Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

“I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way.
O when wilt thou come unto me?
 I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.”
— Psalm 101:2

       Back in the early 50’s a beautiful song was written called “Where Is Your Heart,” which originated from the 1952 movie, Moulin Rouge. It is still popular with music lovers to this day. Some of the lyrics are, “Your lips may be near but where is your heart? . . . You’re close to me here but where is your heart? . . . It’s a sad thing to realize that you’ve a heart that never melts.” No doubt many people, then and now can relate to the pathos of unrequited love; and, just maybe the poignancy and power of such feelings within the human breast can cause us to relate, although in a limited way, to God’s heart when His love is shunned and rejected by those for whom He died. John 1:10, 11 tell us, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” Jesus said, “This people draweth night unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” Matthew 15:8. Rejection, unless we are vigilant, can open the door to such temptations as anger, introspection, wounded pride, and pity. Concerning pity, here is a word of caution: beware of pity, for pity that consists of self-pity or pity for Jesus is not an acceptable, upright, or biblical response. We cannot always trust our own hearts in a matter, for the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” Jeremiah 17:9?

      There is also a type of pity for others that can be deceitful because it can open us up to experience a powerful rush of emotion that we may wrongly interpret as coming from “a loving heart.” This type of pity travels the “low road” of false humility along with its companions of “sorry,” “sweet sickly,” and “super spiritual” while God’s pity is the “high road” of compassion and measureless love. Self-serving pity, as well as any counterfeit “fruit,” merely serves to feed our pride, and propel us into a false reality along with a deluded perception of our true heart condition. In this state any impulsive decision or commitment we may make without asking the Lord for His leading usually land us in a world of hurt. Powerful emotions of any kind that are not based on the facts of truth (reality) lead to misdirected imaginations that result in delusion.

      Today the world is crawling with emotional misfits whose “socially-minded bleeding hearts” have given rise to a wicked agenda of “saving ‘mother earth’” and everything on it (except human beings). Such are motivated, to a very large extent, by pride-feeding pity. As previously stated, this type of pity feeds a person’s pride by making a person feel good about self because as a “little-martyr-do-gooder” he or she has reached an independent point where his or her heart is hardened against any truth concerning God, His Word, and the salvation He offers through Jesus Christ. They have become little gods unto themselves following an emotional, impulsive sick “pity” for creation without the Creator, which, to them, is a greater reality to their deluded minds than the love of God. Therefore, they do not believe in the fact of sin, and feel no need to repent for anything. As a word of caution, Christians need to discern the difference between impulsive feelings of pity (which we can all feel at times) and God’s will and love, based on lasting commitment.

      Concerning self-pity, Oswald Chambers said, “Beware of allowing self-consciousness to continue because by slow degrees it will awaken self-pity, and self-pity is Satanic.” He also taught, “The Death of Jesus Christ is the performance in history of the very Mind of God. There is no room for looking on Jesus Christ as a martyr; His death was not something that happened to Him which might have been prevented: His death was the very reason why He came.

      “Never build your preaching of forgiveness on the fact that God is our Father and He will forgive us because He loves us. It is untrue to Jesus Christ’s revelation of God; it makes the Cross unnecessary, and the Redemption “much ado about nothing.” If God does forgive sin, it is because of the Death of Christ. God could forgive men in no other way than by the death of His Son, and Jesus is exalted to be Saviour because of His death. “We see Jesus because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour.” The greatest note of triumph that ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ – “It is finished.” That is the last word in the Redemption of man.

      “Anything that belittles or obliterates the holiness of God by a false view of the love of God, is untrue to the revelation of God given by Jesus Christ. Never allow the thought that Jesus Christ stands with us against God out of pity and compassion; that He became a curse for us out of sympathy with us. Jesus Christ became a curse for us by the Divine decree. Our portion of realizing the terrific meaning of the curse is conviction of sin, the gift of shame and penitence is given us – this is the great mercy of God. Jesus Christ hates the wrong in man, and Calvary is the estimate of His hatred.”

      Think about this: What is normal for the natural man is sin to God, for God is holy. Fallen man’s disposition is in direct opposition to God, and all his thoughts, imaginations and ways originate from a self-serving, carnal state. He is a lost soul, living in conflict with his Creator, and yet, in spite of this, God reaches out, saying “I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts” Isaiah 65:2. “But my people would not hearken to my voice: and Israel would none of me” Psalm 81:11. “And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not” Jeremiah 7:13. In Matthew 22:3 Jesus said, “And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.” Can you “feel the sorrow” of God’s heart when you read these words of Jesus, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” John 5:40? The call is for repentance, humbling of self, turning around, and reconciliation with God through the cross of Christ, not a call to feel pity for God. We have to come higher and deeper and get past ourselves, our way of thinking, feeling and being and come into full agreement with God. We must yield to the Holy Spirit, and surrender our hearts to the Spirit’s call. After all, the first commandment is “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” Deuteronomy 6:5.

      How can we know our own heart? One way is by the fruit that is coming out of our lives. What does our fruit, that is, our response to God’s Word, our lifestyle, and walk say about us? Consider the four types of hearts in the parable of the sower and the seed in Matthew 13. Beginning with verse 4, we read of the first heart condition “And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up”. The way side represents unprepared ground—fallow ground that has not been plowed or prepared to receive the good seed. Jesus said of such a heart, “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side” verse 19. Notice that Jesus said the seed is “sown in his heart.” This is an unprepared, hardened heart that lacks the understanding that is necessary for the Word to take root and grow.

