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Response of the heart

Notes & Transcripts

Response of the heart

Please turn to Luke 7:28 [P] – recently I was reading this passage in my morning reading: [Luke 7:28-35I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers (the religious set) rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John. “To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? “They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ (it didn’t matter what the form of the music, they did not respond) “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”] Well who was right: [P] Jesus or John? – their lives were totally opposite. John was this ascetic, living out in the wilderness, cut off from society and its pleasures. He ate what wild food he could mange to find and wore rough clothes. His faith led him to lead a life of self-denial.  However, Jesus joined in the celebrations of people. He did not cut Himself off; remove Himself from society in the wilderness as John did. John did so for a reason – there was a message in what John did, it spoke to people. His life said that society was rotten; people had gone the wrong way, pursuing luxury and things instead of God. Jesus also did what He did for a reason – there was a message in what He did, it spoke to people. God was not removed, but living among them, with them! Hallelujah! Emmanuel! It was not personal preference, inclination, character or personality that was the cause of their different behaviour – they were both reinforcing their message, communicating something through the way they lived. Their lives were making a point! But the people did not get it. They criticized John, said he was crazy, he had a demon – because he was lived differently to them. That is how we dismiss something that challenges us or convicts us, something we don’t understand or is different. We categorize it, label it, and dismiss it. Jesus did not abstain from food and drink as John did. But if they criticized John for not eating and drinking, they criticized Jesus for doing exactly that. Jesus ate and drank – but they exaggerated and misrepresented His actions: they said, "Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard". It didn't matter what they did, in what form the message came; no matter what they refused to respond! Jesus and John had a different approach, a different presentation, but the message was the same. Their actions were vindicated by the fruit of their work. They did not do what they did out of personal inclination, they did so in obedience to God's direction – they acted according to Divine wisdom – and this wisdom was vindicated by the results, “her children”. Wisdom’s children are the deeds that wisdom produces. We have children and they are different in nature, personality and appearance – you may have one that is out-going, another that is shy – but they are both your children. What wisdom produced in John was an ascetic life – very different from what wisdom produced in Jesus life. But both were the product of Divine wisdom – wisdom is vindicated by all her children. You cannot say one way is right and the other is wrong – wisdom was shown to be right ("ἐδικαιώθη ") in both cases. Now the Pharisees were very concerned with being right, being correct [P] – but the correctness of the Pharisees and lawyers was shown to be nothing but hypocrisy.  It did not matter what they did there was no appropriate response – no matter what was done it had no effect on them. They were resistant to the effects of the music. There was not the intended response. That is exactly what both Jesus and John encountered. They both proclaimed a message – different in style, but their actual message was identical (cf. Matt 3:2; Matt 4:17 ). But all people see are the incidental externals; they criticize these and never see the heart of the matter. Jesus and John were both seeking a spiritual response – but people were spiritually hardened and did not respond no matter what form the message came in. The key message of this parable is that people did not respond. They are determined not to respond to the voice of God. They will be picky about externals: the music is too loud and lively, or too sombre and dull; the people aren't friendly, standoffish; or the people are too "in your face"; the meeting is too charismatic and Pentecostal, or it is dry, staid and dead – but really all it is, is an excuse for their rejection of the underlying message. See how they rationalize their rejection: they had valid reasons to reject John (he was demon possessed) and Jesus (He associated with sinners) – they had their correct and rational reasons – they were “correct” but unresponsive [P]. As I looked at this passage, it struck me that I can use my rational mind to harden my heart. I’m very clever – I can very easily come up with a reason not to respond, to harden my heart. I am so clever that I can easily persuade and convince myself. I’m made aware of someone in need – I can quickly come up with a reason why I cannot afford to help at the moment, or am too busy to help; there are other priorities. I can come up with other sources of help, who else should help them or what they should be doing themselves. When the Holy Spirit prompts we can use our rational mind to keep our heart from responding. [P] We can use our reasoning to silence our heart and resist what the Spirit is saying to us. Remember the man in Luke 10 who came to Jesus – he was a lawyer, a legalist – and he wanted to know he had to do to inherit eternal life. He actually knew the answer; Jesus said to him: [Luke 10:26-28 “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”] – he had the right answer but what does he immediately do? Use his reasoning to justify himself [Luke 10:29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”].The Pharisees, who we met in the first passage I read, were very concerned with being correct, being right, having the right answer, knowing what was right, knowing the Scriptures, having their doctrine correct. And we do too, don’t we? It may be our education system or something – but we have this fixation with being