Dissecting the Heart

Merry Christmas and welcome to Advent 2019. Our word for this week is Hope. Sharing Hope, our Lord offers us an inspiring image of how hope is revealed throughout the Bible in our hearts. The Bible is filled with the imagery of various and sundry hearts. Some meditate on Psalm 19:14~May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock, and my Redeemer. (NIV), other hearts like Mary’s hide treasure, Luke 2:19~But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (NIV), some hearts Heal like Psalm 30~For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning …Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help. (NIV), Some are made new like in Jeremiah 31:27-34~I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (NIV) 

Paul even writes of the heart of compassion in Colossians 3:12-17~Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, (NIV) What kind of heart do you have? Arriving at the outdoor auditorium the crowd looks wonderful, we always look better when we are in community. Hearts are filled with longing, anticipation, awaiting the Messiah’s message, that they may go home and say, we had church. 

Today, our Captain addresses us from the bridge where in Matthew 13 He has surveyed the scene and is coming about to take us on a voyage along the shore of faith. Taking a seat at the helm, His anchor is weighed as His vessel is launched from the Galilean shore, where Christ Jesus records His first parable, beachside. Matthew 13:2-3~And great crowds gathered about him so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, (ESV) Now a parable is an illustrated spiritual lesson on morality. And the beachcombers that day learned about seeds sown into a life of faith. Christ Jesus says there’s a man who is sowing seed in four different areas of the garden where the soil can be vastly different. Some soil is along our way, some are craggy without depth, some is thorny and chokes, but still, other soil is marvelous, even to 100 fold. 

After He tells the story, Jesus’ disciples ask why? Matthew 13:10~Then the disciples came and said to him, Why do you speak to them in parables (παραβολή parabolē)? (ESV) Matthew 13:11~And he answered them, To you, it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been given. (ESV) Stemming from the rising tide of Jewish leaders in opposition, Jesus Christ is forced to teach about the kingdom of heaven using parables. The word parable (παραβολή parabolē) means to place beside. Christ Jesus is placing something unfamiliar, besides something familiar to illustrate His teaching on spiritual truths. Thus, His parables use familiar scenes and objects affording extrapolation of God’s wisdom and knowledge made plain and applicable to daily living.

Join us this week for an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. It has been labeled The Parable of the Sower. When in reality, it is really about four types of soil found in our lives. Therefore, it should be called The Parable of the Soils. In verses 18-23, Christ Jesus explains the sower is our faithful husbandman, the original vintner, God. (John 15) Now the seed He is sowing represents His Word into our lives. While the soils really represent four different types of hearts; one of which is just like yours and mine. This week, let’s take some time to reflect on the heart you have and what the Lord may want to cultivate in yours.



Obedience

Today I want to share how the life of faith has a price of admission. (Matthew 12:46-50) If you did not know there is a price to be admitted into Jesus’ family? When Jesus Christ covers our sins we are not saved to sit, rather we are required to do God’s will. While Christ Jesus is still speaking, his mother and brothers arrive and ask to speak to Him. (Matthew 12:46) By this time, His father Joseph has probably already passed away, but Jesus has at least four half-brothers and at least two half-sisters. The Bible makes this clear: when Jesus returns to His hometown of Nazareth, where He is rejected because the people know His family. They say Christ Jesus is the son of a carpenter, son of Mary. (Mark 6:3)

As his mother and half-brothers come to speak to Him, Jesus takes the opportunity of their visit to teach about discipleship. Therefore, He asks in Matthew 12:48-49~But he replied to the man who told him, Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, Here are my mother and my brothers! (ESV) That is a tough statement and so to explain this He continues by saying in Matthew 12:50~For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. (ESV) Jesus is not disrespecting physical family relations. On the contrary, in chapter 15, He condemns the religious leaders for not obeying the fifth commandment about honoring your father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Also, Jesus’ last request from the cross was for John to take care of His mother (John 19:26-27). What Jesus is teaching us is that being a member of His physical family, will not get a person into heaven. Only those who are in Christ, doing the will of the Father. Spiritual family is far more important.

