The Gospel meeting that we had ended last Tuesday and the sermons are all on our website.
I can wholeheartedly recommend the lessons to you. If you want to have a better understanding of what the conscience is and how you can keep it clean, pure, and right before God, you will find the answers in His word.
Jonathan Glaesemann did a good job in presenting these lessons in a clear and understandable way. We encourage you to listen to all 5 of the lessons.
From my last post, you may have gathered the idea that godliness is something that cannot be defined by form only. The motive of your action has as much to do with it being godly as the action itself. In other words, where is your heart? As an example, the Pharisees prayed in public seeking the honor of men. This makes an action (prayer), which is something a godly person does, into an action that is not godly but merely a form of godliness.
It seems obvious that Godliness has to do with God. But as such it is solely a “facing God”, “directed towards God” or, “motivated by God” action. “God-ward” is a word I have seen used. You might even say “This action is dedicated to God”.
No one should dedicate something to someone which would disappoint them or with which they would disagree.
I recently saw an episode of Undercover Boss where the CEO of the flower company named a flower display after one particularly inspirational employee. She was honored. It was a cheerful arrangement like her. Imagine if he had dedicated a “funeral bouquet’ to her. That would not be pleasing. Many years ago, I named a calf after a friend of mine and she was not flattered. (Lesson learned!) Likewise, we need to be equally careful what we dedicate to God.
Godliness does not take into account what other people will think, it takes into account what God will think. David danced before the ark of the Lord as it came to Jerusalem. (God approved, his wife did not.) Abraham picked up and traveled, not knowing where he was going to wind up, just because God told him to. (I wonder what his family thought about that.) Moses left the riches of Egypt in order to serve God and deliver Israel. While the 10 commandments movie may not be accurate in all accounts, I can imagine his Egyptian family trying to talk Moses out of leaving, as they did in the movie.
It doesn’t mean that godly men are perfect men. Abraham lied twice about Sarah being his wife, David committed murder and adultery, Moses got angry without cause and the list of sins committed by our heroes can be multiplied. This is an important point to notice because we sometimes elevate these heroes and then judge ourselves by them, concluding that we cannot live up to their example. Wrong conclusion!
Godliness fits well into this list of qualities that Peter emphasizes because it brings the heart and motivation into the mix. We may have the virtue, knowledge, self-control, and perseverance but so, it seems, did the church at Ephesus. To that church, Jesus said that they still had the problem of having lost their first love: they had become ritualistic. They had the Form but not the heart.
Heart is one thing that makes up godliness. Desire is the other, desire of the right thing. All of the Godly men and women, not only wanted to serve God but had a strong desire for something unique. That unique something was not in this world but in the one that they could not see.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:13-16)
Their mind was not set on the things of this world but on the things of the world to come. They could have gone back. Perhaps they could have said, “I want to serve God but please let me do it from where I am at”. Abraham did not do that, Ruth did not do that. Even Jesus left where he was at to serve not just God but us. Paul tells the Colossians:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3)
This seems to be the heart of godly living, a focus that is on God and not on this world. We are pilgrims here and we not only need to live like pilgrims but talk like pilgrims. What we have in this world is nice, and some of us have really nice things, but what we will have in Heaven is so much more. Godliness will get us there.
Yesterday’s blog began the discussion of controlling our thoughts. God is quite able to judge our thoughts and intents even if we ourselves mess things up so much we cannot even fully figure out our motive. I don’t suppose that anyone who is more than 15 years old does not know the anguish of calling into question their own motives. At the end of the blog we introduced a passage from Mark.
