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

“Keep thy heart with all diligence;
for out of it are the issues of life.” – Proverbs 4:23

      God asked Satan if he had considered his servant Job, and I am asking you the same question. “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [despises] evil” Job 1:8? [Additions mine.] To me, God’s description of Job is the definition of a perfect heart—a heart that remained perfect in spite of an imperfect world, and in spite of Satan’s attacks on him; in spite of suffering great losses of his family, income, and health. His so-called “friends” merely added to his horrific suffering. What was his secret? Job maintained an upright heart before God in a well-established faith, in his understanding of who God is. He had obviously “set his affections on things above” because he had a worldview of eternity, eternal life, and his Redeemer standing on the earth in the latter days.

       God is still looking at hearts. Therefore, what we need to honestly ask ourselves is what does God see when He searches our hearts? What are our innermost, secret thoughts? What is our emphasis, and what do we pursue? What are we conformed to? Romans 12:2 says, “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. As believers, we must always be mindful of Colossians 2, 3, “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.”

      Consider our Great Example, Jesus. How did He, as man, maintain a pure heart? After all, He did ordinary things in this world like we all do—He learned a trade, He attended a wedding, He ate with common folks and sinners, and walked among the people. His chosen disciples came from differing backgrounds including fishermen, a tax collector, and one was of noble birth (Bartholomew Nathanael). Hebrews 5:8 tells us, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, and He never faltered from His mission on this earth. Let us follow His example while we journey through this temporal world with full assurance that we are merely passing through. If you need a “spiritual tune up” read and meditate on Philippians, especially chapters 2 and 3. We are commanded in 2:5 to “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” The entire book of Philippians explains how that is to be accomplished.

      We know that God also said of King David that he was a man after God’s own heart. We also know that King David sinned against the Lord, but he always confessed his sin, and forsook it. There is no mistaking the intensity of his prayers as recorded in Scripture. Psalm 51 is a beautiful example of his passion for a pure heart as he cried out to the Lord, “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom…Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” verses 6, 10-12. When was the last time you prayed such a prayer with your whole heart?

      The Bible is clear that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” Jeremiah 17:9? If the conscience hasn’t been seared because of departing from the faith by giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (1 Timothy 4:1, 2), then every man, woman and child knows, that deep down in their heart, (the innermost being, will, understanding, thoughts and motivations) they are self-centered and fall far short of the glory of God. We know that we cannot make ourselves perfect, or upright, no matter how hard we may try. Our very best and highest thoughts, imaginations, inclinations, and intentions fall far short of the glory of God. So, how can a person hope to have a perfect heart in the sight of the Lord?

      Someone might say, “I know! I have an answer to that question. His name is Jesus Christ, and once a person “accepts” Him, then their heart is changed, and He gives them a new heart. After all, Ezekiel 36:26 promises “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” And this He does as we love, trust and obey Him. Unfortunately, there are some among the untaught concerning the whole council of God who believe that God is like Tinkerbell, coming down with a magic wand, and “poof”—just like that—a person is suddenly changed, forever. Yet, as time rolls on, all too often there is no evidence of a new life coming forth that bears godly fruit.

      Does this mean that God’s Word has somehow failed, so we must bear the burden of putting on a front and appearing like a “new man in Christ?” A thousand times no! God never fails, and His Word never fails. It is people who fail when they pick and choose out of the Bible what they want to believe while ignoring God’s conditions, commandments and criteria. People are forever looking for some sort of “magical solution” or “silver bullet” to make them “super spiritual,” and it just doesn’t work that way. You see, what many Christians fail to understand is that, to put it simply, God does His part, and we, as people with a free will, must choose to do our part. In other words, we need to beware of trying to do what only God can do, while expecting Him to do what we are commanded to do. We must remember that we are in a covenant relationship with God, and we are the ones who are told to “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” Proverbs 4:23”. Ezekiel 18:31a clearly states our responsibility, “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit.” Turning from our sins is our part if we are truly repentant. Isaiah 55:7 points out how we must cooperate with the Lord, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God for he will abundantly pardon.” In Ephesians 4:22 we are told that we must “put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.”

      If we let Hebrews 12:1 sink into our hearts, it should bring us to our knees. It reads, “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Note that it is up to us to lay aside every weight and sin. What about the lust problem humanity is plagued with? How do we confront adultery, fornication and pornography, all of which must not be “once named among” us? (“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” Ephesians 5:3-6.)