able to give the right answer – we may not necessarily act upon it, but we know the answer. We have this inordinate concern with getting the right answer [P] – we have to give the right answer [Dennis Allan story – it didn’t matter that he didn’t understand, he had the tick in the right box]. We are conditioned from a very young age in this fixation with getting the right answer. We have the little ones in Sunday school – every time they get a right answer we give them a lolly – we are conditioning them. We are encouraging them to be selfish! – we may teach them the principle of being selfless and considering others – and yet when they give that correct answer we give them a treat – our very actions are training  and reinforcing the very opposite of what we say! Encouraging them to think of themselves, get the lolly that they want. When I ran the Children’s Church at Elim I stopped the giving of sweets as rewards because I could see us producing the exact opposite of what our teaching proclaimed. Oh yes, they could give the correct answer, but their hearts were selfish – we were training them to be so. But the correct answer isn’t everything – tell me, what is the greatest commandment? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; the next is love your neighbour as yourself.” Right? You knew the right answer, and if you didn’t, give me five minutes and I will be able to get you to give the right reply. I can give the correct answer – but having been saved for almost 50 years I am only too well aware how deficient I am in actually loving the LORD and my neighbour! What good is being able to give the right answer if I still haven’t got it?! Do you recall this very question came up with Jesus from one of the experts in the Mosaic Law? [Mark 12:28-34 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (you notice that basically he just repeated what Jesus had said) When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.] I use to wonder why Jesus thought he had answered intelligently when all he did was agree with His statement and repeat it back. See, Jesus saw that he wasn’t just repeating the correct answer back but that he actually got it! There was a rich young man who came to Jesus – he wanted to know the right answer – and like those Sunday School children his motivation was essentially selfish: [Matthew 19:16-22 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (this man had a spiritual hunger, he wanted to know) And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” (he wanted to get it correct, find out the bare minimum to meet the requirements, get 50% - the pass mark) And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” (he was right in what he did, punctilious, doing what was required but his heart wasn’t in it – he knew he still lacked something, something was still missing) Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (not a fulfilling of legal requirements but an abandonment – giving all of yourself) But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.] Jesus touched the thing that was dear to his heart: his wealth; and his heart remained devoted to his riches rather than Jesus, he went away. He valued his things more than Jesus – that is where is heart is. And it is your heart that God wants. The rich young man was going to do what was right and correct, but the motivation was selfish – do what he had to in order to get eternal life. I can remembering being that way – make sure my sins are forgiven, that I was saved, but then get on with my own life – what I call an “insurance Christian” – ensure that you are OK for all contingencies. He was not prepared to give up what he had – abandon all for Jesus, give His all. He was rich – last time out at the prison John contrasted this rich man with another rich man: Zaccheus. He was not wanting the right answer – he wanted Jesus! He sought Him out, climbed a tree – and Jesus noticed Him! Knew Him by name! Here he was shunned by his fellow Jews but He wanted to come to his house. He was so overwhelmed – Jesus noticed him! Was mindful of him! Loved him! It is a wonderful thing to be loved! And Zaccheus responded to that love – he responded with his heart. [P] He loved and it had to be expressed in action. Not, “How much do I have to give?” – calculate the tithe and give what was right and correct, what the law required. No, it was extravagant – half of all he had, four times the amount to those he had defrauded. He gave of himself in abandonment to Jesus. Previously he had hoarded money for himself – now he was not thinking of himself but others – responding in the spirit of Jesus – a total pouring out of all that he had. He responded from the heart! You see we can have the right answer, the correct doctrine, but our heart may not be in line with it. Jesus said: [Matthew 15:8 This people honours Me with their lips, (they were saying the right thing) but their heart is far away from Me.] But we are concerned with having the correct answer, having the facts, all our theology consistent and systematic. No loopholes, no unanswered questions, all cut and dried – our doctrine is orthodox, conservative evangelical and correct. We have our interpretation of prophecy sorted, predestination, freewill – you name it! We have the answers, there is no mystery left; we understand God! Well He is not much of a God if this puny mind can comprehend Him! יְהוָה is way beyond my ability to grasp or comprehend! Job and his friends discussed much about God, they each thought they had the answers; then יְהוָה actually revealed Himself to Job: [Job 40:1-5 Then יְהוָה said to Job, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.” Then Job answered יְהוָה and said, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth. “Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; even twice, and I will add nothing more.”] יְהוָה gave Job another dose of revelation of Himself in His works of nature [Job 42:1-6 Then Job answered יְהוָה and said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”] This is what David said [Psalm 139:1-6 O יְהוָה, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O