“Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)
A Compartmentalized Life
Some time ago I watched a documentary about the presidential life of John F. Kennedy. One segment of the film featured an interview with a woman who had worked as an intern for the Kennedy administration in her mid-twenties.
As she recounted, President Kennedy had taken personal interest in her early on in her internship. And before too long, she had become one of the many young women with whom he had “private liaisons.”
However, the most fascinating part of the interview came when the interviewer asked about her personal impression of President Kennedy as one who had been sexually involved with him. Her answer? “He had an incredible ability to compartmentalize his life.” That’s a profound observation.
She went on to explain that President Kennedy didn’t seem the least bit bothered by the inconsistency between his public persona and his personal life. He seemed perfectly comfortable with the reality that the public Kennedy and the private Kennedy were two very different men. And yet, as she understood it, these two men were, in fact, one man leading a compartmentalized life.
The Boardroom in Every Heart
Most of us look at this tragic discrepancy in the life of a figure like John F. Kennedy and wonder, How can anyone live like that?
But when it comes to our relationship with Jesus, we do the same thing far more than we are willing to admit. We too can be, as it says in James 4:8, quite “double-minded,” compartmentalizing our lives in ways that hinder us from experiencing the deeper joys of the Gospel.
Author and pastor Ray Ortlund explains this reality quite helpfully when he says,
You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons. Our hearts are multi-divided. There is something like a board room in every heart. Big table. Leather chairs. Coffee. Bottled water. Whiteboard. A committee sits around the table. There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, the childhood memories self, and many others. The committee is arguing and debating and voting. Constantly agitated and upset. Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision.
We are like that. We tell ourselves it’s because we are so busy, with so many responsibilities. The truth is, we are just indecisive. We are held back by small thoughts of Jesus.
However, in Psalm 86:11 (quoted above), we find a crucial prayer that gives inconsistent sinners like us a biblical alternative to these “small thoughts of Jesus,” which we’re so prone to entertain.
You see, the integrated life that God desires for us doesn’t come naturally. In fact, we came out of the womb unable to stomach the thought of bringing the whole of our lives underneath the loving lordship of Jesus (Eph. 2:3). We intrinsically despise that idea.
However, through His Spirit, God gives us a new heart—one that is receptive and responsive to His self-giving love (Ez. 36:26). Thus we embark on the Christian life, pursuing true Gospel integrity.
Yet, even with our hearts created anew, our “old self”—or the part of us that has retained a distaste for the lordship of Christ—still manifests itself often. Therefore we feel the push and pull between our opposing selves every day. As a result, our hearts remain divided to some extent and areas our lives are held back from God.
Yet God is calling us to something better. He’s inviting us to put off the old self and put on the new, non-compartmentalized self (Col. 3:9).
Ray Ortlund continues,
A person . . . can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways. One way is to invite him onto the committee. Give Jesus a vote too. But then he is just one influence among many. This way of inviting Jesus into one’s life is common here in the Bible Belt. But it isn’t Christianity, as defined by the New Testament. The other way to “accept Jesus” is to say to him, “My life isn’t working. Please come in and fire my committee, every last one of them. I hand myself over to you now. Please run my whole life for me. Show me how that works.” That is not complication; that is salvation.
“Accepting Jesus” is not just adding Jesus. It is also subtracting the idols.
I’m no math whiz, but that idea of “subtracting the idols” from our lives and allowing Jesus to be the supreme and singular Lord of it all makes total sense in light of Psalm 86:11 (and the rest of Scripture for that matter!). But I’m wondering, what do you think?
As LifePoint prepares to gather this Sunday, what’s going on in your heart? Are you being honest with yourself—and even more importantly—with God? Is your “acceptance” of Christ superficial, leaving you an out to compartmentalize your life as you see fit? Are there parts of your life that you’re withholding from Him?
Or are you ready for Jesus to “fire the committee?” That is, will you bring your entire life to God, singing with complete sincerity, “O Father, use my ransomed life in any way You choose”? That level of surrender is the only remedy for our small thoughts of Jesus. It’s how we stop making excuses for our compartmentalized living and get real with Him.
So between now and Sunday I, for one, am going to be praying with the psalmist, “Lord, unite my heart to fear Your name!” Will you join me?
Songs for Sunday, August 07, 2016:
All Creatures of Our God And King
As performed by Norton Hall Band
Rock of Ages
As performed by Northwest Collective
Worth It All
As performed by Worship Central
My Life is an Offering
As performed by Sovereign Grace Music
All I Have is Christ
As performed by Sovereign Grace Music