Tag Archives: thinking of the heart

Worship of the Heart

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [Matthew 5:23-24 ESV]

Jesus continues illustrating the characteristics of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven by stressing the thinking of the heart in right relationship with God. If we are right with God then we are right with those around us. They may not be right with God or us. Jesus tells us to focus on the thinking of our hearts and not theirs. If someone has something against us it is because of something we have done to offend them, not because our position before God in Christ as righteous offends them.

Do not read these verses thinking Jesus is speaking only about a touchable sacrifice on a solid altar. When Abel and Cain offered their sacrifices is was not the physical sacrifice God cared about but the thinking of their hearts. We know Cain was “angry” and his face was downcast or fallen. We know God did not accept his sacrifice. Sin had bent him toward anger and wanted to control his whole being. We know God warned him to not allow sin control. Death and separation followed Cain’s refusal to heed God’s warning and discipline. Cain’s thinking held murderous intent and contempt for both God and those created in the image of God.

Pride and covetousness stops any capacity to worship. If pride and covetousness does not immediately kill worship then it strangles it. Even a little pride, a little covetousness, completely robs love from any act declared worship.

We are given His Spirit so we might worship Him in spirit and truth. “God is sprit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” [John 4:24 ESV]. When we give to God our gift is an act of love because we give that which is most valuable to us just as He gave what was most valuable to Him to redeem us. Our gift must be nothing less than our selves. Our giving must be done with the thinking of our hearts devoted to the One who has redeemed us. We love our God “with heart and with all your soul and with all your might” [Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV].  We show our love for Him not only through sacrifice but through obedience which is sacrifice.

Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. [1 Samuel 15:22-23 ESV]

Our gifts or sacrifices are not prescribed by law but by the indwelling Spirit. Our altar is not made of stone but of living flesh. Our gift has eternal value and encompasses the whole self. Our attitude, the thinking of our hearts, our whole person, must show love for God for the gift of ourselves to be acceptable. Our worship is a spiritual gift. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” [Romans 12:1 ESV].

Knowing this further helps understand what Jesus is proclaiming in Matthew 5:22-23. His illustration pierces to the center of the thinking of my heart. I am undone.  According to Paul and my own experience my body is a slave to sin while my spirit is a slave to righteousness. If my gift to Him is pure and acceptable it is only because I have been enabled to give, to offer worship in spirit and truth, by the One receiving the gift.

I still sin. And I must continue baring responsibility for the immediate, temporal consequences of my sin. Though my relationship with God can never be severed it can be momentarily compromised. In addition, my sin frustrates and obstructs my relationship with my “brother.”

Though the eternal consequences of my sin the sentence of death and eternal separation from God has been lifted and placed on Christ, I still have a body of sin and I will still physically die. I still suffer the immediate and temporal consequences of my sin and the sin of the world. My sin affects the Body of Christ, the Church, and those around me.

Never does God say He will not accept my gift or sacrifice. However, He demands obedience. We love Him by obeying Him. We love Him by loving those created by Him.  When I sin my brother is affected and my person is compromised and my gift or sacrifice is not given in love.

God will not leave such sin unknown.

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Giving to God

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

God tests the hearts of men, not because He needs to know what is in the heart. We need to know the thinking of our hearts. Testing is a good thing for those willing to see themselves through God’s eyes, measure themselves by His standard, acknowledge Him as the only Authority and Judge.

When God called His people out of Egypt He told them to plunder the Egyptians. Hundreds of years earlier God told Abraham, without naming Egypt, what would happen. “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions” [Genesis 15:13-14 ESV].

When God sent Moses to bring His people out of Egypt God instructed His nation what to do as they were leaving.  “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians” [Exodus 3:21-22 ESV]. To “plunder” is to gather the “spoil” from the battlefield or a country and people after a military defeat.

