God Addresses Our Hearts
“Will you give up what you want for what I want?” “Will you set aside your own agendas for Mine?” “Will you truly obey Me?” “Will you truly follow Me?” So often our hearts deceive us and lead us to the wrong places, to follow our own agendas, propelled by our fears and motivated by our pride.
There is a progression:
- Lack of faith or unbelief.
- Fear of our needs not being met.
- Pride – I will (meet my own needs).
- Manipulation (of others or circumstances to try to meet those needs).
Jeremiah describes so well this battle that goes on within our human hearts. He describes the condition of our unredeemed hearts as deceitful, beyond cure and unable to be understood.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”Jeremiah 17: 9
In the very same chapter in the preceding verses, Jeremiah describes the consequences of following the wrong leading of our hearts. He describes this condition as one of being cursed. When we follow the deception of our own hearts, we are actually turning away from the Lord. This is not a good thing! When we do this, as a consequence, we will not see prosperity when it comes. It will come, and others may see it, but we will not. Instead we will be operating without (living) water in those areas of our lives. Those places then become barren places where nothing lives.
“This is what The Lord says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.”Jeremiah 17: 5-6
In contrast are the blessings of choosing to follow and trust in God’s way. This is a learning process. The following verses say that to trust in God is to have confidence, refuge or security. (See Strong’s Concordance).
In contrast the person who does this has an abundance of (living) water, their roots are spread out and they have no fear when drought comes. Regardless of the circumstances around them, they continue to bear fruit.
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”Jeremiah 17: 7 & 8
Christ’s Love Heals our Broken Hearts
So what is this cure for our unredeemed hearts that Jeremiah describes as being deceitful above all things? What is our real need?
- Our need is always for more of the love of God, and Christ has promised to meet that need!
The Apostle Paul’s prayer was that the Ephesians would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Not a half measure, but a whole! To experience all that God has to offer of His love! When our hearts begin to lead us astray, this is what we are hungering for! We long to be rooted and established (secure) in God’s love. To be able to grasp its depth, its width, its height and its length. To know it intimately. That is the cry of our wayward hearts! The Apostle Paul said,
“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”Ephesians 3: 16 – 19
There is healing that needs to take place within us in order for us to experience God’s love in increasing measure. David cried out to God to give him an undivided heart. To be undivided means to be joined or to be united (Strong’s Concordance). When areas of our hearts are damaged or broken, God’s love is the ‘glue’ that sticks it back together and makes it whole. We become united, not just within our own hearts, be we unite or re-align ourselves with the truth of God’s Word and His love as well (Jesus is that Living Word). King David prayed,
“Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever. For great is Your love toward me; You have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”Psalm 86: 11 – 13
From reading this Scripture, I believe that King David had had an encounter with God. He longed for the ways of the Lord and to fear His name. He asked for an undivided heart, so that he could praise God with all of his heart. He knew he had been delivered from the death of walking in his own way instead of the way of the Lord – “from the depths of the grave.”
Learn to Discern the Voice of God
It is always dangerous to ignore the voice of God because our own hearts will continually deceive us and draw us to what is not of Him. When we learn to discern the voice of God and learn to promptly obey what He says, we are kept in a place of safety. Our purposes remain His purposes, and we stay on the right track, following Him.
The voice of God comes to us in many different ways. Sometimes it comes as a gentle nudge or check in our spirit, telling us something is wrong. It is like the oil light in a vehicle – If we continue to ignore it, it can cause major damage later on. When you feel that gentle nudge, investigate it; ask God what He is drawing your attention to and why? Ignoring God’s voice is like searing our conscience. Each time God’s voice comes to us and we ignore it, it becomes easier to ignore the next time. Deception continually deepens, until we aren’t truly discerning or following His voice anymore.
God also speaks to us through His word in the Bible, or through the voice of trustworthy others, including His apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. True apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers will speak words that come from God that line up with the word of God – expressing God’s heart, God’s purpose, God’s will and God’s desire. Regardless of how God chooses to speak to us, we are accountable to Him for how we respond.
