Tag Archives: purity of heart

Genesis 43-44, Psalm 24, Galatians 1

How did you come to faith in Christ? Was it a friend who led you to Him? Was it in a church, at a youth retreat, a sweet friend or a spouse that ceased an opportunity to speak the truth to you? I have grown up my entire life in the church. I was saved at the age of 5 and at my own request, baptized at 8 and for my entire life I have struggled with my faith. At times it is strong and unwavering and other times the doubts mount and I fear I have lost faith and will be left behind.

Recently, the Lord made reminded me through some very old and familiar passages that it was never up to me anyway. My salvation and faith was not a logical process that I came to trust in at such an early age. In fact, it doesn’t matter who, what, where, when or how one comes to faith. It is always the Holy Spirit that does the work of faith. I am reminded again this morning after reading Paul’s words in Galatians. Of all people, Paul should have known right from the start that Jesus was the Messiah, but he didn’t. All his knowledge and logic did nothing for his faith. It wasn’t until his eyes were opened by the Lord that could finally believe.

 “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me.” Galatians 1:11-16a

This encourages me in my faith. It’s encouraging because it’s an important lesson that faith and belief in Christ is not earned, studied, wished or willed. It’s a gift given to us by the everlasting God of the universe. I was set apart before I was born and called by grace. What an amazing gift. It leads me to praise my great God. It leads me to want to please Him, praise Him, serve Him and never walk away but yet…. The warning at the start of the passage is alarming. How could one walk away? How could one get confused? How could anyone else promise anything greater then the gift of salvation found in Jesus Christ?

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7

But yet it happens. All the time, day after day. In small ways and big. The slippery slope, the slow fade. Without a close connection to the word, a deep relationship with the Lord and a guarded heart the path away from the Him happens one step at a time. When I rely on my own works, service, good deeds and even my own faith I become prideful and selfish. I forget the truth of the gospel that Jesus died to give us the gift of salvation. I have nothing to do with it. That’s freeing and brings me to tears.
Lord, help me not lift my soul to what is false or prideful. Give me clean hands and a pure heart to worship you. May I not look to the right or the left but continually seek your face alone. Thank you for revealing to me the gift of salvation you offer through your son, Jesus. Amen.

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Filed under Bible in a year reading plan, Galatians, Uncategorized

Gen. 33, Mark 4, Esther 9, 10, Rom. 4

One of the primary themes that ran through each of the readings for today was that of heart preparation for the glory of God. And after careful reflection, I began to wonder, what are the best conditions or circumstances to learn and benefit the most from God’s word? Just yesterday, I heard from a dear friend whose son was held at knife point in Africa while working as a missionary and was almost killed because he was a Christian and refused to renounce his faith. In the first hour after hearing that news, I remember emotionally praying hard for this young man, for his safety and the safety of the entire team, and for the people he was working with. But did it need to take that event to get me praying like I did? Was it the situation or the condition of my heart that moved me to that praying place?

Is it really a sermon that makes the difference? On the surface, it would appear the answer is yes… after all, isn’t that the responsibility of the church? To make the message so easy to understand that we couldn’t possibility miss the point of the God’s word? I would argue that this approach has the potential of rendering God’s word less meaningful… more ‘Google-like’, by attempting to reduce the substance of God’s word to a collection of simple phrases that lack the depth that is necessary to truly understand God’s heart for His children. So, what are the best conditions to learn from God’s word? I believe the answer lies within ourselves and how we first prepare ourselves to receive God’s word, then work to maintain a heart of gratitude. This is exactly what James shared in James 4:8… “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.” A grateful heart keeps us in connection with God with our heart focused what it should be through faith. As a teacher, my best lessons are useless, unless my students are open and ready to hear the message I have to offer… in so doing, my students get more out of my lecture with a much higher retention than if they are completely closed to what I have to say.

Jesus articulates the preparation of the heart beautifully in parables found in Mark 4. Specifically, Jesus explains four types of heart soils; the soil that is hard, soil that is shallow and rocky, and the soil that is kind to weeds. These soils are wild and untamed and are hostile to plant life. When a gardener works the ground to plant a garden he must first work hard to prepare the ground in preparation of planting. He breaks up the hard ground with instruments, removes the weeds, rocks, and anything else that would inhibit the growth of his seeds. Only after the soil is prepared will the farmer plant in order to maximize his harvest, and not a moment before. And if the gardener would desire for the ground to return to its natural condition, he would simply do nothing. By ceasing to tend the ground, the effect would be that weeds would overtake the soil the farmer worked hard to prepare.

