Proverbs 22:17-18 -- "Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips."
I'd like to dig into these verses and really explore their concepts. The part I want to focus in on is the phrase embedded in those verses from Proverbs, "apply your heart." Now, I want to focus on this because I think it's easy for us to get lost in our little Christian world, and take things for granted, such as wisdom (the book of Proverbs in a nutshell).
Speaking personally, one of my spiritual gifts is wisdom. I frequently find myself on the receiving end of people's problems, and I find that I'm typically able to give sound advice. I find that I'm able to back up my words with Scripture.
Let me be perfectly clear: This is in no way me patting myself on my back. Some people are naturally gifted with rhythm. Some people can write poetry. Some people can do math in their head really well. Some people can learn languages extraordinarily fast. For me, I can give advice. It's a gift the Lord has bestowed upon me, and I'm very thankful for it.
But because I have this gift, I tend to overlook Proverbs. Don't get me wrong, I love Proverbs. It's one of my favorite books in the Bible (along with 65 others). It's my Dad's favorite book. But because a lot of the stuff within it comes naturally to me, I hardly feel the need to really dwell on its contents.
Because I know it in my head, I don't seek out the knowledge of it in my heart. And that's why these two verses are messing with me so bad, and why this D.A. Carson quote is so important to me.
"...people do not drift toward holiness."
Even though I may have wisdom in my mind, I have to pursue it in my heart.
Solomon says, "apply your heart to what I teach." What does he teach? Wisdom. Does he add a little caveat in there at the end, "except if you have the gift of knowledge, then just forget about it"? No, absolutely not.
So what does it look like to apply your heart? Well, what are some alternatives to the word "apply"? Think, dwell, move, consider, study, consciously act, focus. And what are some alternatives to the word "heart"? Passion, desires, longings, emotions (good and bad), impulses.
And let's not forget about "your." What place does it have in this verse? Apply your heart. You can't control anyone else's actions. You can't force anyone else to do this, it must be a voluntary action. So how could we change this up to clarify it a little bit?
Consciously turn your emotions and passions toward wisdom.
You have to give it due attention. You have to focus on this, and consciously make an effort to grow in wisdom, no matter what. As D.A. Carson stated, "people do not drift toward holiness." Right?
We don't accidentally become more like Jesus.
In a 2010 sermon (found online here) by my man, Matt Chandler, he quotes Mr. Carson a little more widely, and adds to it a bit. I'm going to leave you with this.
"In volume two of For the Love of God, D. A. Carson says this, 'People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer and obedience to Scripture, faith and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith; we cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.' Now I love that quote. It’s absolutely true. I’ve said it to you like this for years. Nobody accidentally becomes godly. Nobody stumbles into godliness. It just doesn’t happen by accident."