God’s Leadership is Chosen by God
Moses was a leader chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. When Moses gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments – they had been inscribed on two tablets, by the finger of God. Those commandments came directly from God. At that time the Israelites witnessed and experienced the power of God (see Exodus 20:18 & 19). They could not ignore it or pretend it wasn’t God, and they were suitably afraid. Moses told them that God appeared to them in this way as a test, so that the fear of God would keep them from sinning.
“Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you, to keep you from sinning.”Exodus 20: 20
Moses told them at that time, they were not to make for themselves gods of silver or gods of gold. But the Israelites were impatient. They quickly forgot the power of God and the words of God. They became complacent and disrespectful toward Moses, the very vessel God had chosen to lead them and to speak to them through, and in their hearts they turned towards the very thing that Moses had warned them from.
“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”Exodus 32: 1
God Warns Us About Idolatry
What is idolatry? Idolatry is anything or anyone that has been raised up in the place of God, as pre-eminent or predominant in our lives. Idolatry causes us to take our eyes off the will of God, from caring for and meeting the needs of others, and turns them inwardly on ourselves. This may even appear spiritual in its outworking. But often unknowingly at the heart of it all, is a motive or a desire to try to meet our own needs, often at the expense of others.
Many times in the Old Testament, prophets would warn the Israelites about the shedding of innocent blood and idolatry. Often connected to these warnings of idolatry were warnings about their harshness or lack of concern towards parents, the alien, the fatherless and the widow. It is no different for us today. The abuse of others (the shedding of innocent blood), or lack of concern for, or neglect for the needs of others, is always connected in some way to the idolatry within a man’s heart. We then begin to despise those things that God calls Holy.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O city that brings on herself doom by shedding blood in her midst and defiles herself by making idols, you have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made. You have brought your days to a close, and the end of your years has come……..In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and the widow. You have despised my Holy things and desecrated my Sabbaths.”Ezekiel 22: 3 – 8
- Trusting God to meet our needs frees us to reach out to others.
The Danger of Complacency
It is a danger to ever become complacent about the things that God has taught us. Especially regarding the areas where we need to walk in Holiness and integrity before Him. Rather than forgetting about them and setting them aside, saying “I’ve learnt that, now I can move on” – on the contrary, we need to be daily living in all of those things that God has taught us at a deeper and deeper level, both in practice and in our understanding. The moment we become complacent and forget to continue to live in what He has taught us, we are in trouble and start going backwards!
Keeping short accounts with God in a daily devotional life is vitally important. Asking God where we have been falling short. But listening to, and promptly obeying the voice of God is not enough. Because of the deceitfulness of our hearts, there needs to be an ongoing openness, accountability and transparency before trusted others. Those who will love us enough to lovingly confront us and speak into our lives. Others whom God will use to keep bringing hidden things into the light. The book of James says,
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”James 5:16
In 2 Samuel Chapter 24 David is conscience-stricken and realizes he has sinned greatly before the Lord. The word of the Lord comes to the prophet Gad, who tells David that he must choose from one of three consequences. Faced with these consequences David replies:
“I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.”2 Samuel 24: 14
When we willingly respond to God’s correction, we may still face the consequences of our actions, but we are falling into God’s hands of mercy. If we continue in our sin, however, we can only expect God’s judgment.
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?…It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”Hebrews 10: 26 – 31
Do Not Refuse God When He Speaks
The author of Hebrews also warns us not to refuse God when He speaks to us. The author explains that in this way God brings about a shaking in our lives, so that only what is of God will remain.
“See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused Him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven? At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.”Hebrews 12: 25 – 27
Whatever way we choose to respond to God’s loving correction, we will fall into the hands of God. But we choose how we fall into them. We can respond in repentance and obedience and fall into them as His hands of mercy and restoration, or we can ignore what God tells us, and fall into them as His hands of judgment instead.
- God’s hands of mercy and his hands of judgment are the same hands of God, but we choose how we fall into them!
Our Choices Affect Others in the Body of Christ
When God speaks to me as an individual, my response will affect me as an individual. But what I choose to do as an individual in response to what God says to me, will also impact others in the body of Christ. So I need to carefully consider when I make my response – Am I going to ignore what God says to me and negatively impact others in the body of Christ? Or will I respond to God’s correction by making the changes I need to, and choose to be a blessing to the body of Christ? It is my choice!
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule; ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our Salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.”Romans 13: 8 – 12