The Discipline of the Self-Watch
- Thursday, June 21, 2007
Just as God called Israel out of Egypt to be a peculiar people unto Himself, obedient to His Law and, thus, reflective of His glory, so He has called the followers of Jesus Christ to be a royal priesthood, a chosen generation, a people of His own possession, so that we might make known the many excellencies of Him Who has called us out of darkness into His glorious light (1 Peter 2:9,10). We cannot fulfill this calling without a diligent and determined effort to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). This must necessarily involve some paying attention to what’s going on in our souls—what we’re thinking, how we feel about things, and what priorities and values are making themselves at home in our consciences.
Certainly we want to possess this life of redemption in all its fullness; we don’t want anything to stand in the way of our realizing more of Christ’s salvation. A careful and consistent self-watch can help us to attain to the greater realization of the high prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).
The life of fullness of joy, peace, goodness, blessing, and purpose is available to all who trust in Jesus Christ and work hard to unpack the mysteries and wonders of His salvation in their everyday lives (Philippians 2:12,13). This requires a careful watching over our lives, as Moses knew, and as he commanded the Israelites to take up as part of their own practice of the disciplined life.
The Practice of the Self-Watch
The self-watch Moses exhorted Israel to maintain consisted of two practices. Doubtless each of those listening to him on the plains of Moab would have taken up these practices in somewhat different ways. But the basics to which he exhorted them — and us — remain the same.
First, there is the discipline of remembering. Israel was strictly charged not to forget the things they had heard or seen (vv. 9-14). This word, “remember,” has a particularly strong flavor in the Hebrew. To remember is to attend carefully and constantly to something, as when God “remembered” His covenant with His people during their time of captivity in Egypt (Exodus 2:24), or when He commanded them to “remember” the Sabbath day, to guard it and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). To remember is thus to attend carefully to all the details of something, to know it intimately, understand it completely, and give due diligence in keeping it as it is supposed to be. As part of the practice of the self-watch we are charged with remembering the works as well as the words of the Lord.
This kind of remembering requires reading, study, meditation, perhaps even memorization of important teachings and timely events. The more we give our minds to storing up the Word of God and meditating on all His works—His glory revealed in the things He has made and all that He has done for His people—the better our souls will be prepared to shape us into the kind of people who walk in obedience to the Lord. But if our minds are cluttered and crowded by too much of the world of getting-and-spending, we won’t be much inclined to apply them to the things of the Lord. The only things we’ll care about are those things which pertain to our lives in this world, all of which are passing away, as John reminds us (1 John 2:15-17).
In addition to remembering the works and words of the Lord, we need to practice the discipline of resisting anything which might draw us away from Him or His truth (Deuteronomy 4:16-19). For Israel the constant temptation was to want to be like the other nations around her, tolerating their false gods and incorporating many of their pagan ways, just so they could live in peace and not rock the ancient Mideast boat.
But God had called them to be different, not to be like the unbelieving nations around them. So they had to train their minds not to think like pagans, their hearts not to desire the ways of unbelievers, and their consciences to value the unseen things of the Lord more than the treasures of kings or the fleshly ways of idolaters. We need to learn how to resist the world, the flesh, and the devil as well, if we’re going to persist in the kind of self-watch that God expects of us.
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