יְהוָה, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it.] Yet we know the answers! Here is the psalmist again: [Psalm 131 O יְהוָה, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the יְהוָה from this time forth and forever.]Like a weaned child” – the un-weaned child is at its mother’s breast for one reason, with one interest – feed me! – essentially a selfish motive. But the weaned child rests against his mother without self-interest but just for closeness – out of love – just to be near to the one who cares for it. I don’t know all the answers, some people have all the details of eschatology, well I don’t; and I am happy not to – rather just to simply walk with Him not knowing, but trusting that He does. There is a knowing that is deeper than giving the correct answer – it is the knowing of relationship, the knowing of the heart. At least three times before His death Jesus told His disciples plainly that He would suffer, die and rise again. They recorded it. They knew the facts – but when it happened it took them by surprise, they were unprepared. There was only one who prepared for what was coming: [Matthew 26:6-13 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? “For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” (Rational, reasonable, logical but cold hearted – concerned with financial responsibility, economically efficient. And aren’t we so concerned with efficiency and lack of waste of money? You ask my wife, when it comes to obsession with efficiency, I’m the world’s worst. But love is not efficient, it is extravagant! Jesus was not concerned with efficiency but with a heart poured out in love) But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. “For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”] There was knowing of the heart that was way deeper than what the mind comprehended [P]. As I said, none of the disciples got it, they did not know that Jesus was going to die – He was the Messiah who would live forever! Their correct doctrine actually fooled them. Did this woman know that she was anointing Jesus for His burial? I doubt very much that she had it sorted out mentally – no, she responded from the heart! Her heart poured itself out in extravagant love. She had this uncontainable love for Jesus – she just had to express it somehow – so she did in the only way she could conceive. And what ridicule she got for it. She didn’t really understand what she was doing; she couldn’t defend herself against the rational ridicule of the disciples who knew so much more than she. Mark says: [Mark 14:8 She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial.] – she did what she could – her heart had to be expressed, she hadn’t worked it out mentally, logically, rationally – it was her heart that prompted her action. Yet she anointed Jesus’ body beforehand for His burial. No one else did. Did she realise the full significance of what she was doing? – probably not. But she had insight that no one else did! She was commended by Jesus and memorialised as no one else was – her heart had understanding way beyond what her rational mind perceived. If you want to know God, it has to be through your heart. I’ve mentioned my friend Lyndon before, intellectually he is limited; could he give a coherent explanation of his faith? – probably not – but he knows Jesus. I can think of many who have a simple faith, yet insight is given to them way beyond their mental understanding. I think of our brother Mike, time and again he has been confronted with issues – he rings me or Robin up for a chat about them – but the Holy Spirit has already revealed that something is not right. Mentally he has not worked it out but his heart is sold out to his Lord who reveals the truth to that devoted heart. I have a colleague at work who is a Christian – a very clever bloke. He tries to persuade me concerning evolution and that Jesus has already returned in 70 AD or something. He quotes Scripture, marshals his arguments, and I can’t debate him – he runs rings around me. But I know he is wrong – later on my mind catches up and comes up with the reason, a Scripture, or answer to his objection. But it is the heart that knows, I know in my spirit. There is something wrong with the heart that is sceptical and cynical, always got the answer and yet misses the truth. Sometimes I can be so concerned with being correct, but my heart is clinical and cold; and misses the whole point! Jesus said to the Pharisees: [Matthew 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, (they were meticulously correct) and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.] they missed the whole point!, the heart of the law. Their hearts were stony and cold, unresponsive [Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!]. Jesus wanted a closeness with His people but they would not have it, their hearts were cold and unresponsive – rock hard. But there is a great prophesy and promise in Scripture, spoken to Israel: [Ezekiel 36:24-28 For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.] יְהוָה said through Jeremiah: [Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am יְהוָה; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart. ] The LORD is looking for a responsive heart [P] – a heart that is warm to Him. It is a responsive heart; that is how we know Him. God is near, we can come close to Him, but he communicates to our heart [Romans 10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, (where?) in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,] – it is with your heart that you believe. God, speaking as Wisdom personified, says [Proverbs 23:26 Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.] Maybe I’m just preaching to myself, I can be so cold, precise and logical – correct maybe – but God wants my heart, a heart of flesh that responds to Him. I am not saying that it is not important to have you doctrine correct, but may I exhort us all to respond with our heart, to have a soft responsive heart, not to harden it with our reasoning mind but draw near in our hearts. [Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.]

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