And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
Truly, we need to realize that the thoughts we have come from within our own selves. It is not that sometimes there are not influences that work on us (and Satan is a master at that) but the desires and wants are there to begin with and so it is within our own thinking that we have to begin the process of self-control. When James chastises his audience in chapter 4, he says:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (Jas 4:1)
Esther was warned not to think in a certain way as she pondered the need to risk her life by visiting the king:
Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. (Est 4:13)
It is from the heart that these thoughts proceed, whether for good or bad, we generate them ourselves and as such need to be careful as to what we think. We might even find ourselves thinking thoughts that God, himself, had never thought:
Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— (Jer 19:4-5)
It should not surprise us then to know that God chooses by what is in the heart of man. As Samuel was sent to anoint one of Jesse’s sons the next king, he looked on the outside but God looked on the inside.
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
Today God also seeks those with the right heart, a heart like David’s who was chosen to be King. It isn’t that David was perfect, but his character was such that he was able to do God’s will in his lifetime and promote God’s kingdom. Jesus told the Samaritan woman:
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Joh 4:23-24)
Among the many lessons we can glean from this verse, one is that God wants people who will serve Him from the heart (spirit) and in the way God wants (truth).
What we focus on is what we will wind up doing. The person who has a heart of God is going to wind up doing the things God wants, not the things that they would otherwise do if left to their own devices. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will look more at the idea of outside influences on our thoughts but to close up today, let me just remind everyone to think on those things that are God like. Yes, Paul did write Phil 4:8 to think about those things that are true and honorable, etc. We will discuss that later
But answer this question: What does God want us to focus on with our thoughts? Why is it important to think on the good things? What do Christians really think about?
Again: Be careful little mind what you think!
This Sunday’s lessons dealt with the quality of self-control, specifically self-control in our thinking process. We normally think of self-control as being something we do in our words or actions but the best place to exercise our self-control is in our thoughts before they turn into words or actions.
Ideas are important and they even have substance. Perhaps I make too big a deal of it but since an idea is a “noun”, that is a subject, something that exists, at least in theory then they have weight. We can’t say that any idea by itself is without the potential to be used for good or bad.
In our journey through life, as a Christian, we should be aiming to get back to where we were before our life was corrupted by sin. Granted, we will not arrive there until we reach Eternity’s shore but the aim and journey of trying to become more like God and make our nature more like God’s is still what we should be doing. Of course, God is pretty clear that our thoughts are not His thoughts…
“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. (Isa 55:6-8)
That our thoughts are not God’s does not mean that they cannot be. That we need to forsake our thoughts I think argues for the fact that God wants us to think more like him, develop the heart that He has and let our character be more like His Holy character. The question is: Will we be more like David who said: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! (Psa 139:23) or more like Adam who said: “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Gen 3:10)?
We can’t really hide from God and our thoughts are well-known to him:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:12-13)
Even to the point of discerning thoughts and intentions!! Those pesky motives that we sometimes forget about or that we allow to confuse even ourselves. Our thoughts do matter. Take for example what Jesus said in Matthew 5
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. (Mat 5:21-22)
It seems that His audience had heard something similar to what we have heard: If I don’t actually kill the guy, it is ok if I hate him. Jesus is not stating a higher law in these verses but rather restoring the laws Moses wrote back to the place where they should be. He is letting the people know that the traditions and teachings of the Rabbi’s missed the heart of the Law.
“And this is the case of the manslayer who flees there, that he may live: Whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past—as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he shall flee to one of these cities and live; lest the avenger of blood, while his anger is hot, pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and kill him, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated the victim in time past. (Deu 19:4-6)
Read all of Dt 19 to get the fuller picture but basically, if you killed someone by accident, you could be found not guilty and not subject to the vengeance of the avenger of blood. However, we cannot miss that this guilt or innocence rests on a key phrase “since he had not hated the victim in the time past.” No grudges, no animosity, no doubt that he had not set a trap, no hate. the idea of ‘in time past’ goes back three days and some versions so translate it.
We cannot allow hate to control our lives, or lusts, or covetousness or any such thing and these ideas come from the heart.
And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mar 7:20-23)
I will continue discussing this in the next few blogs and expounding on the lessons presented today. As I have opportunity, I will link to them when I get them loaded. Until then, like the song we teach our children: Be careful little mind what you think!