Since the heart is the most important aspect of our being, we should know more about the heart than anything else. However, we are a people void of understanding. That is why we reduce our relation¬ship with God to rules and regulations.
Law does not allow a person to understand his own heart. A person can do all the right things for all the wrong reasons. Two people can commit the same actions. One can be sincere and honest; another can be manipulative and deceitful. On the outside, however, they may look the same.
Nowhere does the Bible give us the right to judge the heart of another. Many times I hear people say, “Oh, he’s got such a good heart.” I often want to ask, “How do you know? And who gave you the right to pass that judgment?” Judgment belongs to the Lord. We cannot even properly judge our own hearts, much less the heart of another. The Bible says the Word of God will discern, or judge, or sift our hearts. The Word of God is the mirror that I look into to make me understand my own heart. If I look into the Word and put it into practice with love as my motive, my deeds are revealed as light or darkness. By walking in the love described in God’s Word I put my heart to rest in God’s presence and drive out all condemnation.
In recent years, I have had the opportunity to rescue a few people who are coming out of a legalistic environment. When these people leave the church or pastor that kept them in line through judgment and condemnation, they fall apart. They get to the place where they do not want to come to church, pray, tithe or anything. Many onlookers would say, “See, this liberal message promotes sin.” But it is quite the opposite. The mercy, truth and light of God do not promote sin; they expose it. What a shock it is to these people to find that when they had no one to “brow beat” them, they stopped serving God. When the element of fear was removed, they found that they were not really in love with God. Many people spend a lifetime going through the motions and never understanding why they have no real, inner victory in living for God.
You see, these are not people who are in a loving relationship with Jesus where He and the Father come and manifest to them. They are living under law and know very little of the goodness of God. For many of these people there has never been the real repentance that brings a change of mind and heart. There has only been the repentance that abstains for fear of the results. These people, though doing good works, are backslidden in their heart. They serve God, but not from the heart. It is lip service. I am not challenging their salvation, but I do question the joy of their salvation.
Proverbs 14:14 says, “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.” It is the condition of your heart that is filling your life with good or bad things. All may look good on the outside, but what’s on the inside? Every person I have known that grasps this message goes through a major upheaval in the inner man.
I sat one day talking with a man who had come from a very performance-oriented background. For a number of years he had been a “high achiever.” He was one of the up and coming young men in a rather large congregation.
As he sat talking to me, he said, “This just isn’t working. Since I’ve been hearing this message I haven’t been as dedicated. I don’t pray as much. I don’t read my Bible as much. I don’t witness as much.” My simple response was, “It sounds like it’s working to me.” “How could that be,” he asked.
I said, “How many of those things that you did, for all those years, were done because you loved God and you loved people? Or how many of those things were done because you were trying to get on staff? Or, were you possibly trying to gain the favor of the leaders?”
We sat staring at one another for a few long moments of silence. He dropped his head into his hands and began to cry. “Most of it was to get on staff,” he responded. “I wanted the oversight to approve of me.”
I believe in living a productive life. I see people like this young man go through these difficult changes. I see them struggle to get back in touch with God. It is so hard to find reality and relationship after so many years of performance and hypocrisy. But then, I see these people begin to bear fruit. I see them enter into a joy and peace that is beyond anything they have ever known.
Love demands proper attitudes and motives. Love does not work by law and obligation. The gospel of peace requires a right heart. Be assured, this message will produce havoc in a person whose heart is not right before the Lord. If this message produces the attitude of loose or ungodly living, you have a heart problem. If you feel that you can take advantage of God’s mercy and forgiveness, you have a heart problem. The prob¬lem is not the message. Remember: “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright: but destruction. . .to the workers of iniquity.” (Proverbs 10:29)
The heart is the seat of our emotions and our will. Emotions can come from different sources. They can be stimu¬lated from the spirit or from the flesh. Emotions can be very deceitful. Many people live for God, yet they are robbed of confidence because of condem¬nation. Others live for self and deceive themselves into believing they are right before God. So emo¬tions are not a stable indicator of the condition of our heart. 1 John 3:18 21 tells us how to assure or persuade our hearts before God. It says in verse 20 that the only way to know we are in truth is by loving in word and in deed. Walking in love can settle the issue when our heart condemns us. Works do not earn me a position or favor with God. But, the fruit that comes forth because of my relationship with God helps to assure my heart. They become a mirror to my inner man.
When my heart does not condemn me, I have confidence and I receive whatsoever I ask. An im¬portant part of faith is confidence. I must first have a confident expectation of God. I must have con¬fidence of my own standing before God.
I John 3:22 says, “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep His command¬ments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” One would quickly say, “See, you must keep the commandments to get your prayers answered.” Remember, the context is walking in love. Keeping the commandments does not earn answered prayer. Instead, keeping His commandments assures our heart.
Verse 23 goes on to say, “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us com¬mandment.” Believing on Jesus and walking in love fulfills the commandments of the Lord. Therefore, the way I live, in regard to my belief on the Lord Jesus and walking in love, reveals the condition of my heart. The way I relate to the Lord and the way I relate to God’s people is not something I have to do to avoid judgment. It is something I do because of the love of God in my heart.
When the threat of judgment is removed, we have the opportunity to see what is really in a person’s heart. If you hear this message of love and peace and feel it gives you a license to sin, your heart has been revealed. Now you know why you have struggled in the past. Now you know what you have really been dealing with. Truth will reveal the condition of the heart. It will sort out the real motives and intentions. “For the word of God. . ., is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) .
~ Ted Nelson
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