How is Your Heart?

How is Your Heart?

So, how is it?  Have you taken a moment recently to check your own heart?  The Bible is full of reminders and even warnings concerning self-examination.  While our careers, schooling, household duties, and weekly routines are important, there is nothing more important than your spiritual state.  The Lord Jesus is the One who asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

Let me show you some of those reminders I am talking about.  “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord” (Lam 3:40).  “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor 13:5).  “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Rom 8:9).  “But let each one examine his own work” (Gal 6:4).  “But let a man examine himself” (1 Cor 11:28).

Do you think that God finds it valuable that we check ourselves?  We are told to keep our hearts, as the verse in the graphic above displays.  So, the real question is, How is your heart? Have you checked it recently?  What do you find?  Is it full of love?  Is there joy there?  What about peace?  Is it full of the word of God?  I certainly hope that it is fully satisfied in Christ, but even if it is not—there is mercy and forgiveness available.  We are not perfect, not any of us.  The apostle John is a big help in this matter.  He said, “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20).  He also said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  God is greater than our hearts and is able to cleanse it, even after we have become Christians, if we will only confess our sins to Him and repent.  We must slowly but surely rid ourselves of the corruptions of this present wicked age and trust Christ all the more.  By the power of the Holy Spirit we can do this.

Check your heart.  Confess your sins.  Treasure Christ.

Matthew 7:7-12 Ask, Seek, Knock

Matthew 7:7-12            Ask, Seek, Knock                             WC McCarter

We can certainly state those things that are sins, and we should definitely help people who are struggling in sin.  The point that we made last week from Matt 7:1-6 was that we must not demean others.  We must not be fault-finding, severely critical, assuming a position of authority.

What happened in Orlando this past week gives us pause, and now is an appropriate time to consider our response and thought process concerning these things.  In the early hours of June 12, 2016 a “Gay Night Club” was struck by a hate-filled, Muslim terrorist who shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 others.  One thing is certain- This was an attack on America.  The shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS, and ISIS claimed the man as one of theirs.  Now, as Christians, we know that the Lord is not pleased with those who practice homosexuality.  Over and over again, that lifestyle is condemned in Scripture (Lev 18:22; Rom 1:26-32; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:9-10; Jude 7; et al.).  Marriage is raised as a beautiful union between a man and a woman from the opening chapters of the Bible to the closing chapters.  Of course, there are all kinds of sinful lifestyles which are condemned in the Scriptures.  However, in light of the circumstances surrounding the recent massacre, many are asking questions such as, Do you suppose that these calamities in Orlando happened because those folks were worse sinners than all other Americans?  Did they deserve what happened to them?  Jesus spoke to this same sort of issue in His own day in Luke 13:1-5.  Let me share His response.

Luke 13:1-5—There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

On that occasion, Jesus said to repent.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to pray.

You see, it is so easy for us to point the Pharisaic-finger at other people and make fun or say, They got what they deserved.  What if the Lord gave us what we deserve?  Ah, but we are perfect, are we not?  We are righteous in and of ourselves.  We do not sin.  The perfect, holy, righteous Creator-Judge of the universe will not find any moral failings in us, right?  I think we know better.  Jesus taught in Luke 13 for us to repent, in Matthew 7 He tells us to pray.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Ask, Seek, Knock (7-8)
Last week, we were given three reasons to not demean others.  This week, we are given a three-fold description of prayer: ask, see, knock.  Instead of criticizing others, we are to pray for them.

Good Gifts (9-11)
An argument from the lesser to the greater: If mere mortals/evil people know how to give good things to their children, how much more so will our Heavenly Father know how to give us everything we need?

Illustration: So, the picture is of a child approaching his father with a request, especially a request in behalf of someone else.  I think of Aubrie playing with some of the little girls in our neighborhood.  They will run around, ride bikes/scooters, play on the swing-set, and other things, and Aubrie will soon come over to Bridget or me and ask for a popsicle.  But, she doesn’t ask just for herself, she will say something to the effect of, “Daddy, can we have popsicles; me and my friends.”  How can a parent say no to a request that is so loving and sincere?  She doesn’t just want good gifts for herself but also for her neighbors.

Application: The Jews rarely attributed this kind of power in prayer to anyone.  As one writer says, “Only a small number of sages were considered pious enough to have such power with God” (Keener, 245).  And yet, Jesus gives this promise to all of His disciples, all of God’s people.  We can all approach God in prayer expecting to receive, find, and have the door opened.  Why, then, would we not spend significant time in prayer for ourselves, our families, our church, and those around us who are struggling in sin?

The Golden Rule (12)
Verse 12 summarizes the big idea of verses 1-12 for us.  It is a lesson that should have been learned in childhood, but sadly it is not one that we have remembered: treat others the way you want to be treated.

