December 9, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1. Read Matthew 23:26-28. Over the last few weeks, we have been talking about the condition of our hearts. As a believer, God promises you that he will “give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you...” (Ez. 36:26 NIV). We have also seen the value of our own rhythms of spiritual disciplines in maintaining this new heart. If we want our outward behavior to look like Jesus, then we need to pay very close attention to the inward condition of our hearts. We’ve reflected much during this series on the condition of our heart. What have you learned about your heart recently? Do you see areas of your life where you are like the Pharisees who Jesus is addressing here - appearing clean on the outside but filthy inside? Consider the conversations and behaviors over the last couple of days. Pray the prayer that David penned in Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, andlead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Ps. 139:23-24 NLT) 


Day 2. Read Luke 20:20-26. Here we find the religious leaders trying to trick Jesus into saying something that would get Him into trouble. Jesus amazed them in His answer, seeing them as duplicitous. We are reminded here again of the Pharisees emphasis on outward appearance with no regard for the internal heart – theirs or Jesus’s. As a result, even their acts of surrender and discipline were mixed with false motivesand their hearts were left largely unchanged. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Pr. 11:3 NIV) Ask yourself, Do I have a duplicity within myself which undermines, invalidates, and brings into question my stated desires and objectives? Or do I live as the upright, with integrity and authenticity of heart and motivation? It’s hard to admit, but we all have duplicities in us. Take some time to think that through. Consider your thoughts and behaviors in the different settings in your life. Are you the same person in every setting? How and when are you not? Acknowledge these areas. Confess and ask God to continue His renewing work on your heart. 


Day 3. Read 1 Peter 2:11-17. While this passage may seem to contradict what we read earlier this week about the Pharisees emphasis on outward appearance, consider what Peter is saying as it relates to your heart. As your heart leads, your life will follow. Jesus emphasized the same things in Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,” and later in vs 48 He says “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” This is impossible to achieve, but if we are following Jesus, our lives will reflect Him. None of us will achieve perfection on Earth, but as we look to Jesus, we can see where we truly align with His perspective and where we need to adjust. Is there a strained relationship or a recent hurtful conversation that you’ve allowed to justify your attitude? Because of it, have you given yourself permission that you don’t have to love? How closely would you say that your life aligns with His right now?  


Day 4. Read Titus 2:7-8. This is one of many passages in scripture where we are encouraged to live above reproach. If our hearts are aligned with Christ, we can therefore reflect His light to the world around us. The result will be a good reputation with outsiders and a clear conscience, with others having nothing bad to say about us. Accusations will be silenced because we are living honorably in every way. In this way, we live a life of consistency rather than duplicity. How about your reputation? Would you say that you have a good reputation among others? Sometimes it takes those around us to let us know our duplicities. The writer of Hebrews says “Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.” (Heb. 13:18 NIV) Ask your closest friends to be honest with you about your reputation. Then ask them to pray for you, and in the same manner, pray for them. Your community in the local church, those you serve with or are in group with, is vital in encouraging you to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil. 1:27 NIV)  


Day 5. On a personal note, I believe that the best way to live your life is to be yourself. If, in being yourself, you find that you don’t like what you see, you need to work to change those things at the very core of your being, not just try to act better. If you find that you are prideful, focus on humility. If you are angry and bitter, work to forgive those who have wronged you. You are not alone. Paul writes “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” (Phil. 1:6 NLT) and “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil. 2:13 NLT) God is the same in all situations and all day long. We can find comfort in God even though we can be a mess. He will always be faithful, always be good, and always be with you. He will not give up on changing your heart. 


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