A Matter of the Heart

Sunday, December 11, 2016, 10:22 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 2:12-29 (ESV).

Hearers and Doers (vv. 12-16)

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

In Romans 1 we learned that God has made himself known to all humans. So, it isn’t that humankind is unaware of God, or that they lack knowledge of him, but rather that many humans suppress what knowledge they have of God by their own wickedness. Thus, everyone is without excuse.

So, whether or not you were brought up being taught the scriptures, or whether or not you have attended church services your whole life, you will still have to stand before God one day and give an account for what you did with his Son Jesus Christ. Our Bible knowledge or church background is not what effects our eternal salvation. Those of us who have such knowledge may be judged more severely than those who have not, but what some people may regard as their Christian heritage, which was passed down to them from previous generations, is not what saves us.

In other words, it doesn’t matter to God if you were raised Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Independent, Non-Denominational, Pentecostal or C&MA. It doesn’t matter, either, if solely you were physically baptized and went through catechism, or if you have a degree in Bible and theology from a reputable seminary. It also is not essential to God that you attend church services every Sunday morning in an institutional church. What matters to God is that you not be hearers of the Word only, but that you be doers of the Word (See: Jas. 1:22-25).

In James 2 we read that faith without deeds is useless, and that even the demons believe, and they shudder. What this means is that genuine faith in Jesus Christ is not just something we experience, or that we feel inside ourselves, but it is accompanied by doing what we say we believe.

In other words, if we say we believe Jesus died to deliver us out of slavery to sin, then we should turn from our sin and turn to God to walk in obedience to Him, for Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. And, he died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who walk according to the Spirit. For, if we walk according to the flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:1-14).

Religious Hypocrisy (vv. 17-24)

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

If you call yourself a Christian, and you go through all the appropriate religious exercises that you feel are expected of you, and if you feel somewhat sure of yourself because of your Bible knowledge or your Christian service, and so you think you are qualified to lead others in their walks of faith with Christ, do you first teach yourself the Word, and apply its truths to your own life, before you try to teach others? I believe this is a very important question, and one we need to answer for ourselves. I’m asking the Lord if I am talking beyond where I am living in any area. I want to know if I am, so that I can correct that, in the Holy Spirit’s power.

In other words, are we ONLY talking the walk, even if in just one area, or are we walking the walk (and the talk)? i.e., are we talking beyond what we ourselves are living? Do we put on airs and pretend to be more spiritual than what we are so we will be accepted by others, and so people will think more highly of us than they ought? And, are we guilty of instructing others in what not to do, while we are guilty of doing the same or similar things? Or, are we daily putting to death the deeds of the flesh, by the Spirit, and are we walking in daily surrender and in obedience to our Lord, with all integrity, to the best of our knowledge? I pray that I would not ever be guilty of teaching beyond where I am living, for I make it my goal to please my Lord in all that I do, and to live with complete integrity, honesty and faithfulness.

Not Outward but Inward (vv. 25-29)

For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). God is not impressed with our religious performance or with how good we appear on the outside to others who do not really know us. If we were to try, we could probably fool many people, but we can never fool God. He sees everything we do, and he sees beyond the outward performance to what lies within our hearts. He knows who is faking it and who is not. He knows, too, the motives of our hearts, and who is serving him out of love for him, and who is making the appearance of being a servant of the Lord for dishonest gain.

We can make all the appearance of doing the right kinds of things, and we may even impress others with our religious performance, but God knows exactly what is going on in our hearts and lives. We may be able to hide our true identity from others, too, but we can’t hide from God. Jesus said his sheep listen to him, he knows them, and they follow (obey) him, and these are the ones who can’t be snatched out of his or the Father’s hands (Jn. 10:27-30). He also said that those who would come after him must deny self, take up their cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose our lives for eternity. But, if we lose our lives for his sake (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25).

In other words, just because we say we are a Christian doesn’t mean that we are. Just because we were baptized, or joined a church, or went through religious training, it doesn’t mean we are saved from our sins. We need to turn from our wickedness, and we need to turn to God in obedience, and we need to live according to the Spirit, and no longer according to our sinful flesh. For, God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. It matters to God when we sin! His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). God called us to be holy, set apart (unlike, different) from the world because we are becoming like Jesus. If we say we have fellowship with God, but our lifestyle is one of gratifying our sinful flesh, the Bible says we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6).

True faith in Jesus Christ means we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life (new birth), “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24). “Our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Ro. 6:6-7). And, this is the essence of the gospel message, that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. So, if you have not yet given your life to Christ in death to sin and in living to his righteousness, I pray you will repent today, and from this point forward you will walk in such a way so as to please your Lord always.

Seek the Lord / An Original Work / July 20, 2012

Based off Isaiah 55

“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.

“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”

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