Jesus and Our Heart

Jesus, Lincoln, and Paul

            Honoring God Must include Planting Truth in our Heart. Yet, while our heart is the only suitable place from which to honor God, not filling it properly presents a dangerous void (Matt. 12:43-45). Our hearts will be filled with something. Even a determination to reform, if it does not fill the heart with Christ-like virtues, will ultimately leave us the worse for the effort.

            Truth must fill the heart if God is to be honored. Yet it is here where many stumble. Filling the heart with truth is not to be confused with simply memorizing Scripture. God would fill us up with truth personalized in the form of Jesus (Eph. 4:20-24). The new mind of repentance is to be the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5).

            Memorizing the Bible is certainly not to be discouraged rather it should be encouraged. My point is that simply remembering Scripture is very different from the transforming Christ being present in our heart. Let me illustrate.

            I am currently reading a book about Abraham Lincoln. It is a long book and I have learned many new things about Mr. Lincoln. I have come to admire him in many ways; he was a rare man! Like me, Paul doubtless knew many things about the famous people of his day. However, would he have said of any of them what he said of Jesus, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Gal. 2:20)?

            The answer to my question is easily given. While Paul knew many things about many men, several of whom he undoubtedly admired, he would not have said of anyone what he said of the Christ. Knowing truthful things, even about an admired person, is much different from being radically transformed into that person’s image. To honor God, we must be walking in a transforming way (Rom. 8:29). To do otherwise is to dishonor God.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit and The Promise

A PROMISED GIFT

           In Acts 2:38b-39, the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is referenced and directly connected to the promise made to the Jews and all people God would call. The fulfillment of the promise was associated with the earliest preaching of the Gospel to the Jews (Acts 3:25). The Promise was fulfilled in Christ (Gen. 22:17-18; Gal. 3:16). However, though fulfilled, the significance of the Promise is not inactive today.

            The promise God made to Abraham is clearly and inseparably tied to our inheritance in Christ (Gal. 3:13-19; Rom. 4:13-16; 8:15-17; 9:8). The “gift of the Holy Spirit” is equally attached to both the promise and our inheritance (Acts 2:38-39; Rom. 8:16-17; Gal. 3:14, 18-19; Rom. 4:13-16; Eph. 1:13-14; I Cor. 2:12; Gal. 4:4-7; Acts 20:32; 26:18).

            The promise has been kept and its influence is truly amazing. We are children of the King of all creation (I Jn. 3:1). The “down-payment” or “earnest” or “pledge” of our inheritance became ours when we became Christians (Eph. 1:14; II Cor. 1:22). For all faithful Christians  the blessings of the promise to Abraham are as sure as God and the finished work of His Son (II Cor. 18-22). These blessings have been revealed by the Spirit Himself rather than by the mere words of men (I Cor. 2:10-12).

            Incredibly, the full greatness of the Promise has yet to be realized. Heaven will reveal what now is seen only through analogies to our temporal world. The complete realization of the promise is indescribable (I Jn. 3:2) The God who cannot lie, His Son who has paid the price, and the Spirit who has revealed what has been freely given to all unite to declare, “PROMISE KEPT”!

JESUS

Jesus, do we know Him? We know the Anglicized form of the Greek form of His Hebrew name, but do we know Him? To know Jesus is to understand both Him and the Father (Jn. 14:8-9). To know Him is to have His mind in us (Phil. 2:5). To know Him involves being conformed into His image (Rom. 8:29).

Do we know Jesus? When by reason of time have we seriously, faithfully become more of Him than of ourselves (Heb. 5:12-14; Gal. 2:20)? Has our life and all that is in it come to faithfully be seen through His eyes? Is our worldview increasingly His? Does our love for Him joined to His love for us result in the faithful following of His ways (Jn. 14:15; II Cor. 5:14-15)?

