Sunday, September 2, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - The Virtues of the Heart

Before the advent of television or the Internet, there were serialized dramas that people listened to on the radio or read. My father would often share his memories of going to the Saturday morning movies with his friends to watch the serials and be entertained by the Silver Screen cowboys. One of the serials he remembered fondly was “The Shadow”. 

The Shadow was an invisible avenger who fought evil and learned from his travels in eastern Asia "the mysterious power to cloud men's minds, so they could not see him.” Each installment started out the same way. The narrator, actor Frank Readick Jr,, would say a line that remains to this day a part of Americana, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” The Shadow fought against evil and only he knew the hearts of men. At the end of each episode, the Shadow reminded listeners, “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit! Crime does not pay...The Shadow knows!"

As humans, we are unable to see into the hearts of others. We do not know if evil or goodness lurks in the inner chambers of the human heart. No one can tell what thoughts are being entertained in their minds. Is this person really as nice as he or she seems? We have no insight. But, there is one who is able not only to understand but also know the hearts of all. God is the only one who can know the heart of a person. 

A great example of this is the story of David. Samuel, charged by God to find the next king of Israel, is told by God not to judge people by their looks. A person’s looks can easily conceal what lies inside his or her heart. Just as an actor on stage can change from one character to another, a person can change his or her appearance to masquerade as another easily. An actor by merely changing makeup and a costume can easily assume the role of another person with ease. Humans can easily be swayed by a deceptive individual. Remember the old adage. You cannot judge a book by its cover. It is impossible for us to truly know even the closest of friends. Can we truly know what is going on in the heart of a person? It is impossible.

The only one who can judge a person’s heart and know, with certainty, whether that person is good or evil is God. In 1 Samuel 16, God tells Samuel after Samuel sees Eliab, one of Jesse’s sons, “7 Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

As Jesse brought out each of his seven sons, God rejected them all. Samuel then asked Jesse if these were all of his sons. Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest. He is tending the sheep.” Samuel asked to see him. The youngest, named David, was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. God immediately told Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” God knew the heart of David and knew that he would lead His people by following God’s instructions.

In Acts 13, God says this of David, after removing Saul and replacing him, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.“ Although David succumbs to temptation, he returns to the Lord, repents of his transgressions and continues to seek God’s will.  He continues to lead a righteous life. 

Jesus, in his parable about the shrewd manager in Luke 16, tells us, “10 If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. 11 And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? 12 And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?

The Pharisees, who loved money, became incensed and scoffed at Jesus and his teachings. Jesus responds, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.

Although people may seem honorable and forthright in public, their hearts may be filled with evil and hatred. In order to realize the praises of the people around them, they will publicly profess their goodness and do only those things that bring them glory and honor. They seek only worldly praise and do only those things that the world honors. 

As Christians, we do not live to seek the praise of others. Our goal is to live our lives in total dedication to the Lord and to give Him all praise and glory. Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians tells us in chapter 3, “17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

As representatives of the Lord Jesus, we must only do and say those things that bring glory and honor to God. It is not our place to seek out rewards here on earth. Our reward is given to us by God and stored in our eternal home with the Father. The wealth, honor and glory of this world is fleeting and is subject to the elements. Over time, everyone forgets what we have done and the words of praise given to us by those around us soon become distant memories and footnotes. The Father never forgets our acts of kindness and sees what we do in private.

When we do things in righteousness, God sees the goodness in our hearts and knows that we are truly doing and saying those things that are good and pleasing to the Lord. Our acts and words of kindness are done for the right reasons and not for worldly praise or honor. Although the world cannot truly judge or see our hearts, they can see the fruits that we bear as we continue to serve the Lord. They see us as we truly are. We are not deceptive in nature. We do not seek worldly praise and honor. We live only for the Father.

Later in Colossians, Paul tells us, “23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” When we do this, we, once again, show the Father that we can handle great responsibilities in His kingdom. We are not here to serve our own vanity. We are here to serve God and do His will on earth. 

As you work and play during the rest of this week, think of your actions and words. Are you doing everything possible to bring praise and honor to God? Are you showing the world what truly is in your heart? Is it goodness or evil that lies in your heart? Men cannot truly know what lurks there, but God does. Make sure that your thoughts and actions are good and, as Paul in Philippians 4 tells us, “8 Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” When we do only those things, our hearts are pure before the Lord and it is only then we are able to stand firm in His grace.

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

No comments:

Post a Comment