It’s comical how often in Christian “circles”–like in the church, in Bible studies, or at lunch with Christian friends–people will say how they want to be closer to God. We’re always chasing him, but God never wants to be found.
Really? Is that what we think? God wrote a long book to reveal himself to us, and then he sent the Holy Spirit to live in us, to guide us, to help us interpret that big book. So, if really being closer to God is what we want, what is the problem?
God has put something on my heart lately, opened a window that I hadn’t seen. Not like I didn’t know it was there or anything. Just hadn’t had my eyes–and more importantly my heart–on it.
Grab your Bible and turn with me to Psalm 81:8-16. This is God talking directly to Israel. He calls them his people, and he calls us the same. He’s talking to them and to us. Catch that, please. Them and us. He says, hey, you haven’t listened to me and haven’t obeyed me. And it’s not the first time he’s told them that–or us.
But let’s go deeper. Because Israel did not listen or obey him, he gave them up to their own hearts’ lust. The Bible tells us that our hearts are desperately wicked. You have to agree with that because if they weren’t, how is there sexual slavery today or horrific conditions that cause millions of refugees to flee their homes? How was there ever a Holocaust?
God says that if Israel (if we) would listen and obey him, he would subdue their/our enemies, turn his hand against their/our adversaries, and feed them/us with the finest of everything. Pretty good, huh? Especially in this political climate and the world we live in. Think ISIS here. Wouldn’t you like to have God subdue our enemies? Oh, yeah!
But the deeper thing is in verse 12. The King James reads ( and if you don’t like the KJ, just bear with me awhile. God has spoken to millions of people though all different translations. He’s not hung up on one and neither is the Holy Spirit), “I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust.” The notes of the King James* references the “hardness of their hearts.” Which takes us to Psalm 95: 8-10 and to Hebrews 3:8-13 where God begs his people not to HARDEN their HEARTS.
Hebrews 3: 10, says “They do always err in their heart; and they have not know my ways.”* So what is he talking about here? What does he mean by not hardening their hearts and erring in their hearts? And what does God’s WAY have to do with it?
Ah! The whole crux of the matter is God’s way. The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says that “way” means a road or progress or a means or journey. In other words how God moves, how his will is accomplished and how he would like us to move through life is this way—by not hardening our hearts. People who harden their hearts have wrong hearts (they do always err in their hearts).
Wow. Now you want to throw stones at me—because I’m telling you that a hard heart is a wrong heart. Okay, you say. I get it. I’m supposed to be nice to people, to help people, to give those homeless people at the shelter something… NO. I’m not saying that. And no, you’re not supposed to do that.
Yeah. You heard me right. Don’t give them anything. Because your attitude is going to kill you. God is not interested in the few can goods you bring to the homeless shelter. In fact, he’s not really interested if you collect a truck bed full of can goods and bring them in. God is interested in your Heart.
Man looks on the outward—“Wow, Jason, what a great thing you’ve done! Filled up that whole truck with canned goods.” But God looks on the heart—“You know, I am so sick of the pastor bugging us about giving to the poor that I am going to fill up a whole truck bed full of food and dump it off at that homeless shelter!”
Let me tell you a short story. When I worked at the shelter, I saw how much the people that came needed the basic necessities of life—food, a clean shirt, a toothbrush, soap, etc. So, I decided I would put those things plus a couple of dollars in a Ziplock bag and give them out to anyone standing on the side of the road holding a sign. I wanted to help. My heart was right.
Move forward six months. I keep five Ziplock bags in my car at all times. I look for homeless people to whom I can give them. I mentioned it on facebook and to others—to share and hope others might do the same. But somewhere in the midst my heart began to change.
Pride entered and another thing happened. My heart hardened. I hand the bag through the window of my car and drive on, feeling good about myself, and letting my mind go back to whatever it was thinking before I stopped. I don’t even pray for that man or woman anymore. Or ask their name. Where I had been close to God at first; I am now miles away from him and his heart.
Staying near to God means staying near to his heart, staying in his Word, staying in prayer, praising him, fellowshipping with believers, doing all those things we know to do but just are too busy to do. Too busy with the TV or facebook, Instagram or football, shopping or the movies.
Because if we don’t do the things we know to do, we forget who God is and why Jesus came. Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost. He came to save the world not to condemn it, he came to tell us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who spitefully use us. Luke 6:27-36
Even ISIS. Now that is a hard one. And the immigrants and refuges? He said in Matthew 25:31-46 that whatever we do unto the least of these, we have done it unto him.
Now don’t run off and tell everyone I said to we needed to take every immigrant and every refuge into America. I did not say that. (But if God did, what would you do?). What I said was that God is interested in your HEART. How you think about those situations, how you think about those people. Does your heart ache for them, do you cry out for God to help them? To save them? And do you pray for our President and those in congress? Or do you just run them down with your mouth?
When James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven to consume people who did not receive Jesus, Jesus rebuked them. He told them, “You don’t know what spirit you’re of. I came to save people, not to destroy them.” (Luke 9:54-56 KJV-paraphrased). In other words, that desire to hurt others wasn’t from God but from the devil.
Okay, enough. One easy lesson. Are you chasing God? Do you want to be closer to him? I do. Then we have to do something. Not just talk about it. We need to do something now. Or tonight. We can’t wait. That’s what we’ve done before. We’ve got to ask him to change our hearts, to make it like his, to fill it with love—real love—for people. Because God loves people! He came to seek and to save those that are lost.
And we need to back into the Bible–on a daily basis, as much as possible. The Word of God is his message to us. Like he messaged us on facebook, like he texted us with something important or just texted us to say he loved us.
Are we really chasing God? Do we really want to get close? And are we willing to take the steps to do it? I want to. I plan to start today. Will you join me?
I always love to hear from my readers. Please send me a message or comment. God bless you.
*The Holy Bible, Reference, KJV Reference Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, copyright 1994.