This process is a key component often overlooked in this parable… that a gardener must first tame the wild ground. He must work a patch of ground that couldn’t naturally tolerate fruit and flowers that are desirable by transforming it into a fertile bed that’s ready to receive whatever he wants to plant within the new soil. The Holy Spirit can be seen as the Master Gardner who waters hard, dry ground and softens our hearts with the Word of God. He meticulously works and tills the stony ground of stubborn and closed hearts and prepares them to receive the Gospel. And when the Master Gardner plants the Gospel, a well-prepared soil is better able to receive the Lord Jesus in the fullness of love and happily obeys His commands. He is also busy removing weeds, pulling those weed-like idols from our hearts that would otherwise make the Gospel boring and unlovely to us. He does this so that the Gospel will grow unimpeded by the weeds of this world that normally thrive in the soil of our hearts.

Even with the best of intentions, if left to themselves, our hearts would experience weeds growing stronger, choking out the Gospel. But when the Spirit of God plants the Gospel in a good and well prepared heart which we have worked to prepare, it becomes useful to God and produces a harvest of righteousness for the sake of spreading the Word of Jesus Christ. Additionally, growth takes time, and I know for myself, I must work constantly at being patient. Yes, I am responsible for doing the work that is needed to prepare and guard my heart, but I must also allow God to work in His time, not mine! This is exactly what Paul describes for us in that passage in 1 Corinthians 3:9a: “For we are God’s fellow workers.” One of the most destructive forces at work in the church and our lives today is our unrelenting demand for instant results. We want to have immediate conversions and immediate responses every time we speak. We tend not to allow time for the Word to take root and grow, and come to harvest. Our Lord is teaching us the fantastic truth that He is at work always; that it doesn’t all depend on us getting it right to have Him love us.

Lord, I pray I will trust that as I do the work of preparing my heart and sowing the seed of Your Word wherever I can, that You will do the rest in Your time, as you see all things and know what is best for me to grow closer to You and with those people I have in my life now, and who I will come in contact with in the future.

Greg (gstefanelli)

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Filed under 1 Corinthians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Esther, Genesis, Mark, New Testament, Old Testament, Romans

Genesis 40; Mark 10; Job 6; Romans 10

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life — a ransom for many.”   Mark 10: 43-45

I desire to be great.  And if I am being honest, I am certainly not trying to achieve this by having a pure servant heart.  I am selfish, prideful, and very easily distracted by what the world defines as “great”.  In fact, I have struggled with a Super Suzie complex for a long time — I want others to notice my greatness… because if they do, they may like me.  Human approval.  Definitely not what God desires from me.  And definitely not the motivation God desires for service.

Jesus came to give His life away.  His sole purpose for living was to die… not because He needed His blood shed for Himself.  He was shedding His blood to save me… to save all of humanity.  There is nothing selfish about that.  It was complete humility.  He was a King. He deserved worship and adoration.  He was worthy of attention, glory, and greatness.  BUT, Jesus didn’t demand it.  He didn’t ask for it. He didn’t do the things on earth that He did so that others would like Him.  Jesus came to serve and to give His very life to bring glory to God the Father.  Wow… I really need a complete renovation of the heart!

It is just so easy for me to get sucked into the value system of this world:

  • Believing that I NEED certain things to be happy
  • Believing that my kids NEED to be involved in a million extracurricular activities because everyone else is
  • Believing that SUCCESS is defined by the job, house, and car that I own
  • Believing that  I have a RIGHT to be happy and that struggles in life are unfair

Writing that list down kind of makes me nauseous. Satan is so quick to tempt me to believe those lies.  And the rotten thing is, so often I do.

Dear Jesus,

Please help me to become like You.  I want to see people through Your eyes — to be able to attend to the needs of others without any selfish motivation.  You have blessed me with so much in this life.  May I be quick to give away and share with others, expecting NOTHING in return.  And God, I acknowledge that my worth comes from YOU alone.  I pray that the approval from others would not be the driving force behind my actions.  I want to have purity of heart — to give YOU the praise, glory, and adoration that You deserve.  After all, Lord, it is all about You.  You are worthy and good!  I love You, Jesus!

Amen

Suzie (suzielawyer)

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Filed under 66 Books, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Mark, New Testament