He gave them plunder for several reasons. First, as payment for years of slave labor. Secondly, when it was time to construct the tent of meeting they would have the necessary materials and would give freely. Finally, when they went into the Promised Land and followed His instruction to keep nothing for themselves they would have plenty and not covet what was devoted to God.

Between the plundering of Egypt as they left their enslavement for freedom, and the giving of an abundant offering for the tent of meeting, God tested His people so they would see the thinking of their hearts. While Moses was up on the Mountain receiving the commands of God the people rebelled and made an idol, attributing to the idol the work of God. Aaron listened to them and instructed them to bring their golden earrings.

So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”

So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” [Exodus 32:2-4 ESV]

People wore gold earrings for decoration, insurance and a sign of devotion to a idol. Should they die in the open and were found by a stranger, the stranger would bury them and take the gold earring as payment. Or they could, when they died, bribe their way into the god’s presence. Most likely they were simply vain. Whatever is true the gold in their ears was the only thing of value they carried from Egypt which belonged to them. God gave them everything else of value they possessed. It was “their” property used to construct and idol. It was “God’s” property used to construct the tent of meeting, a place to offer worship to God.

God’s test of the heart is what I see is mine versus what I know is His. If I think it is mine, that I earned it and possess it, then it becomes an idol. This “thinking of the heart” focuses upon me, separating me from my true place as God’s servant. It is an issue of control. When Adam fell after rebelling against God, the image of God in him was corrupted, not excised. Part of that image is “dominion.” We fight God for control refusing to give Him what we think belongs to us. God tests the purity of the heart through the act of giving.

Giving Respect

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”

When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. [Exodus 3:1-6 ESV]

We cannot stand before God as we are. Only those who are pure have the privilege of being in God’s presence. Sin made us impure, filling the thinking of our hearts with the corruption of evil desires against God and toward others. However, on occasion in Scripture God, the Son, appeared to some treating them as pure. These appearances of the preincarnate Christ are called theophanies.

God, the Son, first appeared to Moses in a burning bush. Moses, probably 80 years old at the time, Had been a shepherd for 40 years and saw everything the desert offered. When he saw something unusual, a bush on fire but not burning, he investigated.

From the bush God spoke to Moses, saying his name twice. Moses answered, not knowing with whom he was speaking. “Here I am.” This was the proper way to answer an authority summoning a servant. “I am here, at your disposal.” When God called, Moses answered with a submissive voice, a posture of respect before God.

God declared the ground upon which Moses standing holy. There is no indication the ground was forever holy. Wherever God is, is holy. God met Moses on Mount “Horeb” which means a “desolate wasteland.” From then on Moses identified it as the Mountain of God. Moses removed his sandals, an act of obedience and great respect. God demands respect and has the authority to expect both obedience and respect from those who belong to Him.

Responding respectfully to God’s summons is evidence of training but not purity of the thinking of the heart. Obedience with selfless motives shows the heart God is preparing for eternity.

God identified Himself and Moses responded without being told what to do. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” What was Moses’ response? “And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” Standing in the presence of Holy God exposed his true sinful self. Before God makes anyone pure they must first acknowledge their sinfulness and recognize the consequences of their sin. Then they must relinquish control of themselves to the God they serve.  God will use whom He will.

In the exchange which follows God never asked Moses to do His will. Always, even when Moses made excuses, God commanded him to go and speak. Obedience is expected.

Training has its place. Responding correctly and respectfully is proper and necessary. True humility before God reveals the changing thoughts of the heart of the one chosen by God. Do not mistake how God uses those who are His. Few are given the challenge of doing something spectacular for God. Mostly, it is obedience in the daily and mundane which brings the most glory to Him. For the daily and mundane reveal the true person. We are called to uninterrupted obedience to His commands and continual respect for His Person.

Abraham and Isaac

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” [Genesis 22:1 ESV]

Do not think God simply winds us up and lets us go wherever we may.  He is intimately and intricately involved in our lives as He prepares us for eternity.