Matthew 7:1-6 Do Not Judge

Matthew 7:1-6              Do Not Judge                                    WC McCarter

There are many different perspectives on this week’s passage.
Society tells us to focus on verse one and to keep our mouths shut.
Fundamentalists tell us to focus on verse six and to speak out.
All I want to know is what Jesus said and what He meant when He said it.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

The Command: Do Not Judge Others (1)
Judge [κρίνετε] = Despise (Rom 14:3 [ξουθενείτω / κρινέτω]).
To hold in contempt.  To belittle.  To demean.
Do not be fault-finding, severely critical, assuming a position of authority.
Key Cross-References: (Gal 6:1; 1 John 3:16; 1 Pet 4:15).

Reason #1: The Principle of Reciprocity (2)
We could let the fact that Jesus commanded us not to judge stand as our first reason not to do so, but we will leave it as our heading and make verse two our first reason.  Jesus has already taught that we ought to forgive others if we want God to forgive us.  In much the same way, He now teaches that how we treat others will, in turn, help to provide a basis for God’s treatment of us.
*If we hold others in contempt, the Lord will hold us in contempt.

Illustration: Think of the story of Jonah.  The prophet thought so ill of the Ninevites and obviously held them in contempt.  So, how did the Lord respond?  He did not let Jonah off the hook.  He made it very hard on Jonah, and ultimately the Lord’s will was achieved.  (I personally believe that Jonah recorded his own story and left for us a negative example.  So then, in my hopeful view, Jonah learned the lesson that the Lord wanted to teach, although it could have been much less miserable).

Application: This is not to teach something like karma.  What it does teach is that we worship and serve a personal and sovereign God.  He sees all things and knows all things.  He is very much interested in our day-to-day lives and is involved in all of these different circumstances in which we find ourselves.
He will correct and teach those who belong to Him.

Reason #2: The Trap of Hypocrisy (3-5)
I know that I keep returning to this parable (that I’m about to share again) as an illustration for so much of the Sermon on the Mount, but, remember, Jesus is correcting the poor doctrines and practices of the hypocritical Pharisees (and the same is certainly true of this passage today).  So, let this image that Jesus shared in Luke 18 burn into your memory.

Illustration: Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised [ξουθενοντας] others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We can think so much of ourselves that we become blind to our own sin.
This Pharisee in the parable was probably a fairly righteous man according to contemporary expectations, yet he became so puffed up that he did not even realize that he was looking down on others, that he was arrogant.
Do you see the trap of hypocrisy?  Splinter vs. Plank

Application: We must first deal with our own sins so that we can then gently and carefully help others in their times of need and struggle.

Reason #3: The Threat of Injury (6)
Dogs/Swine: The most common interpretation throughout church history has been to use this verse to deny others the Lord’s Supper (pearl = Lord’s Supper).  The common interpretation today, I think, is to say that enemies of the Gospel (persecutors/hostile) should be denied the Gospel (pearl = Gospel/evangelism). On a surface reading, without the context, it does seem to give permission to judge, doesn’t it?  Yet, can you think of any scenario in which the Lord would not want us to share the Good News with someone?  I can’t.

Thomas Bennett says, (1) Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine = do not judge; and (2) Lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you = lest you be judged.  Bennett says that Jesus is borrowing the words of the hypocrites (Pharisees) and by doing so was actually condemning their use of the idea.

Illustration: I have shared this story with a few of you before, but it is fitting for this point.  There are certain churches in our community who still send folks out to go door-to-door and talk to people/leave a flyer.  One day another pastor friend of mine and I were standing outside in my driveway when three teenagers popped up from a particular church in our community and said, “Hey, do you guys go to church?”  We both grinned and said, “As a matter of fact. . . .”  One of the boys said, “What, are you preachers?”  (He was very perceptive).  We responded, “Yes, we are both preachers.”  He shot back, “Well, hopefully you are Baptist preachers.”  So, I sarcastically said (and I’m telling on myself, here), “No, neither one of us are Baptist preachers, and we don’t use the KJV either.”  They said nothing else and scurried off.

Now, what point can I be making by telling you this?  I have often thought since then that these folks go out into the community casting their little “pearls of wisdom” before the “swine,” but I can easily imagine a scenario where one of these guys smarts off to someone and they get cold-cocked (= turn and tear you in pieces), especially these young boys who are out there on their own.

*It is one thing to be persecuted because you are sharing the Good News with someone or simply because you are a Christian, but it is another thing to be attacked because you have verbally assaulted or shamed someone else.

Conclusion and Christian Application
*Sharing our little bits of so-called wisdom (our opinions, our judgments, our criticisms) is not sharing the Gospel, it is not effective, and Jesus gives us so many reasons to not do it: (1) He Commands to Not Judge; (2) He Shares the Principle of Reciprocity (God will Judge Us); (3) He Cautions of the Trap of Hypocrisy; and (4) He Warns of the Threat of Self-Induced Injury.

Do not criticize, but instead. . . (vv. 7-12).  Ask, seek, knock refers to prayer.  *So, instead of criticizing others, we should deal with our own short-comings, and we should pray for those around us who are not in the grace of the Lord. 

(We will return to this second part in verses 7-12 next week).