September letter from Mat

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life”; is a beautiful deep phrase from Proverbs 4:23Open Link in New Window. As with most simple statements there is both encouragement and challenge buried within it. Throughout the bible God says again and again that what matters most is the state of our hearts, our souls. What is in there? Who do we follow? I guess that this becomes most obvious when we look at the two great commandments; “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind soul and strength” and “love your neighbour as yourself”. Jesus said that these were principles on which all else is based. (Matthew 22:36-40Open Link in New Window). They are primarily about the condition of our heart, about what drives us to act or speak in particular ways. This alignment of our hearts with God is perfectly exemplified in the life of Jesus. Therefore we seek to follow him in the strength of the Holy Spirit. That is discipleship. Simple! So why is it so hard?

Emma and I have just spent a wonderful week at Lee Abbey speaking on the book of James. James speaks not about how we become Christians but about how we live as Christians. At the end of the book he uses an image of a farmer waiting for the harvest. The seeds are planted and have sprouted but the farmer has to be patient and wait for the crop to ripen. Learning to be a disciple takes time and commitment. It is a lifelong process. Dallas Willard in his excellent book ‘Renovation of the Heart’ says this; “The difficulty of entering fully into the divine life is due to our failure to understand that the way in is the way of inner transformation, and our failure to take the small steps that quietly and certainly lead to it.” Being a disciple is hard because we try to change the external behaviour in large chunks rather than giving time to the Holy Spirit to change us bit by bit through the love and grace of God by surrendering our whole lives and hearts to God and allowing God to affect everything.

There is a tremendous amount happening in the coming months in the life of St Matthew’s which is great, I look forward to all that God will do. But in the long run it will just be activity unless we give time to God to transform our hearts as individuals and a community. Jesus’ words to his disciples were, ‘follow me’.

Mat

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