      How does a person acquire understanding? Proverbs 9:10 gives us the answer, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.” “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” Psalm 119:130. [Emphasis added.] Again in Proverbs 28:14 we read “Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.” A hard heart is the result of the “deceitfulness of sin” Hebrews 3:13b. Therefore, whenever a person refuses to humble him or herself because of pride, his or her heart becomes hardened. Thus it is easy for the “fowls,” which represent the devil, or “the wicked one” to come and devour the good seed that was never received into the heart, leaving the person in greater darkness than before because the light of the Word was rejected. Such was the fate of Pharaoh who did hear what Moses had to say, seemingly yielded, but then continually hardened his heart and reneged on his promise to let God’s people go.

      Another example is Nabal, the first husband of Abagail whose hard heart refused to give food that David and his men needed, and after Abagail told him of her righteous acts, “his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died” 1 Samuel 25:37b, 38. Just as Nabal mocked David’s servants who came in his name, and mocked David, the anointed of the Lord, so too are those whose hard hearts receive not the living seed of God’s Word from the mouth of His witnesses, nor have respect unto the name of Jesus, the Son of God. They will die in their sins.

      The second heart is the stony heart which the seed could not take root in because of the scanty earth. Matthew 13:5 says “Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” This is a description of the shallow heart. Jesus described it this way “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” Matthew 13:20, 21. There have been countless people through the ages who have sentimentally rejoiced in God’s Word, confessing that they love it, but in reality that is as far as it ever goes. Ezekiel 33:31, 32 says “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.” Such people merely have a surface affection for the Lord. You could say that such people are more in love with their own perception of who they think Jesus is (and what He can do for them) than for Jesus Himself. As for His ways and His commandments, they have no burning desire to learn of them and obey them. Jesus referred to such when He said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me” John 14:24, 25.

      The stony heart is one that has not become “rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith” Colossians 2:7a. Stony-hearted, shallow people are looking for a type of “social club  “Christianity lite” churches that are filled with fun, food, and surface fellowship where “cheap grace” and “easy believism” is the norm, and where they are never challenged to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Christ. Jesus made it clear that the world will hate His disciples because it hates Him. In other words, if you are a born again sold out disciple of Christ, you will suffer persecution and offenses. Jesus said, “But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great” Luke 6:49. Thus we see that people who initially receive the Word outwardly, but who have never been properly discipled upon the solid foundation of Christ are weak, having no substance, and are unstable, and unable to withstand the storms of life through testing and trials.

      The Bible records the attitudes and actions of various people whose stony hearts became offended when tribulation or persecution arose, and who were not willing to pay the price to know, follow, and serve the Lord. On one occasion after declaring Himself to be the bread of life as recorded in John 6, the Bible says, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” vs. 66. Stony and shallow hearts have no desire to pay the price to truly become identified with Christ in their lives. A. W. Tozer wrote in his book, The Root of the Righteous, “Any faith that does not command the one who holds it is not a real belief; it is a pseudo belief only. And it might shock some of us profoundly if we were brought suddenly face to face with our beliefs and forced to test them in the fires of practical living.”

      Another example of an individual who had a stony heart is King Saul. He looked promising in the beginning, but in time he proved to be a double-minded and disobedient man with no “inner root” of righteousness. Unstable as water, he became a foolish, rebellious weakling.

      The third heart condition is related to the seed that “fell among thorns: and the thorns sprung up, and choked them” Matthew 13:7. Jesus explained, “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” Anyone who has planted a garden knows that weeds are guaranteed to spring up and choke out the tender shoots that sprout up. Regardless of how well tilled and weed-free the soil may be in the beginning, you have to be vigilant in keeping the weeds out. Weeds, like the cares of this world, are a fact of life, just as food, water, clothing and shelter are basic needs for physical life. Such needs are not wrong in and of themselves, but the importance or position we give them in our lives can become “thorns” that threaten to override our spiritual life.

      It is up to the individual Christian to guard his or her heart against love for the world. Colossians 3:1-3 tells us, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Meditating upon this verse in light of the whole Word of God makes it clear that to be “risen with Christ” presupposes that one has died to the old life, and is now a new creation in Christ.

      The Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” 1 John 2:15-17. The person who plays footsies with the world while thinking he or she is too clever to become caught in its snare is as foolish as Ananias and Sapphira who lied to God.  A worldly heart will always betray itself by the emphasis it maintains on the things of the world rather than showing forth a life that is steadfastly dedicated and focused on that which eternal. Another example of such a heart is that of the rich young ruler. (Matthew 19:16-22.) This is a simple yet poignant story of a promising young man whose heart was imperfect because he esteemed worldly treasure more than the eternal treasure of Jesus, and “he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” Matthew 19:22b.

      Another example of someone who started out with promise is Demas who traveled with the Apostle Paul, but then turned back to the world. “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed ….” 2 Timothy 4:10a. Jesus described the worldliness that existed before the Flood, and compared it to how the days would be prior to His coming, “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away” Matthew 24:38, 39. Jesus warned, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” Matthew 6:24. It is impossible to have a perfect heart if it is divided. No wonder King David prayed, “Unite my heart to fear thy name” Psalm 86:11b.

      Finally we come to the fourth heart condition, the perfect heart, described by Jesus thusly: “But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” Matthew 13:8. Jesus explained, “But he that received seed heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” Matthew 13:23. The believers at Thessalonica were Christians whose hearts were open to the Word. Paul wrote to them saying, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

      The perfect heart brings forth fruit because why? Because the perfect heart is open to receive the seed (Word) by faith, and understands it, and acts on it. The perfect heart receives the word believing it is truth from God not men, and therefore by the power of God’s Word brings forth fruit that is pleasing to God in spite of living in this present world. How is this possible? Consider Romans 12:1, 2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” And, Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

      What is a perfect heart in an imperfect world? Perhaps it can be summed up this way: The perfect heart is a heart that, when the Lord looks into it, He sees a reflection of Himself.