Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Art of the Heart: Using the letter of God's law to fulfill the heart of God's law

"The heart" of man is a quandary to be sure. Untrustworthy, contradictory ....yet a very essential part of us, an element of our existence that could only be designed by God Himself. Perhaps we can parse this paradoxical thing by comparing it to other of God's creation.

Last Summer we spent a few days in south-central Texas; just in cactus ccountry apparently. Adam brought some cacti home to transplant. I've often thought that we do little to care for the plants. So far, they're alive. I was reading a story about another person who did manage to kill some plants she was given. As she mourned the fact that she was less nurturing than even the desert ....she began to learn that even the cactus needs more than just watering. It needs to be brought in on heavily rainy days, there are certain amounts of water it needs, even re-potting at times.

Even as Believers and Followers In today's world we often focus on not doing what is wrong, instead of focusing on what we need to do right.

As Christ-followers, it may be easier to avoid a sin of co-mission than to recognize our sins of o-mission. Practicing so hard to not do wrong ....we fail to do what is right; what Christ really desires of us with a changed heart.. We attempt to follow the letter of the law, missing the heart of the law. Jesus had thoughts on the matter.....
"As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:9-13 ESV)

1. Do the work of an evangelist
II Timothy 4:5 reminds us "...always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
While we are repeating, re-tweeting, and re-posting our favorite t-shirt slogans about being in the world, but not of the world .....let us recognize the fulness of what that means; considering that truth with what Jesus speaks according to Matthew's own recollection.
"But when He heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick."
Folks need not only to know they are sinners, and that God hates sin,, but they need to hear the solution to the problem of sin. Be an evangelist! Preach sinners to repentance!

2. Study to show yourself approved
Again, as paralleled by Paul's admonishment to Timothy teaches..... 
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

Jesus encouraged these otherwise learned men to "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice." Jesus used His words wisely, with the right audience, and within the right context. We would do well to do likewise, with a heart desiring that other sinners come to repentance. He instructed these Phrisees to "Go and learn". This was a language, and phrasing, they used as they, themselves, taught. He cited the words of Hosea... "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6 ESV)" ....from the Old Covenant these men so rigidly followed.

3. Practice the art of having Christ' heart
As Jesus rightly handeled His Father's word of truth, citing this same truth from the book of Hosea, He continued to "fulfill" His work. He told us ,concerning the Law or the Prophets...... "I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17 ESV)". With complete consistency Christ teaches the heart of the law, which fulfills, completes, the letter of the law. 

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31 ESV)
With the confidence, and full backing, of Christ Himself ....we can boldly claim all of God's truths; truths that we are depraved, and all sinners who have come short of God's glorious standard. Yet let us never cite the problem without providing The Solution, and doing so with Christ-like love and empathy. Practice the art of having Christ' heart.

Believers.... let's first be Christ-like, and then be Christian. If we do the work of an evangelist, studying to gain God's certification, we'll come away with a heart that, like Jesus, desires mercy, not sacrifice.

Un-Believer / non-follower..... are you willing to recognize your sinful condition, laying aside blame or earthly cause, realizing you are estranged from your Creator, but now seeing that with a surrendered, and humbled, heart you can be reconciled. God always desires you. He craves you being with Him. But He will not contradict Himself. It is we who are the transgressors.