Genesis 22 is a heart tearing and gut wrenching story. Abraham had shown his willingness to obey God, had received God’s blessing, believed God when He spoke. Now, he is told to sacrifice the promise and blessing of God. “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” [Genesis 22:2 ESV].

God tested Abraham. “Test” is also translated “tempt.” We know God does not tempt anyone though He will allow all to face temptations. This word does not carry the idea of driving Abraham toward sin. God seeks obedience which is never sin. Nor did God tell Abraham to do what He was unwilling to do Himself. “Test” means to prove or assay, as in find out what the level of purity is within the substance. In this instance, the substance is a man, created in God’s image, corrupted by sin, chosen by God. We are not to test God, but He is perfectly justified in testing us.

What raced through Abraham’s mind and heart as he, his son, and his servants traveled to the place where God directed him to sacrifice his son? I am a father. Not knowing what he thought and felt I can imagine his turmoil. Before leaving I imagine Abraham wrestling with himself through a sleepless night, struggling with obedience. Every step of the journey brought a search for compromise, or manufactured an excuse to disobey. Every compromise and excuse fell at his  feet trampled as he journeyed. He pondered the promise of God, finally seeing His trustworthiness.

Every step brought him closer to God who is not some dumb idol, chiseled from stone, carved from wood, empowered by corrupt imaginations. He  is God, the Creator of All, the One Who Sustains All, the Giver of Purpose to All, the Owner of All. At sometime during the journey, from the moment of the command to the raising of the knife, Abraham decided God is worthy of such worship. Abraham will do what His God commanded.

Notice Abraham’s confidence in the God of the Universe. “Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you’” [Genesis 22:5 ESV]. We will worship. We will return.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. [Hebrews 11:17-19 ESV]

From the first time God spoke to Abraham until Genesis 22, and beyond, God prepared Abraham, teaching him, working in him, changing him. This test was not so God could determine Abraham’s progress in his studies but to drive out more of the impurities brought by the corruption of sin. Obedience tested by sacrifice reveals the motivation and purity of the thinking of the heart toward God.

God’s intent is not to change the world and us so we can live in the world but to change us so we can be with Him wherever He puts us. He uses the world to test and assay His new creation in preparation for eternity. He will purify our hearts, for only that which is pure will be in His presence.

Motivation

Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

Look into your heart and honestly tell yourself what motivates your thinking and actions. Now, listen to God and let Him tell you. God will show you what is in your heart and you will not like it. In the Hebrew Scripture whenever you see “heart” God is talking about the whole person. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” [Genesis 6:5 ESV]. God looks into the deepest recesses and hidden chambers of our small hearts and sees truth. Nothing is hidden from Him. Yet, when we talk to ourselves our motivation is not to truth but to all which is selfish, self-centered and self-absorbed.

Do you want to know a person? Identify their motivations. Do you want to control a person? Convince them, through threat or repetition, what their motivation is (or should be) and that is what it will become. Is this not what Satan did with Adam and Eve? Did he not question truth and their understanding of truth and then direct though suggestion their motivation away from God? God created them in His image with an innate and intimate knowledge of Himself. Their desire was to do His purpose, which was also theirs. Satan bent truth and convinced Adam and Eve the lie was true. And their motivation turned away from God to something other than God.

Sin entered and from then until the end of history people’ motivations are bent away from God, twisted toward themselves, truth poisoned by a lie making it impossible for us to return to our original state of innocence before Him. Not that we want to. We cannot know what truly motivates us unless we are told by God because we will not admit the truth because we are corrupted by sin.

God does not fix those who are broken. God does not hammer out and straighten those who are bent. God does not make pure those corrupted by poison. Fixing something which has been broken still means it has been broken. Straitening that which is bent always means it has been bent even though it appears straight. Poison has touched the pure and it can never again be pure.

