THE FOUR ELEMENTS IN SPIRITUAL NURTURE
“Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it
flow the spring of life.
Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk
far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Take heed to the path of your feet, then all your ways will he sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”
(Prov 4:23-27, RSV)
This extract is taken from the
Proverbs of King Solomon, the sagacious monarch. Enshrined within it are the
Four Elements In Spiritual Nurture;
Purity of Thoughts
Purity of Speech
Purity of Sight
Purity of Action
Spiritual Nurture is a process,
through which a Christian attains greater heights of spirituality. It is
important to a Christian. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, the Apostle Paul said, “I
pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be
disqualified”, and in Philippians 2:12, he wrote; “work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling”.
1. Purity Of Thoughts
The mind is the master of the
entire body. It controls and coordinates the functions and actions of the
various parts of the body. Our Lord Jesus observed that “the good man out of
the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil
treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”
(Lk 6:45). Small wonder then that spiritual nurture should begin with the mind.
But how can a man achieve mastery
over his mind?
The Bible declares; “The heart is
deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt: who can understand it?”
The answer seems obvious. If the
heart is so deceitful and corrupt. simply replace it
with a new one!
It is written in the Scriptures:
“A new heart I will give you, and a new Spirit I will
put within you, and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give
you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to
walk in My statutes and be careful to observe My
ordinance” (Eze 36:26-27).
It is the Spirit of God who can
change your heart. your whole trend of thoughts and
give you a whole new attitude. Such miraculous change is called the ‘renewal of
the Holy Spirit’ (Tit 3:5).
Before Saul was anointed King of
Israel, God, through the prophet Samuel said, “the Spirit of the Lord will come
mightily upon you “.
Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his
heart... (1 Sam 10:6,9).
You too can experience this
remarkable change within you. You can be imbued with the Spirit of God if you
pray constantly. Submit yourself to the Spirit’s guidance. Conquer the lust of
the flesh. Then you will enjoy the glories of a sanctified life and the promise
of eternity hereafter (Rom 8:1-13; 2 Thess 2:13).
The Word of God is also helpful in
achieving purity of thoughts. It is pure and perfect and it revives the soul
(Ps 12:6; 18:30: 19:7,9). The ancient Psalmist said,
“I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not
sin against thee” (Ps 119:11).
Allow the Word of Christ to dwell
in us richly and meditate upon it day and night (Col 3:16; Ps 1:2).
Finally, there should be a
conscious effort on our part to control our thoughts, as Peter so aptly put it;
“therefore gird up your minds, he sober, set your hope solely upon the grace
that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:13).
2. Purity Of Speech
While it is not disputed that we
should he pure in our thoughts, equally we should be guarded in our speech.
Admittedly, this is extremely difficult ‘for we all make many mistakes, and if
anyone makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle
the whole body also’ (Jas 3:2). The tongue is a small part of the body, and yet
it boast of great things. Behold how great a forest is set aflame by such a
small fire. And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity, the tongue is
set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and set on fire
the course of our life.
A warning from Jesus is pertinent
“But I say unto you, that every idle word that
men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement. For
by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned”
The Book of Revelation speaks of a
hundred and forty-four thousand redeemed ones in whom ‘no lie was found in
their mouth’ (Rev 14:15). On the other hand, those to be thrown into the Lake of Fire are liars who love and practise
falsehood (Rev 21:8; 22:15).
It can never be over-emphasised
that a Christian must be careful in his speech. One careless word may cost us a life-time regret!
“How then can I control my tongue?”, one might ask. James confessed that every kind of beast
and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by
humankind; but no human being can tame the tongue - a restless evil, full of
deadly poison” (Jas 3:7-8).
It does not sound easy at all!
Perhaps you might find the guidelines below helpful.
(a) Be of few words ‘Silence is
golden’ is an old adage. It has survived and its truth remains unchanged generations
after generations. The Bible reaffirms that ‘when words are many, transgression
is not lacking, but he who retains his lips is prudent’ (Prov 10:19). Elsewhere
it is written; “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool
spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered
wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Prov 17:27-28).
Even King David expressed similar
sentiments when he declared;
“I will guard my ways, that I might not sin with my tongue. I will bridle my
mouth, so long as the wicked are in my presence” (Ps 39:1)
“Those who seek my life lay their
snares, those who seek my hurt speak of my ruin, and meditate treachery all the
day long, but I am like a deaf man. I do not hear, like a dumb man who opens
Yea, I am like a man who does not
hear and in whose mouth are no rebukes” (Ps 38:12-14)
Clearly, the first step to greater
control of speech is to speak less.
