Have you ever had such a wonderful day you wished it would never end? In that moment of joyful peace your heart whispered, “I wish it could stay like this forever!”
Isn’t it surprising that God had a day like that too? It happened at Mount Sinai. His redeemed children cleansed themselves. They trembled before his word and promised to obey his commands. It was a special day. As that historic day ended a delighted Lord thought,
“29 Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29)
The Lord’s reflections contain an essential truth: God wants our hearts! The order is clear. A heart fixed on God will keep his commandments resulting in a good life. It begins with the heart (Deut. 6:4-5)!
How wonderful it is that God draws us not by external force, but by internal faith. He wants us to follow him because we “want to” not because we “have to.” He doesn’t simply lay responsibility and obligation upon us. He wants us to love him and be passionate about his ways. He wants our hearts!
Am I misguided to think that too many of us end up serving the Lord out of the weariness of obligation rather than the gladness of devotion (Mal. 1:12-13; Psalm 122:1)? Could it be today that we long to hear our voices more than his; we delight in our pleasures, more than his praise? Perhaps it is time to reexamine the alignment of our hearts.
Love Leads to Law
The Lord began with the heart when he gave the Ten Commandments, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out! … Have no other gods before me” (Deut. 5:6). Notice the order: 1) the beauty of who God is, 2) followed by what God demands. The reason we struggle with putting other things before our God is because we do not first consider deeply enough how marvelous he is. Without the love that produces, obedience will fail! Later Moses wrote,
“You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.” (Deut. 11:1)
Love for the Lord leads to obedience to the Lord.
This means you cannot entertain people into obedience. You cannot intimidate them into faithfulness. Yet, spiritual leaders are constantly tempted to act like bouncers pressuring people into conformity or be like “ice cream men” baiting people into doing what is right. Both approaches become futile, exhausting experiences because they miss the heart!
Local churches looking for life can change their surroundings, formats and methodologies, but they will end up with people at the same level of spiritual commitment if the heart is not changed. It is love that leads to loyalty.
How many times have you heard Jesus’ statement, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15) and the thundering emphasis was on “obedience?” Can we not see that obedience is the by-product of the love?
Therefore, our greatest need is to love the Lord—to saturate our minds with the goodness of his character and the wonders of his works, until we find our highest joy is him. Then our greatest desire will be to please him.
Grace Leads to Works
You remember the Pharisees were into law keeping. They carefully catalogued and policed every law. Yet, how obedient were the Pharisees? Jesus said, “They preach but do not practice” (Matt. 23:2). They stressed the law and lived lawless.
The irony is the path to obedience is not paved by boasting in our morality, but by confessing our sinfulness. How often did that former Pharisee, Paul confess, “I am a sinful man, the chief of sinners, unworthy…”? In the deprivation of his own sinfulness he received the grace of God and declared, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). For the self-aware sinner, grace leads to works.
Whenever we think we are good we don’t see the need to obey because we think we already do! But when we recognize we are sinners we see our need to obey because we know we don’t! Those who recognize their need for grace become “hard workers” for the giver of the grace (Luke 7:47).
A faith built on family traditions or church reputations is doomed to become a rickety façade. Celebrating our celebrities and boasting in our organizations are insufficient motivations for the hard work of discipleship (Gal. 4:19). We need a higher motivation! Grace filled lovers of Jesus will have a heart for God always.
Now, this is the hard approach. It’s much easier to change a few externals and feel the thrill of the new. This is the long-term approach. Conforming our hearts to the image of Christ doesn’t happen overnight. This approach has no guaranteed results. It might be like the days of Isaiah and people remain hard in their hearts (Isa. 6:10). But it is the Biblical approach—doing the will of God from the heart.
Why do you serve the Lord?
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
Happy Confession: This article was stirred by Berry Kercheville’s excellent article “How Is a Church Turned toward God?” It is well worth a read! Click Here to Read It.
The Heart of Heart-less Worship
“What a weariness this is,” was the attitude of worshipers in Malachi’s day. Oh, they still came to worship, but they did as little as they could and saved the best for themselves.
What lead to this “heart-less” worship? Malachi’s message begins with the voice of God saying, ““I have loved you,” says the Lord” (Mal. 1:2). Like self-absorbed, ungrateful children Israel ignorantly replied, “How have you love us?” Israel’s worship was dry and their service was minimal because they were blind to the love of God!
How shocking it is that Israel did not see God’s love. He was the reason of their very existence. He was patient beyond measure with their sins. He kept his promises when they broke their faith. Love? They were surround by the love of God like water drops in a downpour.
The way to scrub away the weariness of worship and ignite the fire of devotion is to recount the love of God that has been poured into our hearts (Rom. 5.1-5). If God said to you, “I have loved you,” do you have a list of his loving acts you can relate?
Lips without Heart
The constant plague of God’s people is the disconnection of the lips and heart. We long for spectacular events and throbbing crowds. We love the recognition and applause. So, we learn how to say the right things and look the right way. However, God looks deeper. He is looking for lips that are connected to a heart that is connected to him! Both testaments warn of the reality of “heartless lips.”
“These people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me” (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:8)
O Thou Fount of Every Blessing
O Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me ever to adore Thee,
May I still Thy goodness prove,
While the hope of endless glory,
Fills my heart with joy and love
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Lord,
take and seal it,
seal it for Thy courts above.
(Robert Robinson, one of the many versions)