He Knows Our Hearts
For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth. He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved (Psalm 47:2-4 NIV).
Two men prayed in the temple. The Pharisee prayed loudly so others could hear clearly; he thanked God that he wasn’t a major sinner—a robber, an adulterer, or a tax collector. His reference to the tax collector was not randomly made. He was aware that nearby stood a detested tax collector, an abhorred individual who collaborated with their Roman occupiers. This man, too, was saying his prayers. The Pharisee was convinced that he was better than others as he prayed loudly: “I haven’t committed any major sins—especially the turncoat activity of collecting taxes from my own people.” The tax collector, though, knew that his life was deplorable both in the eyes of his neighbors and God, and he shamefully admitted his sin. So humbled was he as he prayed that the tax collector hung his head and beat his chest, God, have mercy on me, a sinner (Luke 18:13b).
God is the great equalizer; He knows our hearts. He knows our deepest desires before we even speak them. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. There are no degrees of sin; there are no degrees of forgiveness. Use whatever term resonates with you, but the truth remains: He justifies, evens the score, and sets the record straight. Our prayers, like the tax collector’s prayer, should reflect utter humility and thanksgiving that God knows the depths of our hearts and our sinful condition, yet loves us the same.
Humble yourself in prayer before the Lord.
Be the Good Soil
But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Matthew 13:23
Recommended Reading – 1 Corinthians 3:5-8
If you are a vegetable gardener, you have had the puzzling experience of different plants of the same variety producing different qualities of fruit when planted in the same soil. Perhaps a large rock is blocking the growth of the roots. Or perhaps a poisonous chemical substance was accidentally spilled on the ground. Lots of things can render soil unsuitable for seed.
Jesus identified the soil of the heart as the primary variable in spiritual growth (Matthew 13:1-23). If the soil is rocky or filled with weeds and brambles, the seed of the Word of God cannot spring up and bear fruit. But if the soil is “good,” then we “hear and understand” it and bring forth an abundant crop of spiritual fruit. And whose job is it to make sure the soil of the heart is “good,” prepared to receive kingdom teaching? It is every Christian’s responsibility to prepare his or her heart — to be the good soil.
Whenever you are about to receive the Word — before Bible study or a sermon — ask God to give you a heart of good soil.
As seed is made for soil and soil for seed, so the heart is made for God’s truth and God’s truth for the heart.
But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. Colossians 3:14
Recommended Reading – Colossians 3:12-17
Where can you find the strongest glue in the world? Not in a store or factory. Dive into the ocean instead and take a look at barnacles and mussels, which fasten themselves to boats, piers, and rocks. Many shellfish secrete a protein that allows them to firmly cling to any surface, even in salt water. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are currently studying shellfish in an attempt to develop a stronger kind of waterproof glue that can be used in ship repair and even with surgical incisions.1
For an even stronger kind of glue, dive into the Bible and study the subject of love. The apostle Paul said that nothing can separate us from God’s love and that God has shed abroad His love in our hearts (Romans 8:39; 5:5). According to Colossians 2:2, our hearts are “knit together in love.”
Although the Church is made up of people from all walks of life, our love of Christ must unite us. That means we must exercise patience, meet needs, and put the interests of others first. Love is the opposite of being shellfish… I mean selfish.
Love is extravagant in the time it is willing to give, in the strength it is willing to spend, and in the price it is willing to pay.
George Duncan, Scottish revivalist
Loving God, Loving Others
He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.
1 John 2:9
Recommended Reading – John 13:34-35
Horticulturists in the United Kingdom have developed a plant they are calling the “tomtato.” Above ground it produces tomatoes, but below ground it produces potatoes. This is unnatural, of course. The apostle James said, for example, that a fig tree can’t bear olives or vice versa (James 3:12). Jesus made the same point when He said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16).
The apostle John applied these botanical lessons to the spiritual life in a plain way: You can’t say you love God and hate your brother at the same time (1 John 2:9-11). If you love God, the fruit in your life will be that you will love others—especially others in the body of Christ who also love God. In fact, Jesus told His disciples that their love for one another was how the world would be able to identify them as His followers (John 13:34-35). And it applies to more areas than just love. Anyone who claims to know God through Christ but doesn’t obey all His commands “is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4; Matthew 28:19-20).
The way we demonstrate that we love God is by loving others. Failing to love others calls into question our love for God.
Love is the root; obedience is the fruit.
Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Recommended Reading – John 14:25-27
When a mother and child become separated at the mall, the parent is filled with anxiety over the lost child. Then the mom sees a security guard approaching, holding the hand of the child, and anxiety is turned to joy and peace. The transition happens in a moment—what was missing has been found.
On the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion, His disciples and followers were filled with anxiety. They huddled together behind locked doors for fear that the people who put Jesus to death would be coming next for them (John 20:19). The anxiety of some was heightened even further when they went to visit the tomb where Jesus lay, only to discover that His body was missing. Not only was He dead, His body had been stolen! But then Jesus made Himself known to Mary Magdalene at the Garden tomb. Peace replaced anxiety as she returned to tell the others that Jesus was alive.
We serve a living Savior, not a dead one. When your fear or anxiety level is high, let the presence of the resurrected Jesus give you peace.
When we lack the peace of God, we should turn to our peace with God.
Robert M. Horn
The Son of the Living God-Jesus
“Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:16 NKJV).
Jesus is The Son of the Living God; all false gods have no life in them. False gods don’t think, love, nor do the false gods answer the prayers offered to them. They are carved from wood or stone; they can’t communicate with you and they can’t give life to those who worship them. Jesus is The Son of the Living God; both Jesus and the Father are alive, and have always lived. There was never a time when the Living God didn’t exist. Perhaps the greatest creative act was when the Father breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. And in that creative act life was given to Adam; and through generations of procreation, life was given to you.
I come to You, Living God, thanking You for creating me in Your image. Because I have a mind, I think about You. Because I have emotions, I love You. Because I have a will, I choose to follow You.
Jesus is The Son of the Living God; He gave you spiritual life through His death, burial and resurrection. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). You have two kinds of life: (1) You received your eternal life by believing in Jesus, and, (2) you can enjoy satisfying life more abundantly by magnifying Jesus in all you do.
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 by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18
Recommended Reading – 2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Some time ago, the New York Times reported a study showing that couples who are happily married for long periods really do begin to look alike. Even if the man and woman bore no resemblance at their wedding, they showed marked resemblances later in life. Moreover, the more marital happiness a couple reported, the greater the increase in facial resemblance. The change is apparently due to decades of shared emotions and similar lifestyles.1
As time goes by, Christians should increasingly resemble Jesus. After all, we’re the bride of Christ, and we share His emotions and lifestyle. Romans 8:29 says that God has predestined us to be “conformed to the image of His Son,” and according to 2 Corinthians 3:18, the Holy Spirit transforms us by stages into the image of Christ.
Today someone will study your attitudes, words, and deeds. Make sure they see Jesus in you. We are His reflectors to the world.
Christlikeness is the will of God for the people of God.
John Stott, in his final sermon