April 22, 2008

Simple-minded is a Virtue!

A “simple” person in today’s vernacular is someone who is a bit dull, perhaps slow or not as intelligent as others, but this word has a far different meaning in the Bible!

“Simple” is only found in the Old Testament. It can mean someone who is a fool or inclined to being what we might call “ditzy” but most of the occurrences mean something else entirely.

My devotional reading surprised me with this. It says (and I verified it) that the word “simple” literally means something which is not folded or twisted together. The author adds that because of the deceitful heart of man, everyone by nature is in a state of being folded and twisted. By that, he means that all people, because of sin, plot and contrive for worldly profit and fleshly pleasure. Apart from the work of God in us, our hearts are tangled, complicated and continually twisting together those ideas and plans that the Bible calls carnal. We do this so we can have our own way and get what we want, without any regard for God or what He wants.

When the Holy Spirit begins to work in a person’s life, one of the things He does is untwist it. He takes the strands that we, with Satan’s encouragement, have twisted and intertwined and begins to separate them. Instead of crookedness, hypocrisy, deceit, and confusion, He makes people simple, without guile. As my reading says, “The folds and rumples of his heart are shaken out.

I’ve been praying for certain people and asking God to help them think straight. One person in particular seems continually confused, unable to articulate what is going on in her mind and frustrated with her tangled thoughts. God can untwist all of that, making this person able to understand her own self and what is going on in her mind.

I have wondered about the importance of this for an unbelieving person, but after reading this devotional this morning, I can see that becoming “simple” or untwisted is a vital step in being able to know and follow God’s truth. This definition brings out the meaning of several verses and shows very clearly what God is doing and must do in the salvation process.

Psalm 119:130 says, “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” Only an untwisted mind can receive the words of God and understand them.

Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” God’s words simply fly past those whose hearts are twisted and tangled by their sinful self rule, but as God untangles them and brings them to simplicity, they can be converted and made wise.

The Proverbs, in part, were written as chapter 1, verse 4 says, “To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.” I see again from this verse that only those who are “simple” can receive prudence, knowledge and discretion.

My reading refers to Nathaniel. Jesus found him under a fig tree, the common place for prayer and Scripture reading. Then, as Jesus looked at him, something happened much like “a flash of lightning runs, in a moment, through a coil of wire.” The eye of the Lord looked into Nathaniel’s heart and He, in that “instantaneous flash, unraveled and untwisted the devices of his heart.” As John 1:47 says, Jesus then could say of Nathaniel that he had become a “simple” man—one who was “an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile.

All through the gospels Jesus talks about His followers needing to be like little children. This adds great richness to what He meant. Children can be devious and tangled, but for the most part, a small child is “untwisted” and lacks that “folding together” that keeps him or her from hearing what God says.

From now on, if anyone ever says Christians are simple-minded or calls me a simpleton, I am not going to defend them or me. Instead, I will shout “Praise God” and hopefully have opportunity to explain why being simple is a complement and makes me so joyful!

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