Saturday, February 23, 2013

Expanding Your Heart


Ps.51: 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Mk.12: 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Throughout Scripture the Lord seems to hold a person’s heart as the barometer of his or her spiritual life. All the outward religion is useless if our hearts are not broken and pure before Him. The word "heart" is a noun which means the inner person and the unseen core of a person which only God can fully see and evaluate. It is who we are when we are not performing before men. Our hearts are what we present before God, not any works that have been done before men. So in reality when we use the word heart in a spiritual sense we are using it to mean who we really are inside.

Now the only person that can change a human heart is the Spirit of God. Yes, an unsaved person can make some adjustments and he can alter some things about the way he thinks, but those things still come from a fallen heart that seeks his own happiness even though that person may do works that seem humanitarian. In fact, in a stunning display of clever narcissism, sometimes people do humanitarian works in order for others to applaud them. Yes, it is very subtle and we all must be very vigilant about such things.

In December of 1967 South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard conducted the first heart transplant on 53-year-old Lewis Washkansky. Since then there have been over 80,000 heart transplants with several thousand being done each year. As wonderful as that is, they are just a human transplant of a muscle.

But with all the psychology and psychoanalysis being performed today, no one has been able to change a person’s inward makeup, or in other words, his heart. Regardless how man tries, the attempt to change a human mind and heart is still in the experimental stage. I am not against any counseling help at all, but it is evident man cannot reach inside a person and change the way he thinks and feels. In fact, many psychologists themselves are addicted to drugs and alcohol and are unfaithful in their relationships. You see, they themselves cannot change themselves even while they attempt to change others.

And that is exactly why without a change of heart there can be no authentic Christianity. You may have church membership and baptism and all the religious accoutrements, however if there has been no change of heart all you have is a religious practice. You may even change some things on the outside including giving up some bad habits and going to church and even changing your views on some moral issues, but if your heart has not been changed all you have done is an outward adjustment which is meaningless to the kingdom of God.

And so once a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, he just doesn’t start to attempt to live right. He has been made into a new creation with a new heart, and in a great mystery that person now desires to live right and serve Jesus his Redeemer and Lord. All of us who have come through that wonderful experience can rejoice over and over again as we think back on that event even if it was many years ago. I can think back to good times I have had in the past with friends and family, but nothing can compare to the day I met Christ and was changed forever. Only another believer can identify with what I feel when I think about how lost I was and how the light came rushing in. Since that day I have made many mistakes and I have sinned against God, but I have never been the same.

But after we receive a new heart, just like the muscle itself, it needs to be exercised. Our new hearts need instruction and guidance, and they need to be expanded in order to more fully represent the heart of Jesus, the One who created them. This is a labor of love in which every true disciple of Jesus should fully engage, and even through some pain and suffering we should joy in the fact that we bless our Heavenly Father and His Son. And this “expansion”, if you will, can only be achieved by reading and obeying God’s Word through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Our own understandings are not only useless, but they are enemies of the Spirit.

Some misguided believers think that expanding our hearts is dangerous and leads to Biblical compromise. For instance, some believe if you reach out in love to a lost gay person you are condoning sin and compromising God’s truth. They would never be seen in the company of a prostitute or drug addict lest another believe condemn them. It is attitudes like those that keep a person’s heart locked up and sealed with doctrines of stone and not with the immutable truths of God’s Word that live and breathe with the power of His love. You see, it is possible to know all the right doctrines but not understand the length and width and depth and breadth of God’s love, and in so doing you are keeping Jesus on a piece of paper and not allowing His dangerous life to be lived with all its fullness through your heart and life.

When you worry about what men think about you then you walk in fear and even pride. Release the bonds of men’s opinions and be set free to love people in ways that some men condemn. That does not mean we sin against God’s Word, but it does mean that we sacrifice our reputations on the altar of the cross and we expand our hearts to make room for the vilest of all sinners. And if you desire to please and serve Jesus in that way, than you can never get involved with politics or nationalism since they both cause fallen divisions and even hatred. But there is unbelievable freedom in God’s love, and when you are living in the steps of Jesus you do not fear what men will say.