Do we know Jesus? Does our light shine in such a way as to give glory to God (Matt. 5:16)? Are our homes godly? Are the places we work more places of peace and harmony than they would be if we were not there to represent Jesus? Does the quality of our work reflect an excellence due to our service ultimately being given to Jesus (Col. 3:22-23)?

Do we know Jesus? Is He our friend because we give heed to His call (Jn. 15:14)? Is He our Lord through the practical expressions of our faith (Lk. 6:46; Matt. 7:21-23)? What is different about us because of Jesus? In our hearts, are we His? Where it really counts, are we His? We need to be sure of these things (II Cor. 13:5)! Knowing Jesus is inseparably tied to our eternal life (Jn. 17:3). Knowing Him is, therefore, the most serious thing in life. Do we know Jesus?

 

Will the Cycle Go Unbroken?

              It is said, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” I do suspect sins of omission are a significant component of said road. We often have very noble intentions that we just never seem to accomplish. Time passes, passion for our goals slowly abates, and we forget until something jogs our memory.

            For some, however, the norm is defeated. For the few, good intentions become entries of exemplary progress on their journal of life. Why so few successes? Why does the cycle of business-as-usual so often go unbroken? What characterizes the exceptions to the rule?

            As acknowledged, sometimes, the whole lackluster trend of well-intended-neglect finds an exception. Every now and again people rise up to do truly extraordinary deeds (Neh. 2:18-20; 4:6). On occasion, a world slumbering in its cynicism gets a good case of the cold shivers as they see greatness. Once in a while, the unnoticed ho hum of normality actually changes into a cannot-be-missed wonderment (Acts 17:6).

            How can we be part of exceptional happenings? First, as we take time to reflect on the many good things we might pursue, let us recall God’s remembrances of our needs and offer gracious thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a great motivation for godly, personal expressions of service.

            Second, as we purpose to do good things that will bring praise to God, remember not to let good or better hinder us from accomplishing what is best. To be so hindered would be to squander an opportunity to achieve “exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Great goals sought with God’s great power to bless our efforts can excite and motivate us to consistently move forward.

            God has placed wonderful potential in our hands. The good things we purpose may well become amazing, awe inspiring blessings for our good God. There is only one way to find out. In a world of unrealized intentions leading to a cycle of repeated disappointments, will the cycle be unbroken?

Jehoiakim and His Knife

“And it came to pass, when Jehudi had read three or four pages, the king cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (Jer. 36:23).

            King Jehoiakim sent for the scroll of Jeremiah.  When the scroll arrived, the King commanded it to be read. After only three or four pages had been covered, he took the scroll from the reader and with his knife he cut it to pieces and cast it into the fire. This revealed the attitude of the wicked king to God and his word.

            Down through the ages, others have opposed God and his revelation. Just as with Jehoiakim’s efforts, the message from God continues to survive all destructive efforts.  The Bible continues to reveal the “thoughts and intent of the heart.”  As long as the earth stands, the Word of God will be here to reveal truth. It will continue to probe the depths of the heart and, at times, bring inconvenient truths. “Heaven and earth shall pass away but my word shall not pass away (Matt. 24:33).

.           People today may not commonly use a knife or fire to destroy the Word, but their motives may be the same. When people fail to read and study the will of God the effect is as if they were cutting and burning the Bible. The Bible has no affect on their life and the person soon dies spiritually.  “Man cannot live by bread alone.”

            When a preacher will not preach the Word in completeness or teaches the “doctrines and commandments of men,” he, in effect, destroys the Word. When we fail to teach and live the whole council of God, we are cutting and burning the Bible. When anyone seeks to destroy God’s Word by denying the true nature of the Book, the cutting and burning continues.

            Today, we do not need to cut and burn the Bible to destroy it; we can simply leave it on a shelf or table to collect dust. In homes where a family does not allow the fullness of truth to hold sway, Scripture may as well be incinerated. Churches where the Bible is a mere pew ornament may as well take out knives and fire up a brazier

            We must exercise vigilance to prevent the full Gospel from becoming an incomplete, distorted, or disrespected relic of God’s great gift.