God recreates. This is His prerogative. He does not make better but completely changes into the best. But, He does not finish  us while we remain in a world corrupted by sin. Instead, He promises and then guarantees His promise with Himself. His purpose for us remaining in this world is twofold. Half of His purpose is for us to be the evidence to the world of His gift of Himself. Most of the evangelical world considered this the most vital and the highest purpose for every Christian, to the point of idolatry. Or we just live expecting our leaders to do the work. One of my professors suggested “shepherds don’t begat sheep. Sheep begat sheep.”

God is also preparing those who are His for eternity. This means no longer thinking and feeling like the world but as directed by His Spirit. He asks us to do the impossible and has given us the tools, the image of God in us, and the motivation, the indwelling of His Spirit, to do His purpose. As we are changed by Him, fit for eternity, we will live the evidence for the world to see.

It is more important in God’s eyes, I think, to be what He wants and not just look like we are what we think He wants.

A False and True Center

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. [James 4:1-4 ESV]

Repentance has a demand which must be met. Not fulfilling this demand says there has been no repentance. This demand is a knowing and feeling working together. Sin must be known with the mind and the turning away from sin must be felt with the emotions. This is one act not two for the whole person must meet the demand. What occurs may not be explainable. Most people cannot say exactly what has occurred but they know in the thinking of their hearts it has happened. With this turning comes a war with skirmishes and battles and assaults both overt and covert. Turning away from sin demands diligence in both thinking and feeling, for sin is jealous and will not relinquish its control until there is death. However, we are given the tools we need to wage this war and to grow into the individual God makes us for eternity through the indwelling of the Spirit. Sin no longer has control yet continues to assault to try to manipulate control. How we act while fully engaged in this war is the evidence of the truth of our turning.

I have spent time on the moral law of God because the conflict we face between intimately knowing it and facing the reality of sin cannot be ignored.

For any sinful person the center of the world, even the center of the universe, is self. How difficult it is for me, when I think and feel, perceive and act based wholly upon the isolation of myself. My life extends out from my person in tight, concentric circles, touching first those people and events closest to me. If anything does not touch my life in some tangible way, some way I can easily perceive, then I feel it has little or no bearing upon my decisions and values. When I am the center if anything does not touch me then it really doesn’t matter.

When something does touch me it must, absolutely must, adhere to my self-developed expectations or it makes me angry, which may transform into bitterness, hatred, frustration, depression and many other destructive emotions. These violent emotions separate people, driving families apart and further isolating every person.

Perceived needs are first sensual and once identified become fixed, or codified, into a loosely defined system of personal values, expectations and even laws. Each person in a community has their own personal value system, based upon individual experience and developed personality. There is no cohesion between individuals unless they hold similar and like values. Every community has a recognized and applied system of values and even ethics. This system must be recognized as abiding outside of the individual yet held as valuable by all of the individuals.

“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” [Matthew 12:25-2 ESV] God cannot be divided against Himself. Satan’s work is to tear apart, to divide, to rip asunder. He has failed and will fall. Our world is under the control, or influence, of Satan. His method of operation is to divide. At the same time, this world is under the spell, the law, of sin. Sin has a personality. It is the personality of the individual sinner. Sin doesn’t divide but separates the individual from the Creator. Sin never unites. Satan never unites. Even Satan is under the dominance of sin.

Each person cannot be the center of the world or the universe. There can be only one center and that center is nowhere on this little speck of blue dust floating in an unimaginably vast universe. God, who is the first and last, the beginning and end, the alpha and omega, is not viewed as the center by any sinful person. That person’s universe, my universe, cannot stand. It will self-destruct. When we view ourselves as the center, most of the time doing this without being aware of our self-centered focus, we contribute to the to the tearing apart of our relationships. Only by forcibly making God the center in the thinking of our hearts will we begin to have healthy relationships. Nothing functions as it is supposed to without the conscious knowledge of the truth of God at the center.

“Dysfunction”, that which looks as if it would operate properly but does not, for various reason or under certain circumstance. Function implies design, creation to fulfill or adherence to the design, and the ability to act according to the express purpose of the design.