We all have a tendency to withhold our love and only give it to those we deem worthy. However Christ loved us when we were still His enemies. That is our standard; that is our pursuit. For too long we have doled out our love in small doctrinal increments and we have allowed our hearts to constrict. But the Spirit desires to expand our vision, expand our grace, and expand our love as it pertains to a dark and needy world. Do not fear, we must always retain the truth of God’s Word that clearly reveals that no one can be saved except through a personal faith in Jesus Christ. But we are epistles that can be used of the Spirit to lift up Jesus and allow them to be drawn to Him.

And if we desire to be surrendered servants of Jesus and living sacrifices in His name, then our hearts need to be enlarged and expanded in such a dramatic way that our lives are changed in a way that affects and infects the kingdom of darkness.

Do you ever feel your heart hardening sometimes? Do you feel self righteous from time to time? Does your heart grow cold and callous over time? We all know those kinds of feelings. Let us seek the ministry of the Spirit and allow Him to search and expand our hearts so that we can know the mind of Christ and so that our lives are lived as He would desire.


Lorena said...

Thanks for this post, Rick. It is very timely. Sometimes I can feel a lot of conflict going on in my own heart. This really helps and reminds me how I ought to be in my heart of hearts.

I remember about Dr. Barnard and the first heart transplant. I heard it on the radio. Thought that was amazing, but it really can't compare to the 'change of heart' our glorious God gives us!!

Cherie c. said...

Part 1

Sorry again a two part comment:

At the risk of sounding like a groupie, I must again say that no one finds this kind of preaching in a church. Pastor what truth and wisdom is here on this post. Praise and Glory to God I am learning about being a true follower of Jesus, how to apply His Word and His Truth to my life, my walk, my dealings with others, and how to stay humble and loving with the Love of the Cross. I can say unequivocally that you will not find this in a church. You truly are a Pastor for the unchurched. I thank you because learning how to apply Scripture to your life is so very important to stay on the straight and narrow. It is a blessing that you preach even if some take offense. I hope you offend them all the way to Heaven! We NEED to be convicted to stay humble.

With this message, I know now that my days as a human resource professional are coming to an end. I cannot continue to work in a system that puts money before people. I had a really bad day yesterday, with terminations, and there will be more next week. My work is effecting my heart, but I also worry because part of my job is to advocate for the employee. I am really risking my profession because we as HR are supposed to assist to ensure profitability for the employer. They say they advocate for the employee, but which employee? There are classes to employment if you didn't know. It is easy to say HR advocates for the employee when you have laws you have to follow, but absent from those laws, not so much. I am breaking an unspoken rule here, but it matters not to me. I am a Child of God, not of man or this world.

I am met, quite often, with opposition for what I try to do for the lowest ranking employee, while the higher ups look to expand their pockets. It is a tough, tough road doing what I do. The irony is I am hated by both management and the employee base as I work to keep the balance.

I don't find opportunities to share Jesus because of rules in the work place so I am wasting my time even being there. Most know I am a follower of Jesus and they are careful about how they speak around me. You'd be surprised how many apologize to me for cursing when they realize I am there. And then there are those who do curse, and don't care. I used to not care, but as the Lord's Love works on this sinful heart of mine, I am broken about the people I see everyday. I want to shake them and say, Hey Listen, the Lord is coming back, time to repent and get ready for the Kingdom to come! I want hug them and let them know how much they are loved by Him. Sometimes I do to those who I know will not cause a problem, but there are some looking for trouble and looking for any excuse to sue the employer, and I cannot put the employer in that position. If it were only me at risk, no problem. They can sue me all they want.

It is getting increasingly difficult to stand apart and if the choice is between Jesus and my occupation, Jesus wins hands down.