The best description of a disciple is summed up in the word Obedience. Calling Jesus Lord and not doing what He says is being a hypocrite. Listen to the rhetorical question Christ asks in Luke 6:46~Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (NIV) Adhering to morality alone is like calling Jesus Lord and not doing what He asks of us. See, Jesus must be Lord over all, or He is not Lord at all. That means we respond to Him. Perhaps there is a place or area in your life that you feel the Lord is asking you to respond to. Today, just respond.



None Can Compare

First, Happy Thanksgiving, may all your favorites avail themselves to you at the dinner table today, but don’t overdo it! 

Did you know that morality alone, won’t cut the mustard? (Matthew 12:43-45) Some people believe that if they will just act moral or be good, everything will be OK. Listen, the Bible does teach us that we are to be moral but just adhering to morality alone is spiritually dangerous for us. It can lull us into thinking that we are good. I haven’t been there in forever. Oh no, I haven’t said that in years. No, No, I don’t do that anymore. I am a good person. The absence of evil or sin is not good enough. Hebrew 9:22~In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. (NIV) Jesus must die on the cross to fulfill the Law and set us free from the burden. 

To further describe the adulterous generation, Jesus says in Matthew 12:43~When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. (ESV) The unclean spirit is a demon. For some undisclosed reason, this person is temporarily freed from the demon’s influence. Since demons are not human, they don’t need water or food, so this demon goes into the desert for what appears is a vacation or rest. In the Bible, according to Matthew 8:31 demons possess only people and animals. Now demons cannot accomplish their evil desires through inanimate objects. That is not to say they cannot be attached to an object. We are speaking of purpose.

When the demon finds no rest, it decides to return. Matthew 12:44~ Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. (ESV) Matthew 12:45~Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation. (ESV) 

Jesus is describing a moral person. They think they have come to a place where they no longer need God. The scribes and Pharisees are very moral. Their lives are tidy and well organized they adhere to doing God, but not being with God. They find themselves outside of God. How many know that our own words will oftentimes condemn us? For example, take Jesus’ story of a Pharisee and publican who go to the temple and pray. Luke 18:11~The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. (NIV)

What he says is actually true, however, our comparison was never meant to be others. We are always to compare ourselves with Jesus who was, is and always will be perfect. I get that the Pharisees are very moral people. However, morality can be a tool used by demons to make people think or feel as though they are good enough and don’t need Jesus to go to heaven. I recently had a teacher tell me of a student who wants to live the alphabet life. The teacher overheard this ardent defender for rights say that she has read the Bible and knows that it’s true, but cannot accept it if she wants to live life on her own terms. 

That is precisely what a Pharisee does. They want to live life on their own terms. Hear me, the Bible teaches that that is the way of Cain. It is the way of sinners and scoffers, who choose ignorance as their way of living. Therefore, when a person reforms without Christ, he or she is in worse condition than before because it is so hard for a moral person to see his or her need for Jesus Christ. On the other hand, prostitutes, drug attics, alcoholics, liars, cheats and just general all-around sinners receive Jesus because they don’t have a morality demon lording over them. 

Morality often blinds people to the fact they need Jesus as Savior. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4~The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (NIV) Most Jews of Jesus’ day are so satisfied with their morality and religious traditions they can see no need for Messiah. Morality without Jesus dooms people to hell and makes demons content. Christ Jesus the Messiah is far greater than Jonah the prophet and Solomon the king, whom pagans heard and obeyed.

Why not stop and check for any spiritual blind spots in your life today. First, ask God for forgiveness and confess any sins that come to mind. Then ask Him to work on your blindspots. Allow Him to reveal any area in your life that needs His assistance. Ours is to respond to Him. So, don’t resist what the Lord shares. Simply and humbly respond as you watch the Lord work in your life.