This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled, “Elevate – Rise Above.” This world, fallen due to sin, is full of challenges for us. Daily we face opposition of many different kinds and severities.
However, we never face them alone. Jesus invites us to rise up above them. He invites us to be elevated with Him in Heavenly places.
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Our hearts. There are prideful and arrogant hearts that look down on others. There are broken hearts pierced by many griefs and hurt. There are heavy hearts burdened down by worries and anxiety. There are hardened hearts that hate. Lustful hearts that always long for what they cannot have. Doubting hearts that cannot trust.
There are also compassionate and generous hearts that just want to love God and love others.
Most of our hearts consist of a mix of all of these and more. Parts of us are wounded in need of healing. Some parts are hardened and need plowed up. Some parts are out of control and need reigned back in. Some parts are perfectly healthy and prosperous.
Now when we refer to the heart this morning, we’re referring to the core of who we are. It consists of our mind, will, and emotions. It is a part of us still being sanctified by the Holy Spirit as we are renewed and transformed by Him.
There is a cliché saying out there that encourages us to “follow our hearts.” This sounds like sound and encouraging advice. However, scripture teaches us differently. Jesus said that:
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Well, we certainly know enough to understand that we don’t want to be following something that leads us down those paths! God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah and said:
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
I’m sure that even right here among us this morning, we could hear story after story of how our hearts have deceived us and lead us astray. Stories of trusting a friend, who betrayed us. Stories of falling in love with a person only to find out that they haven’t been honest about who they were. Stories of giving sacrificially to help someone’s need who wasn’t really needy after all.
We have another cliché saying used to justify someone’s wrongdoing saying that ” well, their heart was in the right place.” Well, if they acted wrongly toward someone, then perhaps their motives weren’t all that pure. Doing even what appears to be the kindest of deeds or the most generous acts of service for people who don’t want to receive them is rape, not love.
So how do we avoid falling into these cliché heart traps? If our own heart is deceitful, yet at the core of who we are, then what are we to do? If all of these evils come from within our hearts, then how should we respond? What are we supposed to do with these hearts of ours?
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Though our hearts may be deceitful and lead us astray at times, they are not evil or bad in and of themselves. They do, however, need to be guarded by us. We have to be on our guard of what we allow into them and what we permit to grow within them. We need to cautiously choose who to allow to certain parts of our hearts. We need to often prune our hearts when we realize that there are things there that do not belong.
God created us with hearts with the intent that we would:
Deuteronomy 6:5, Deuteronomy 10:12, Deuteronomy 11:13, Deuteronomy 13:3, Deuteronomy 30:6, Joshua 22:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul with all your mind and with all your strength and love other as you love yourself.
We do not follow our hearts, we guide our hearts and allow them to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. We guard them from things that will not produce good fruits within them. With all our hearts, we choose to love God and love others.
God’s solution for our heart condition was simply to give us a new one. Several times in Ezekiel, God promises to:
Ezekiel 11:19, Ezekiel 18:31, Ezekiel 36:26
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
We now have a fuller revelation of how God does this, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That new spirit that God promised through Ezekiel was none other than the Presence of God dwelling within us. The Holy Spirit then creates within us a new heart.
After one of David’s greatest moral failures with Bathsheba, He wrote:
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
We can cry out like David as well, seeking after God to create a pure heart within us. God alone can take our broken and hardened hearts so full of wickedness and transform them into something good and pure. It is our choice, however, to either give our hearts to God and allow Him to do this work of transformation or to cling to them. Will we choose to trust God?
Jesus said it this way:
Matthew 5:8 (ESV)
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
When our hearts have been renewed and transformed, we begin to see God at work everywhere. We see God’s blessings in the mundane and routine. We see God’s miracles in our everyday lives. We sense His Presence with us through all of life’s ups and downs. A pure heart sees God and leads to a fruitful life.
We now turn to the fuller context of the warning we recently read from Jeremiah describing these life choices.
5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They 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.”
Again, a choice is laid before us. Will we choose to trust man or the Lord? Will we live lives the way that seems best to us or according to how God says we should live? Will we turn our hearts away from the Lord or to Him?
One way leads to famine even when prosperity comes our way, the other leads to a fruitful life no matter what our circumstances are. The Lord then continues on speaking to Jeremiah:
9 The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
10 “I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”
It’s not the things that we do nor the masks that we wear that catches God’s attention. In fact, Jesus said:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
It’s not our works in and of themselves that matter to God in the end, it is our heart. It isn’t our perfections or imperfections, but our heart. It isn’t what we did right or wrong, it is our right relationship with Him. It isn’t our role in the body as a prophet or healer or pastor or teacher or evangelist or any other title, it is the fact that we are His son or daughter.
Jeremiah teaches an interesting concept, that the Lord will reward our conduct according to our deeds by examining our heart and mind. It isn’t the deeds in and of themselves, but why we did what we did that truly matters. It isn’t our conduct, but our true motive behind it that really counts.
Are we living to earn our salvation by our good deeds or are we doing good deeds because we are saved? Do we live to earn God’s love or do we live expressing the love of God we already received? This is what pleases God and catches His attention for sure!
We now turn to a familiar account which really drives home our understanding of this reality. At one point, God asks the prophet Samuel how long he is going to mourn over the rejection of Saul as king of Israel. He then sends him off to anoint the next king. God sent him to Jesse’s home.
1 Samuel 16:6-7
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
There is coming a day of judgment where all those who are saved will receive their reward from Jesus. On that day, the measure of our success and our reward will be none other than the motive of our hearts. Paul said:
1 Corinthians 4:4-5
4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
So how do we develop a Godly heart? How can we have a heart that has been purified from all of the evil and selfishness?
Our heart becomes transformed in this way as we seek after God. As we pursue Him and get to know Him through a healthy relationship, our hearts become more like His. David had a heart after God’s own because of all of the quality time that he spent pursuing God and trusting Him. David was in love with God.
This love was deep and sincere. It wasn’t mushy and emotional only, either. This love is not lust, it is a sacrificial commitment. It was this pure and Godly heart that enabled him to tear apart bears and lions who came after his sheep with his bare hands. It was this devotion and admiration that equipped him to slay the same giant that caused an entire army to shudder and to slice off his head.
It was this deep love for God that enabled David to lead God’s people into battle after battle to destroy their opposition and to be elevated above it, raised up into the fulfillment of God’s promises!
Want a pure heart? Get to know God personally. Like David, get into His word and enter into His Presence through worship. David wasn’t seeking after the kingship, but because of his heart that sought after God, he was elevated and was transferred from shepherd of his father’s flock to shepherd of his Heavenly Father’s flock; an entire nation.
When we truly get to know God and who He truly is, we can’t help but to willingly offer up our hearts to God and allow Him to change them to become more like Him. We, like David, will have a heart after God’s own and be elevated, rising above all that opposes us.