      According to statistics listed on the Transparent Ministries Web Site, 60% of all Christian men and 30% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography. 60% of the women who answered the survey admitted to having significant struggles with lust; 40% admitted to being involved in sexual sin in the past year; and 20% of the church-going female participants struggle with looking at pornography on an ongoing basis. This ought not to be! Jesus is returning for a church that is “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing….holy and without blemish” Ephesians 5:27. In 2 Timothy 2:21, 22 we learn, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, (iniquities, or moral deviations) he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lust: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” [Additions mine.] Fleeing youthful lust (which doesn’t just happen to the “youth”) is a commandment that we are to obey. Maybe Lot could “linger” in Sodom, but he had two angels in his house that took him by the hand and led him out. We have the Word of God available to us that we need to be quick to obey, and not wait for an angel from heaven to drag us out of temptation.

      Of course sin falls into many different categories that can be defined, divided, and subdivided, and so forth, but the bottom line is that anything that offends God is sin for He is HOLY! Therefore, let us “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” James 4:8-10. All of God’s warnings to us of the “signs of the times” are upon us and escalating by the day as well as unabated inordinate (perverted) affections and the lusts of the flesh; however, the difference is that pornography is as addictive, if not even more so, than drugs.

      Concerning such, our hearts should be deeply moved as we read Peter’s plea to believers, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul”. Peter is reminding us that we are only passing through this world, and that it is our duty as believers to abstain from the lusts of the flesh, whatever they may be, that war against the soul. It is impossible to please God while loving the world, satisfying the lusts of the flesh, and giving way to the devil at the same time. How many professing Christians are merely playing church and “sort of” trying to please God with divided hearts? And, how many are so doubleminded that their hearts have grown cold towards the Lord? Our hearts must be transformed by faith, the Word, and prayer. The truth is, many people, instead of being truly transformed, are only outwardly reformed, or merely conforming, or simply performing to give the outward appearance of a changed heart. In the end, their fruit tells on them.

      The decision to pick up our cross (death to the self-life) and follow Christ must be a heart decision, not just a mental or emotional one. It is the “fixed” heart that will endure to the end. In Psalm 57:7 David wrote “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” which he repeated in Psalm 108:1. Then in Psalm 112:7, 8, in describing a good man said, “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid”. “Good” means upright, and it is the upright heart that is perfect to God. A person with a perfect heart will ascend unto the hill of the LORD, and stand in His holy place. (Psalm 24:3.) Such a person has “clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully” verse 4.

      Clearly, as Christians of the New Covenant, we have responsibilities before God just as people of faith had responsibilities before God under the Old Covenant. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law, the types, shadows and hundreds of prophecies, but that does not mean that as New Testament believers we are excluded from obedience to God’s Word; and, that includes diligence where our heart is concerned. In other words, it is a dangerous folly to assume that once we have become a Christian, we can merrily float down the “religious river” while ignoring, and neglecting our own heart condition before the Lord. “…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7b. “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” Jeremiah 17:10.

      Sadly, the first mention of the thoughts of man’s heart is in Genesis 7:5, which says, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” We know that in the end days it will be as it was prior to Noah’s flood. Indeed, today we are witnessing another type of flood—a flood of filth described in Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Such “works of the flesh” should never be allowed to gain entrance into the church that Jesus died for. The church is to stand apart, distinct and separated from the world, which is made up of all of these evils. And, since the church is made up of the individual members of Christ’s Body, it is vital that each member stand against the works of the flesh, the world and the devil from gaining entrance at any time, on any level. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear” 1 Peter 4:17, 18?

      The question is how can we maintain a perfect heart in an imperfect world? Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” Matthew 5:8. Our hearts must be cleansed if they are to be pure. King David prayed “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” Psalm 139:23, 24. We must allow the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and reveal to us what needs to be cleansed. No one, and nothing can cleanse us but the blood of Jesus, but we must first humble ourselves before God and allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of what is displeasing to God in our own hearts, confessing it to Him, and praying with David, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned….” Psalm 51:1-4a. Once the Lord has cleansed us, we must be vigilant to ask Him to fill us with His Spirit. (See Matthew 3:11; Luke 11:13; 24:49; John 14:17; Acts 2:38). It is then our responsibility to fill our minds and hearts with His Word. Titus 3:5 says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The Word “washes” us, and the Holy Spirit renews us.

      Then walk in obedience to the Word of God, and keep your heart and mind pure by thinking upon whatever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy (see Philippians 3:8). “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” Galatians 5:24, 25. And, finally, remember that it is the pure in heart that shall see God.

      Will you see Him?