March 17, 2018: “Heart”

Heart

Jesus had a lot to say about the human heart.
I heard a national politician declare that her goal was not to change people’s hearts, just their behavior. She was wise in this sentiment. Laws can modify people’s behavior somewhat. Fear of arrest and imprisonment can at least make people be more careful but people are most likely going to do whatever is in their hearts to do. Jesus, being so much better than any politician, takes a different approach. He actually has the power to change hearts! And He does!

Lust and Love
When, as the Bible says, “Male and female created He them,” God made people, he made two genders. This is the fundamental organizational truth of mankind. The physical differences are delightful and undeniable. From childhood we grow up in a world populated by boys and girls; oftentimes, “the boys against the girls.” Each gender is a mystery to the other which makes for a lifetime of fascination. God intends us to pair up this way even though some are not blessed to enjoy this pair bonding.

The differences go far deeper than anatomy; the mind is involved. Imagination occupies the heart of the loneliest among us. So much so that, as Jesus said, just looking at a woman, or even just the image of a woman, can excite lust in the heart of a man. This powerful imagination is a gift from God for with it we imagine what we will do before we do it. Every work of art or object of construction or organization of people toward a single purpose began as an act of imagination. We are able to “see” things in our minds and then create them with our hands. This is one of the evidences of Imago Dei, the image of God in us. God is CREATOR and He has made us creative.

When the heart betrays the mind, this powerful imagination can be a temptress leading us to dwell on sinful, destructive things. The natural attraction we have for the opposite sex becomes lust, a self-centered seeking of pleasure at any cost. Today whole industries exist to feed this debased hunger.

Christ in the Heart
The heart is connected to the eye and to the hand, what we see and what we touch. Jesus said it would be better to lose an eye or a hand to prevent the lust-filled action birthed in the heart. Is there a better answer than removing an eye or a hand? Of course—add Jesus to the heart! Every one of us comes into this world with heart trouble and Jesus is the only cure! Jesus has changed the hearts of killers to make them kind, thieves to make them trustworthy, adulterers to make them arduous toward their spouse, and gossips to make them Gospel preachers. On and on I could go as far as alliteration could take me.

This is not some faint hope of heaven by and by; Jesus changes hearts today. He is the hope for the addict whose heart has been chained to poison, the glutton whose belly is never quite full, the lecher who eyes are never satisfied, the backslider whose heart is never true, and the agnostic whose mind is never at rest. Jesus goes deeper than behavior to the things hidden in the heart. He will come into our hearts, cleanse them from sin, and take up residence there by His Holy Spirit.

Scriptures:
Matthew 5:27-30
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Matthew 19:4-6
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Luke 6:43-45
“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
John 7:37-39
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the King of my heart. You have made Your Throne there. A river of Living Water flows from Your Throne established in my heart. Lord, continue the work of purifying my heart. Let my imagination see only good things and not evil things. Show me good things You would have me create. Protect my heart from anger, lust, prejudice, and greed. Fill my heart with Your Word so that truth may flow from my life today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Song:
Into My Heart
Words and Music: Harry D. Clarke

1. Come into my heart, blessed Jesus,
Come into my heart, I pray;
My soul is so troubled and weary,
Come into my heart today.

Refrain:
Into my heart, into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus;
Come in today,
Come in to stay,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.

2. Come into my heart, blessed Jesus,
I need Thee thro’ life’s dreary way;
The burden of sin is so heavy,
Come into my heart to stay.

Refrain

3. Come into my heart, blessed Jesus,
O cleanse and illumine my soul;
Fill me with Thy wonderful Spirit,
Come in and take full control.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

February 11, 2017

Desires

The desires of the heart are sometimes stylish, parading themselves on the runway, like models in the latest fashions. At other times they are stealthy; words sneaking out of their hiding places in small talk as if no one is listening.

Where do these strutting mannequins come from? What is the source of these flat but revealing words?

The heart.

Until the deep work of the Spirit is done, the heart of each individual is a repository of ambition and anger, sin and sedition, and lofty ideals and low impulses. This depressing diagnosis comes from the Great Physician Himself.

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

Rough words, but true.

The list of the heart’s desires is faithfully reported in Scripture and there is no need to report it here. This is the time and place for searching the soul. Where can we find the cure for this inborn sickness?

The answer is a heart transplant.

King Saul Was Given a New Heart.
Long before medical science figured out how to replace a defective heart with one in working order from another individual, the Holy Spirit had long ago perfected this surgery. It is said that Saul, a tall, good-looking, but timid man became the Great King Saul because God gave him a new heart. Wow! Now that is a gift. The rest of Saul’s story is a tragedy of a man who did not tend his new heart. He let it rot in his chest until all was lost, including his kingdom.

There Are More Stories to be Told.
But history tells many, many other stories of people who received a new heart when they invited the Lord Jesus in to take residence there. Hearts that were filled with evil, rage, and despair were replaced by “Kingdom hearts” full of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

And here is the best part—the old list of desires is replaced by an entirely new list! With the new heart, the desire for old things found on the road to hell pass away and a fervent longing for the new things found on the Path of Life takes its place. What is the trigger mechanism that initiates and renews this profound change?

Delight.

Specifically, delighting oneself in the Lord.

To delight in the Lord is to focus one’s life on Jesus;

  • to pursue His will, not ours;
  • to love Him with heart, soul, mind, and strength;
  • to listen to His word and
  • to obey Him as we can.

The Process of Delighting in the Lord is powerful.

  • This delighting process starves the old heart and feeds the new one.
  • It dulls the old mind and sharpens the new.
  • It mitigates the old desires and feeds the new passions.

Understand the Promise!
Some think this promise says that God will give us whatever we want. Far from saying such a thing, the promise is that we will get a brand new list of things we want, a new set of heart’s desires. And that is a different thing altogether!

In these days of repentance and seeking God’s face, let us delight in Him. As we do, we will no longer be embarrassed by the strutting of self or beset by the stealth of secret sins. We can rest in a pure heart, a gift from God, and we can let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our heart flow unhindered from our lives.

Scriptures:
Matthew 12:33-37; 15: 17-20 NIV
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. … For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks … the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
Psalms 37:1-8
Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.

Prayer:
Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God ,and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. … O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Song:
Create In Me a Clean Heart
Words and Music: Keith Green

Create in me a Clean Heart, Oh God
And renew a right spirit within me.
Create in me a Clean Heart, Oh God
And renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from Thy presence, O Lord
And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto to me joy of Thy Salvation
And renew a right spirit within me.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved