KEEP YOUR HEART WITH ALL DILIGENCE

Matthew 5:21 – Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, He established this principle of the heart. He was raising the bar for His covenant people Israel far beyond what they had ever learned from their religious leaders. Their religious leaders perverted the Law of Moses, and put heavy burdens on the people. Jesus came to free us from heavy burdens and give us His heart through the power of His Holy Spirit. A heart to obey God’s law, but with liberation power that causes the motives to be pure and not self-seeking.

Our heart is a tricky area to handle. In the natural man, the heart is deceptive and impossible to know (Jeremiah 17:9). In Christ, we are to receive the heart of God. Our heart is tied to our emotions so it can change quickly. We can choose to harden our heart against a person or situation, as many do. We can choose to allow our heart to be softened and touched by God’s compassion, reaching out to people when in the natural we would not do so.

The disciples were discussing the problem that they had no bread. Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see nor understand? Do you have a hardened heart” (Mark 8:17-18)? Earlier in Mark 7:21-22 Jesus told His disciples, “that from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.”

In Christ, our hearts are being transformed.  “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, forgiving each other” (Colossians 3:12-13).

As you can see, we are being transformed. The work is complete in Christ, but being worked out in us. Our part is very important. Through the Holy Spirit we must access the heart of Christ so His heart can be operating in and through us. “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me” (Hebrews 3:12-15).

Father, I want to hear Your voice. I receive the heart of Christ through the power of Your Holy Spirit.

THE GRACE OF GIVING

2 Corinthians 9:8 – God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have abundance for every good deed.

In chapter nine of second Corinthians, Paul addresses being prepared to give financially to poor saints. He reminds us that God is our source.  He is able, through grace, to supply our needs. Jesus speaks a great deal about finances in His teachings. Finances are very closely related to the heart of man. Three times in the Sermon on the Mount (the Beatitudes), Jesus addresses issues of the heart as it relates to money and wealth. For example, in Matthew 5:2-4, Jesus teaches not to make our giving to the poor public, to be seen of men.

Three words that need close examination and meditation upon are covenant, motivations, and generosity. In our next few devotionals we will consider all three words. We will ask the Holy Spirit to establish us in covenant giving, right heart motivations, and generosity.

The giving of the tithe is covenantal and not a legalistic subject. The law of first mention comes into play with the subject of tithing. This law means that the central concepts are contained in seed form when introduced in the Scriptures. Tithing is first introduced in Genesis 14:20, “Abraham gave a tenth of all.” This is confirmed in Hebrews 7:4, speaking of Abraham’s tithing to Melchizedek. Hebrews 7:5 says, Levi, who was directed to receive tithes under the Law, tithed to Melchizedek while still in the loins of Abraham. In others words, Levi had not yet been conceived. Abraham freely gave a tenth of all to the King and Priest Melchizedek who was called “The king of peace” (Hebrews 7:2). Melchizedek brought Abraham the bread and the wine or “the covenant meal.”

The Lord ties the giving of money together with covenant and relationship. Jesus freely gave of His body and blood to bring us to God. We freely give back of the “sweat of our brow” or the work of our hands to support God’s work in the earth. Paul confirms this when he says, “If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you” (1 Corinthians 9:11)? This is his theme throughout this ninth chapter.

God is our Covenant God and we are His covenant people if we have been born of God’s Holy Spirit. Covenant is our basis of relationship and all we do, including the giving of our finances. Always keep in mind that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you.” 

Father, I thank You for Your covenant love and Your abundance of grace. Establish Your covenant nature more deeply in me. Cause me to give with the same heart that You freely give to us.

THE GOAL OF RESTORATION

Acts 3:21 – Whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.

The Father’s aim is the “restoration of all things.” In the Garden, the Lord looked down the annals of time and said, “The seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent” (Genesis 3:15). God was laying the foundation for the “restoration” of His intended purpose to restore mankind. Repentance is the beginning point of this process.

Forgiveness is the result of repentance. Repentance essentially means to see things from a higher perspective (God’s vantage point). It requires us to change our minds and behavior accordingly. Peter’s strong message in Acts 3 was, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

True restoration takes time to allow God’s truth to filter past layers of guilt and shame, to bring about deep down change at the root level. It takes time to rebuild equity and trust. It takes time because the heart of man is deceitful. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Jesus knew the heart and thoughts of men. “Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4).

Forgiveness and trust are not one in the same thing. Believers can be confused over these two areas. Forgiveness is when your heart is free to love a person that hurt you, to have the mind of Christ towards them. Trust is built upon proven character. Paul instructs us with a word of wisdom. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5-6). One who walks in this word has a clean heart.

Father, I pray that restoration would become an important goal for me. I pray for wisdom in my inner actions and relationship with others. Give me speech that is filled with grace and seasoned with salt. Help me to know how to respond to each individual with whom I connect. 

FORGIVENESS  

Proverbs 4:23 – Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.

The Scriptures teach us that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Three words for us to consider that relate to the heart of God are covenant, relationship and forgiveness. God’s nature is rooted in covenant. Webster defines “covenant” as “a binding and solemn agreement to do or keep from doing a specified thing” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition.) “My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips” (Psalm 89:34). When God forgives, He does so because of His covenant promise. His promises are certain. The Psalmist declares, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

The Holy Trinity is the greatest picture of relationship we can find. There is no contradiction with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God created Adam and Eve because He wanted a relationship with mankind. Even after they sinned and the human race was tossed into darkness, God, out of His loving-kindness made it possible for man to be restored to Himself. This is how we know the love of God. God the Father gave His best for us, His Only Begotten Son.

The forgiveness of our sins takes place through the Son. Forgiveness flows from God’s covenant nature. Forgiveness speaks of God’s great desire for relationship with mankind. Through His desire for relationship with mankind He draws close to His creation, man. Covenant and relationship lay the foundations for forgiveness.

Many Christians have a difficult time forgiving others because they have not connected God’s covenant nature with His desire for relationship. His covenant nature relates to His commitment to His creation man. He committed Himself to humanity and has never turned from that commitment. This requires His forgiveness again and again.

The Lord does not forgive us just because He wants to rescue us from hell and take us to heaven. That would be a very narrow understanding of His purposes. It also reveals how self-focused one might be. He forgives because that is His nature. He forgives because He wants to nurture and increase the relationship He began in the Garden and has restored us to Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ. He has given to us His Nature by giving us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to forgive. “Let this mind (attitude) be in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

Father, thank You for Your forgiveness, Your covenant love, and Your desire for relationship with Your creation man. I pray that Your covenant nature will grow in me. Help me to forgive others, even as I am forgiven.

DON’T BE BIASED IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

1 Timothy 5:21 – I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.

The subject of partiality is an important topic in God’s Word. Paul uses very strong language to encourage Timothy to not fall into the trap of bias as it relates to the principles in which he is to instruct God’s people. All the believers are to be treated equally in regard to instruction and discipline.

It is easy to have favorites and to give some individuals special treatment. We are to remember that the Lord is no respecter of persons. Whether a person is rich or poor, a leader, or simply a member of the fellowship, we must not show favoritism. Peter learned about bias the hard way when Paul called him out in a mixed room of Jewish and Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-14).

Peter was comfortably having fellowship with Gentile believers. Being a Jew, he had been raised with terrible bias against the gentiles. The Jews viewed the Gentiles as dogs.  Peter had come a long way since his dream concerning God’s acceptance of the Gentiles in Acts 10. He preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household, a Gentile in search of truth (Acts 10).   

Peter still had some degree of bias in his heart. When some Jewish believers who were part of James’ team arrived from Jerusalem, Peter broke off fellowship with the Gentile believers and moved toward the Jewish believers. Paul saw this take place and rebuked Peter publicly for his bias.   

Bias and partiality have always have been a large problem in the church. There has been bias against the Jews, believing that it was the Jews that murdered Christ. The Scriptures declare that we are all guilty before God. There has been bias toward various parts of the church. This was especially true between the Western Church and the Eastern Church. It was true between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches. It was true among various Protestant churches known as denominations. It is still true today among many believers in regard to other believers.

God sees us through Christ. All bias has been crucified with Christ. This is the basis for God’s view of being impartial toward all peoples. When the gentiles received the Holy Spirit, Peter recognized God’s view and says, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality” (Acts 10:34).

Father, create in me Your heart of impartiality. Help me to see others the way You do, through Christ and His atoning death and resurrection.

THE SIN OF PARTIALITY

James 2:1 – My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

Unfortunately, much of Christianity, as expressed in denominationalism and independence, moved from a particular understanding of a restored truth the Lord was communicating to an attitude of separatism and favoritism by God. Many in the Lord’s church view their expression of faith and doctrinal understanding to be closer to the truth than anyone else’s. This is at the root of denominations and is sectarian in nature, rather than godly.

In the First Century church it was understood through the apostle’s teachings that only one church existed. The church found its expression in each city, such as Corinth or Rome. When the apostles spoke of “churches,” they were speaking of a region which contained more than one city. The early believers had their understanding rooted in the teachings of the apostles. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Over the centuries, teachers of Scripture fell away from the teachings of the apostles. Men began to adhere to false doctrine and move the church in a new direction contrary to the apostle’s teachings. The church became divided and wrong attitudes were developed against other believers.

In James 2:1, the apostle is dealing with the attitude of partiality in the early church that set the rich against those who were not rich in worldly possessions. James implies, when we have an attitude of partiality, we dishonor the Lord’s purposes. His purpose is for us to see one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. This means, rich or poor, bond or free as well as our particular expressions of faith in Christ. The Lord has been reviving His church for centuries and bringing it back to the foundations which the apostles taught: “One Lord, one faith and one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). The entire book of Ephesians supports what I am saying in our devotion today.

Ask our Father in heaven if there is any partiality in your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any kind of bias against others in the body of Christ. Pray that He would open your heart to receive greater revelation of the apostles’ teachings and a willingness to set aside any teaching of men that God’s Word does not support.