Tag Archives: heart

SO SIMPLE, REALLY

SO SIMPLE, REALLY

“Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:5-9.

Why do we humans make complicated what God has made so simple that even a child can understand?

Righteousness which is achieved by keeping God’s law, takes hard work, is uncertain, and in the end is unattainable. No matter how hard anyone tries, he has already blotted his copybook because he was born with a sinful nature. He is not a sinner because he sins; he sins because he is a sinner.

Where does that leave us? Judged, condemned and sentenced to death! But God threw us a lifeline – Jesus. And Paul says, “You don’t have to try to find Him in heaven or in the grave. All you have to do is speak His name – Jesus, Lord – because He is alive and as near to you as your breath.”

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'” Romans 10:10-13.

Can it be any simpler? For the Jew and for the Gentile it is exactly the same. It takes no more than the conviction of the heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and  confession of the mouth that God made Him “both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36) to catapult us into the blessings and benefits of a new life in Christ Jesus.

God is not asking for an emotional “meltdown” before we can experience His salvation. The realisation that Jesus is alive and that He is the Son of God, is all that is needed to change the direction of our lives and secure our destiny as sons and daughters of God. Repentance may or may not be the result of an emotional storm, but it does require a change of mind. All God asks of us is that we understand what He has done for us, and receive it by believing it in our hearts and confessing it with our mouths.

In that one simple act of faith and confession, God sets us on the path to recovery; He begins the process of restoring us to whom He designed us to be in the beginning, sons and daughters created in His image to be one with him; and what He made us to do – to manage the earth in partnership with Him as His vice-regents.

He is doing what the Hebrews called tekkun olam – fixing everything that was broken, to the horizon, i.e., into eternity. What a hope! And He does this through His representative -Jesus. This is salvation – it is not a free ticket to heaven when we die; that is only one of the benefits and the end result of the process which begins when we believe and receive Jesus as Lord. Salvation is the journey to wholeness, back to where the human race began before sin intruded and interrupted God’s plan.

God has already determined, from before the foundation of the world, what we shall be and what we shall do as members of His forever family. He has an inheritance for us – our allotted possession which is ours by right as His sons and daughters. What is our inheritance and how do we possess it? According to Peter, our inheritance is His divine nature which we possess through His very great and precious promises.

“His divine power had given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises so that, through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3, 4.

And all this by simply believing and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord!

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – THE PROBLEM OF THE HEART

THE PROBLEM OF THE HEART 

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:17-23

The question the disciples asked Jesus shows how deeply they were influenced by the thinking of their day. Fortunately, they had the sense to ask Jesus for an explanation that put the issue of dietary practices into its correct perspective. Perhaps this was also a revelation for Roman readers because their pagan religion was expressed in many ungodly practices which defiled them.

Jesus went straight to the “heart” of man’s problem – the problem of the heart. There is nothing we have to do to introduce pollution into us because it is already there, in the heart, awaiting the opportunity to expose itself to the outside world through words, actions and attitudes. All it needs is a little prompting through circumstances or through someone else’s words or actions.

The Pharisees, who were so meticulous about their observance of dietary taboos, were a case in point. Their over-scrupulous consciences about external cleanliness made them oblivious to the real issues that showed up the condition of their hearts: arrogance, pride, contempt for those who were not like them, hatred, murderous thoughts etc. They were too busy polishing the outside of the cup to acknowledge the condition of their hearts. Rather than take note of the issues Jesus was exposing in them, they chose to silence Him and hold on to their guilt.

What should our response be to the situations that cause pollution of our hearts to be exposed? The Bible is full of examples of wrong responses that only exacerbated the problem instead of dealing with it. How often, in the Old Testament, God’s faithful prophets exposed sin, only to pay the ultimate price for their obedience to God.

One man was different – David. Nathan’s exposure of his guilt brought David’s humility to the surface. “I have sinned,” he said. What a different place even the church might be in if God’s people recognised God’s grace in exposing our polluted hearts. The humiliation of exposure produces the peace of forgiveness and freedom from guilt. Instead, we hold on to our guilt, and punish others with our cruel words and deeds rather than eat humble pie by admitting, “I have sinned.”

Inside Out

INSIDE OUT

Again Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’ After He had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples asked Him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ He asked. ’Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean). He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’ (Mark 7: 14-23).

What was the issue? The Pharisees had accused Jesus’ disciples of eating with ceremonially unclean hands because they had not done their ritual washing before a meal. It was much more than washing their hands before lunch. It was about failing to observe the tradition of the elders. They attacked their lifestyle – they were not following what was proper according to the religious traditions added on to the Law of Moses.

Jesus had responded by showing them how they had twisted the Law of Moses by declaring what should rightfully have been used to support elderly parents as corban, that is, dedicated to God so that it could not be used for anything else.

Without explanation, Jesus taught the listening crowd that it is not food that defiles a person but what comes from within the person himself. Once again His disciples didn’t get it. He had to spell it out to them so that they would understand that evil thoughts and actions defile a person rather than food eaten with unwashed hands, or even food that was so-called unclean according to the Torah. How can food which passes through the digestive system, contribute to the sinfulness of the heart? Of course, certain foods are bad for a person’s health, but food cannot affect the state of one’s heart.

