone a spiritual one, you become what you practice or what you dwell on.

Proverbs 23
7 for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

Here, as with many things, your patterns are stronger than your intentions every single time.

We all intend great things, but what we repeatedly do is what matters.    

If you were to sit down and chart out where you spend your time, the things you think about, the websites you visit, the articles and emails you read, the voices you allow into your life, the conversations you have with others, the news channels that you watch, what would that pattern reveal?

Or maybe it’s not what you’re doing but what was planted in your life by someone else. There are some things that were said, or something that was done, and it still echoes in your life. Maybe that person isn’t even around anymore, but the echo remains.

In either case, the root determines the shoot, which determines the fruit. The seeds we plant in our lives, water and feed, grow into the same kind of plant that produces a particular fruit. These are always consistent with each other.

Luke 6
43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

So, here’s a sobering question:

What comes out of your mouth (or into your mind) in your worst moments? That’s what’s growing in your heart.

Right now, in our world, there are a lot of things vying for the field of your heart. They’re trying to get you to devote yourself to something… and you have limits. You have a limited-sized field, limited time, and limited energy. So what should you devote yourself to in that?

We often work through a book of the Bible. Sometimes it seems like a lot to swallow. However, during this series, we’re going to focus on one verse from one of the letters written to an early group of Christians by Paul.

Paul was an apostle, a leader in the early church. He wrote letters to different congregations in different cities, encouraging them, correcting them, guiding them, and sometimes even comforting them. In this case, the church he was writing to was at a place called Philippi.

In the verse we’re going to camp out on, the apostle Paul was writing from a bad situation to a church that was in a difficult situation – he was in prison, they were in poverty and difficulty.

How would any of us feel in that situation? This is an easy place for us to reach that outrage, anger, bitterness, fear, disappointment, anxiety, and frustration.

But that’s not what Paul does. What Paul writes is very specific, intentional, and not what you would expect.

Philippians 4
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Rejoice – be glad. So often in the bible, this exact word is used when one finds, or recovers, a lost treasure or when one who was thought to be dead and gone is alive and found. There’s a search involved.

We often let our circumstances steal our joy. Or maybe we wait for them to improve in such a way that makes us joyful. Perhaps we need to go out in search of joy (not despair). What are you searching for? Don’t we all tend to find whatever it is we’re looking for?

  • Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. OR: The Lord is near. Let your gentleness be evident to all.  

When we talk about the Lord being near, it’s usually about the “end times.” It’s often with a spirit of anxiety, concern, or even fear. For example, something bad happens in the world or the wrong people get elected. People react with, “well, we’re living in the end times.” But our response shouldn’t be fear. It should be gentleness because the Lord is near to us!

  • Don’t be anxious about anything, but take those anxious thoughts somewhere else in every situation. To God.

And something – not from you, but as a gift from God, will wash over your life. Peace. We can’t even understand or make sense of the peace of God. How do you build your life there?

Philippians 4
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

There are 8 words here to focus on:

  1. True
  2. Noble
  3. Right (or Just)
  4. Pure
  5. Lovely
  6. Admirable
  7. Excellent
  8. Praiseworthy

But it starts with whatever.

Paul isn’t saying to think about anything. He says to think about anything within a particular set of boundaries, a fence. The beauty of a Godly life and mind are found by allowing your mind to think and meditate within a set of boundaries. Boundaries create freedom.

Whatever is TRUE:

Truth is far bigger than facts and information. It is centered on a person: THE truth (Jesus). It is an accurate, unconcealed, and unhidden approach to our thought process and spirituality. Embracing truth gives you clarity and freedom. It exposes lies and disarms deception.

So “true” is like an arrow pointing to the person of Jesus, and the way of Jesus, a straight line. You can’t staple the world’s way onto Jesus and call it true. Yet, we’re tempted to do that all of the time. Others around us are because it seems like we’ll get more of what we want faster. You can’t, because…    

The root determines the shoot, which determines the fruit.

Whatever is NOBLE:

This word is found several times in the Bible and always refers to someone’s character. Character is what’s inside you that eventually comes to the outside.

Jesus is our standard for honor and character. So what did that look like? He was consistent and clear about who He was and what His mission was until it cost Him His life.

You’re like, “but He was God. I’m not.”

But now, that same Jesus, through His spirit, lives in us. You have the same power.

Why do truth and character matter so much? Because it’s who you become over time.    

This is not a “think nice things” fluffy message. This is a battle. Because, again, there are a lot of things vying for the field of your heart. This is a daily struggle you must repeatedly show up to.

So how can you dedicate yourself to the struggle of what’s true and pure? Stay inside those boundaries? Become defined by them?

Think of a rumble strip on the side of the road. It alerts you to danger before you’re actually in danger.

The problem with boundaries regarding our character is that once you realize you’ve crossed them, it’s too late. You’re already in a bad spot. So, you need something that gets your attention before you’re actually across the line into a dangerous place.

A great way to practice this is by creating rumble strips in our lives. In our speech, our thoughts, emotions, and actions that aren’t actually wrong, but they prick our consciences when we run onto them. And dramatically get our attention to the danger before we’ve crossed the line.

Think about a situation like that. Where are your emotions being led when that happens? Is there a straight line that points back to Jesus?

Train your conscience so that it sits up and notices danger.  

Only you can place these warning signs and then practice them. Others won’t do it for you. A few people might even mock them. But it’s not about them. It’s about who you’re becoming.

And that’s where the pattern matters. What you’ve planted, what you keep planting, what’s growing, and what bears fruit. The root, the shoot, and the fruit.

May the fruit of our lives, and the fruit of our church be True and Noble. Pointing to Jesus. Of unexpectedly good character. Think on these things.

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