Refrain from speaking evil We mingle with others daily and often there is a
need to communicate, to speak. But in order to be blameless in our speech. we should disdain vulgar and abusive language. The
Scriptures say. “What man is there who desires life, and covet many days, that
he may enjoy good? Keep your tongue from evil, and
your lips from speaking deceit” (Ps 34:12-13). To keep your tongue from evil is
to eschew vulgarities, lies, gossips, carpings, levity and licentious talks. It
also includes reviling or slandering (Eph 5:3-4; 4:29; Rom 1:30; 1 Cor 6:10).
(c) Speak edifying words. Christians should be
lavish with words of encouragement that are good for edification according to
the occasion that they may impart grace to those who hear (Eph 4:29). Even our
Lord spoke ‘gracious words to edify people (Lk 4:22). Words that are good for
edification are words uttered in truthfulness and sincerity, words spoken with
gentleness and kindness, words of gratitude and words of wisdom. (Eph 4:25,
5:4; Col 4:6;
Prov 15:1-2; 31:6).
3. Purity Of Sight
Eyes are the windows of the mind
through which the wonder and splendour of God’s
creation become real to us. Through which also we absorb the wealth of
knowledge accumulated in the writings of great people. Yet, the eyes can cause
people to sin. We sin as a result of seeing things that are not supposed to be
seen. That was why Jesus said, “If right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out
and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that
your whole body he thrown into hell” (Mt 5:29). So it becomes imperative for us
to keep our eyes undefiled as we tread the path of spirituality.
Purity of sight stems from keeping
the eyes from gazing at evil. (cf Is 33:15) The
Psalmist prays saying; “Turn my eyes from looking at vanity, and give me life
in thy ways” (Ps 119:37).
What made Eve to take of the fruit
of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?
Was it not that her eyes saw that
it was good for food?
And what about Achan?
What stirred him to hoard the
things that should have been destroyed?
Was it not his eyes
which has caused him to sin?
confessed, “When I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar, and two
hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I
coveted them and took them” (Josh 7:21).
Job claimed; “I have made a covenant
with my eyes, how then could I look upon a virgin?” (Job 31:1).
A wise step to follow!
A man likes to see things of
beauty especially the beauty in woman. Often this is the cause of many a sin.
Jesus warned; “I say that everyone
who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his
heart” (Mt 5:28).
The ever victorious King David met
his match one day when he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very
beautiful. (cf 2 Sam 11:2).
The Bible says; “They have eyes
full of adultery, insatiable for sin” (2 Pet 2:14).
We should instead acquaint our
eyes more with the Word of God, because the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes (Ps 19:8).
4. Purity Of Actions
While our feet can carry us on the road of
righteousness, they can also lead us to destruction and death. The Bible
unequivocally claims that ‘all men have turned aside, together they have gone
wrong … their feet are swift to shed blood, in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they do not know” (Rom 3:12; 15:17). As such, Christians
ought to be wary where their feet are leading them to.
To keep our feet from evil is to leave the ways of
the sinners. As is written in Proverbs 4:14-15, “Do not enter the path of the
wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it and do not go on it,
turn away from it and pass on”.
It is unwise to patronise discotheques. night-clubs, casinos and other off-beat places of
Solomon epitomizes the path of the righteous as the
light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until
the full day. But the way of the wicked is like dark ness. They do not know
over what they stumble. (Prov 4:18)
Peter the Apostle exhorts us saying, “For to this
you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an
example, that you should follow his steps” (1 Pet 2:21). Christ has gone
through sufferings and pains just for you: his feet has brought him to the
synagogues, the homes of the disciples; on treacherous journeys, and mission to
heal the sick (Mt 4:23; 8:14-15; 10:1-9).
As followers of Christ, follow the way that our
Master has trod. We cannot go wrong if we do.
As we travel on the journey, have with us the word
of God which is the lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps 119: 105).
He will lead us into the path of righteousness and
the way of wisdom. When we walk our steps will not be hampered and if we run,
we will not stumble (Prov 4:10-12).
Day by day, as we walk closer to God, he shall
surely show us the way we should go for the Scriptures promise; “For a man’s
way are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths” (Prov 5:21).