If what comes from within defiles a person; thoughts, words and actions, then it stands to reason that those thoughts, words and actions are a mirror of the person’s heart. Every time someone opens his mouth or does something, he is giving others a glimpse of what is inside him. This had implications for interpersonal relationships.

How many hurtful words are spoken from the mouth of a person who is full of hate and bitterness? Instead of the hearer recognising that the attack from the speaker is merely a revelation of what is in his or her heart rather than a criticism of the hearer and instead of reacting with hurt and carrying an offence against the other person, the one who was judged or criticised should realise that the real issue comes from the heart of the attacker.

The conflict will end and there will be no offense taken if the criticism is dismissed right there. How important it is to realise this and to step back and brush off the offense. Instead of anger and retaliation, the offender’s words can be ignored as irrelevant because the real issue in his heart rather than the person he is attacking. How liberating to walk away from such a person knowing that the criticism can’t stick because it’s not your “stuff” – it’s his or her “stuff”.

This is also a warning to all of us that we give ourselves away by what we say or do. Angry words reveal unresolved hurts. A controlling person gives away his insecurity. Even addictions say something. People who struggle with addictions use substances or behaviour patterns to manage unresolved pain or guilt in their lives. When we understand this, it does not take a psychologist or psychiatrist who put people into diagnostic “boxes” which they call “disorders” to realise what the real problem. Jesus called our “disorders” sin. There is only one effective answer for sin – the blood of Jesus which forgives sin and cleanses us of all our unrighteousness.

When Jesus come in to cleanse us and give us a new heart, everything changes.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old had gone, the new is here! (2 Cor. 5: 17).

Don’t be fooled by those who think they are cleaning up their hearts by eating the right food. Jesus said, ‘Listen to me.’ He has the answer for the problem of defiled hearts. His death paid our debt of sin so that we can be forgiven and made new. He changes us from the inside. What comes out then will God-stuff, not our stuff!

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

Christ, The Mystery of God

CHRIST, THE MYSTERY OF GOD

I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not known me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:1-3).

Paul was presenting deep truths to relatively young believers, using truths that many of us today do not understand. One wonders how much of what Paul wrote about made sense to them!

These were people who had not heard the message of the gospel from Paul. They had been taught by Epaphras who was probably Paul’s convert and possibly a Gentile who may have had no background in the Jewish Scriptures. Paul recognised that, although he was not a part of their conversion experience, nevertheless he had a responsibility to instruct them thoroughly in the faith. They had no New Testament to which to turn. They relied on what they had been taught and what they could remember.

What did Paul emphasise as the criteria for understanding the mystery of Christ? Not book knowledge, as we might think, but their being encouraged in heart and united in love. These are not qualities of the mind, but rather aspects of their experience as they learned to do life together. It was important for them to know the truth about Jesus and to be sure of what they believed. It was equally important that they live it out in their everyday lives.

It was in the experience of their daily lives ‘in Christ’ that they learned to know Him. They needed to be confident in Him and to draw their life from Him in a hostile environment where they could be betrayed, arrested and executed for their faith at any time. Head knowledge was not enough. They had to experience the sufficiency of Christ for everything they needed. Most of all, being believers in Jesus was about doing life together.

Those of us who are part of the culture of the western world need to learn from cultures that place emphasis on family groups above individuals. There are dangers in that, of course, especially when it comes to conversion from a traditional religion to faith in Christ. Since family takes precedence over the individual, to make a personal choice against the family is viewed in a serious light.

However, it is the family togetherness in Christ that helps believers to remain faithful and strong through the support they receive from one another. When one falls, the others are there to pick him up. When one strays, the others bring him back. Strife and conflict are handled within the family of believers to maintain harmony and promote love.

Imagine if our church groups functioned like that. It’s no wonder that the church in Paul’s day spread like wildfire in spite of persecution. Jesus said that it is by our love that people will know that we are His disciples and by our unity that the world will know that the Father sent Him.

It is this kind of life that will take us deeper into ‘the full riches of understanding’ of the mystery of Christ. The Israelites had a constitution which was intended to teach them how to live in harmony with one another. They lacked one thing – Jesus Christ. He is the full revelation of everything that the Mosaic Law was intended to teach them. They had the method, but not the means.

The Law of Moses was meant to teach them how impossible it was to live God’s way without Jesus. God wanted them to know how powerless they were to make it on their own. Even if they were able to obey God’s Law to the letter outwardly, they could do nothing to change their wayward hearts. Their sad history is proof that they did not understand the heart of God. Only a few of them got it, people like David who moved beyond keeping rules and offering sacrifices.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51: 16-17).

Knowledge is important. Without it we have nothing upon which to base our faith. But knowledge that does not issue in obedience and a changed life has no value. We need to be encouraged in heart – urged on to become who we are – and united in love – taking care of one another and meeting one another’s needs at our own expense, in order to come to a true understanding of who Jesus really is. He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and the source of everything we are and everything we need.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.