Is it possible for a person to be a functioning dysfunctional? How about a society or culture?

In Scripture we learn people are created with the express function to have an intimate relationship with both their Creator and each other. True intimacy, especially with God, is evidence of proper working. Where dysfunction occurs the evidence will be a breakdown or even severing of relationship. No body functions properly with missing or broken pieces. Such a compromised body may continue to operate, or function, but not to the fullest capacity intended. Lose a hand or foot or eye or ear and other parts may compensate for the loss. Lose a head or other vital organ and the body ceases to operate or function. Proper function is hindered but not stopped with the loss of a non-vital piece. Is it possible for the function of one part to be taken over by another while the first part is still complete? The eye cannot smell, but the foot can operate as a hand, in a limited way, and the arms can operate as legs. This is not optimal. What is true for the body is equally true for the person, the family an the community.

Now, a litany of my personal dislikes:

Clothes are designed to be worn in a specific manner. A ball cap has a bill jutting out of the front in order to shield the eyes of the wearer from the sun, or other bright lights. When worn askew, with the bill to the side or back, the cap is not functioning as it is intended. Is the person wearing the cap in such a manner is showing they do not understand or care about the function of the cap? In any case, the cap is not dysfunctional but the individual wearing the cap is not allowing the cap to function properly.

When made “properly” a pair of pants has a waist designed to fit around the person’s actual waist. Generally there are loops for a belt to add security and ensure the pants don’t fall down, causing the person to trip and fall, or to expose those areas below the waist considered private. To purposefully wear pants far below the waist causes the pants to not function properly. Doing this forces the wearer to hold the pants up with one hand or continually pull them up in order to walk or run. Why would anyone cause a functional pair of pants to slip down and impede other bodily functions, like walking?

An individual who wears headphones to listen to music may do so in order to not disturb others. However, when the individual moves into the public, walking, riding, driving, they must turn the volume up to drown out the noise around them. Eventually, the volume becomes so high others can hear, which may disturb them. There are other consequences. Hearing loss caused by excessive volume bombarding the nerves cause permanent damage. The headphones function properly, the person does not.

Evidence for a person’s dysfunction is found in every facet of their behavior. Continued behavior reinforces the dysfunction making it more difficult to identify the problem and break it. Soon, the dysfunction is viewed as normal, accepted by the person, by their peers, and even by the community and society at large. There may be grumbling, but unless there is social pressure to not act, dress or think in a particular dysfunctional way there will be no change. The dysfunction is ingrained.

It is obvious a society, culture and community are dysfunctional. Societal norms change to accommodate the dysfunction. Those individuals who do not act in accordance with the accepted dysfunction are shunned, until others begin to emulate them, and those actions and attitudes become normal. Each successive ring of dysfunction solidifies into a impenetrable plate of armor shielding the individual from learning or acting in a truly functional manner. Driven out of the person is the recognition of what was originally intended, their original purpose, with any understanding so corrupted rehabilitation is impossible.

People do not, will not, and cannot act in a manner for which they were originally intended. Even if they have a glimpse of the original, functional purpose there is too much pressure to continue thinking, then acting in a dysfunctional way. 

It is not the intent of this piece to examine the reasons or evidences of a dysfunctional person or society. It is enough to know the dysfunction exists and is impossible to overcome. It is also enough to identify the reality when a community or society accepts the dysfunction as normal. It is also important to realize the individual, community, society or culture which is dysfunctional cannot and does not recognize the dysfunction and will even fight against those who identify and highlight the dysfunction. We could even say value is placed upon the dysfunction when the activity and attitude is accepted and embraced.

Jesus, the only functioning person ever (even Adam created perfect, when he fell, ceased to function the way God originally intended), decided to come into a world turned upside down. He did not come to change the world and make it right. He came to convict the world of sin, to change those redeemed, and to serve God. He is Man the way God originally intended. This is why the world hates Him. He is the true center of a world which wants self at the center.