Cherie c. said...

Part 2

Life as a follower of Jesus is a difficult road, and the choices we make can add to that struggle. So I think the choices we make everyday add to or detract from our walk with the Lord. Reducing the opportunity to be exposed to our fleshly desires, and opportunities for temptation is paramount.

The best Scripture I could find in my limited knowledge is this:

Galatians 6:14
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

There are times too that I am praised for what I am able to do for an employee, but I wish they would recognize who really helped them, and sometimes I tell them and they just smile at me like I am a nut, other times I say nothing but hate getting the praise. I say in my head, I store up my treasures in Heaven, please don't praise me. I really am uncomfortable about this. At the risk of sounding altruistic (hey I spelled it correctly first time, Praise God!), I really hate getting praise for what I do not do on my own. I have taken time to pray for some of the employees and employers I work with in the course of my day, but God's Will not mine.

For me to expand my heart is to leave an occupation that can put me at odds with the Gospel or provoke me to walk in the flesh.

I tell you the truth, there is no church that will give you a sermon that allows conviction of the heart like I find here. I believe Pastor that is what it means to be a Pastor. Teach by rightly dividing the Word so that we can understand and which allows the Holy Spirit to minister to us as well is fast becoming rare indeed. There is a teaching tone to this post that I hadn't noticed in others, and it is truly a Blessing from God. I would be in less error if the churches I've attended in the past taught like this. There is a reason why you are no longer in a building Pastor. Please fight to stay humble and led by the Spirit so you can continue to teach others like myself who have been taught in error. I worry every day that seducing spirits will be so prevalent that you may turn away from your first love as the Scripture says. Please know you are lifted up in pray without ceasing.

So glad for this blog. Church has never been this edifying and convicting at the same time.

Love to All. Thank you Pastor for yielding to the Lord.

your sister in Christ Jesus
Cherie c.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Amen.

I know how easy it is, too, to let my heart grow callous. I have to fight the urge when I allow to get angry at the injustices around us. I refrain from walking over to a homeless person - really wanting to - but worrying about how he/she'll take advantage and just want my money. There are so many things I have to work at if I want to be effective for the Lord. I am saturated with my worldy upbringing that my fearful parents taught me. Not to talk to strangers, stay away from sketchy types.

When I became an adult, and found Jesus, I really felt His love through me for others. And these others were the people in streets begging for money, or poor folks, and even though I'd address them and give them something, I'd be too weak-willed to actually speak to them about Jesus. My spiritual man/woman so wanted to sit down and talk to them, but my carnal
man/woman was trapped in fear. I felt like I was on the edge of a diving board deciding whether to drive in the water, and each time I'd step forward to plunge, I'd step backwards again.

I know there are some who have the Godly qualities to just reach all people, and have no qualms to go over and talk to strangers. Thank the Lord for these people; I just want to have that courage. If I had spent all my energies doing something like that instead of spending hours tending to the "church" - cooking, catering, music contributing, attending every prayer meeting, and giving every last cent to my pastor's ministry, it might have reached people on the outside, rather than tending to the same people who sit in pews week after week after week.

michael said...

Reading this reminded me of what Paul personally wrote Timothy laying out what you're saying and showing the general path people get going down when they do not let the Holy Spirit do the divine heart transplant to receive the NEW HEART everyone MUST receive to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven when the natural one stops pumping!

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:3-7 ESV)

Anonymous said...

I long for the day when those wretched, "unguarded" moments stop revealing and convicting me of just how much more tilling the Spirit has to do in the hardened ground of my heart. It's my constant prayer that those unguarded times bear His sweet fruit instead. That's when I'll know I've truly died to self.

Kim K.

Robin said...

We seem to be on the same page this week :) This is my last post, about love - I've been studying the Beatitudes with my 10 year old son (hoping to go through the whole sermon on the mount), and the one about being merciful struck me!

Thank you for your constant encouragement and conviction! - Robin