by Jeannette Haley
In the month of February we find our thoughts automatically turning toward the subject of love (thanks to Valentine’s Day). As Christians, however, thoughts of love should be as natural as breathing and a daily practice “because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).
What or Who is the source of love? To the humanist, the source of love originates within the goodness of the human heart. To the pragmatist, love is an impractical and untrustworthy emotion. To the atheist, love is a phenomenon devoid of creative origin or purpose other than self. To the evolutionist, the source of love has never been proven and is not even worthy of consideration. To the anthropologist, love is dependent upon certain conditions and inherent genetic factors. To the Christian, however, all of the above is frivolous, erroneous, ridiculous and devoid of truth because he/she knows that love begins with and ends with God.
There is no greater proof of the love of God than the gift of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And, there is no greater commandment, here on earth or in heaven above, than this: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30, 31).
Yet in the midst of life’s challenges and problems along with the world’s clamor for our attention, how are we to obey this command? The answer lies with our heart. You see it is from within our hearts that either idolatry occurs or true worship to the one true God takes place. It’s that simple. God is looking at our hearts. We may be able to fool, (deceive), others some of the time, including ourselves (delusion), but we cannot fool God. Jesus put it this way, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Here we learn of true hypocrisy. The people spoke all the right words, giving honor to God, but that’s all it was, lip service. Jesus knew their hearts were not in it. He said two other things in this passage of scripture that we would do well to heed in this Laodicean church age. These are,
1) their outward show of worship was unreal (worthless).
2) because their hearts were far from God, they taught a twisted, carnal, ungodly doctrine that always brings men into bondage.
Jesus warned (concerning the last days), “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:11, 12). We see from these verses that deception and iniquity are the results of a heart that is hardened towards God. In other words, loving God and those around us is a safeguard to sin and deception.
The reason for this is simple; if we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, we will be in constant communication with Him. This means that through prayer and fellowship with His Spirit we will be sensitive to His guidance for our lives and aware of His presence with us. We can only come into His presence in true humility, which enables Him to be able to fellowship with us because God resists the proud.
Because we love Him, we enjoy spending time reading and studying His Word to discern His will for our lives and to heed the warnings given for our protection. Finally, because we love Him with all of our hearts, we are eager to obey His commandments which brings us back to loving God and loving others.
You may be saying, “Well, that’s simple enough, but somehow my spiritual life is very complicated right now.” If this is where you are, allow me to ask you this question: Where did you let your guard down? In other words, at what point did you fail to guard your heart?
Proverbs 4:23 says, “keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” In the Hebrew the word keep in this verse means “to guard, protect, maintain, obey.” It is interesting to note that the word diligence also means guard. And, “issues of life” pertain to outgoings or that which proceeds out of the life.
Jesus put it this way, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matthew 12:34, 35). In other words, our hearts tell on us.
There are a number of ways in which our spiritual lives can become complicated. Before we discuss some of these, however, remember that the primary source of complication is Satan. The Apostle Paul warned, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
He then goes on to explain that there are those who come with “another Jesus, another spirit and another gospel.” Following are some of the ways God’s sheep fail to guard their hearts and find themselves entangled in the thorny vines of spiritual complication:
1) By comparing ourselves with others who appear to be “more spiritual.” Scripture forbids comparing ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12).
2) Wanting to be a “somebody” in the kingdom of God. Jesus taught that the greatest in His kingdom was a servant of all (Mark 10:44).
3) Competition with other Christians. God’s Word tell us, “to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
4) Becoming entangled in man-made rules for the Christian life and conduct. Paul wrote the Galatians, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Galatians 2:21; 3:10). Romans 10:3 says, “for they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
5) Spending more time “tuned in” to questionable TV “evangelists” and others than spending time in God’s Word and allowing their “new revelations” and “strange doctrines” to undermine sound doctrine. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” 1 Timothy 4:1, 2).
6) Falling into the trap of different forms of legalism. “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Galatians 5:1 commands, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
A careful review of the above complications within the believer’s life will reveal pride as the bottom line culprit. Pride caused Satan’s fall and it will cause ours. If Satan cannot keep a person from being born again, he then goes after that person to make them an ineffective Christian. Don’t kid yourself, Satan is a master at appealing to our religious pride. He will tempt us with a name and fame (big ministry); with wealth and health (word-faith positive confession cult); with prestige and elitism (alignment with certain leaders and/or movements); with a fanatical zeal for signs and wonders (a wicked and adulterous people look for such); and all in the name of Christ. Of course, sin always complicates our lives as sin separates us from fellowship with God.
Truly, we need to guard our hearts by mortifying the flesh, denying self, having the mind of Christ and loving our God with everything within us.
Our prayer is that we will all walk in the Spirit, in love, wisdom and humility so that we will not be ashamed at His coming.
May God bless you, holding your heart for time and eternity.