Showing posts from June, 2024

Everything Comes From the Heart

Everything we do comes from our hearts.  One of the most succinct ways the Bible states this truth is found in Proverbs 4:23. The idea can be stated so succinctly because it contains two metaphors. The first metaphor is pretty familiar to us - your heart.  In the mind of the author of Proverbs and his original hearers, the heart is the center of a person. The heart is comprised of the thoughts, volition, conscience and more.  The second metaphor isn’t terribly difficult to understand either. It combines two words in the original language of Hebrew. The first word communicates the idea of the place things begin:  their source, starting point, or the place from where things outpour. The second word communicates life. So the metaphor is like a river of life or the place from where all life flows.  Combine the two images and you get a picture of all life flowing out of the starting place of the heart.  According to this verse, our loves and hates, inclinatio

Fighting Sin With Delight

When times get really hard it becomes so much easier to sin. Psalm 37 is all about how to persevere during a really hard time.  The Psalmist, David, writes that wicked people are doing terrible things. How should David and the people respond? David says we should respond with stillness, patience, and faith. But how is that even possible? How can we just sit there and take it? How can we be still when everything is swirling around us? How can we be patient when everything is going wrong? How can we have faith when all hope seems to be lost?  There is a lot of good advice in this Psalm to answer these questions. But one of the most beautiful, helpful, and famous is found in Psalm 37:4.  “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  This verse is so helpful for two main reasons.  First, perseverance and fighting sin don’t have to be a sad affair. We are called to find delight! But where are we to find this delight in such bleak circumstances?

God Wants Your Heart

What is God after? What does he want from us? Is he after a song on Sunday or a really good prayer at night? I think we all know the answer is no. God is after our hearts.  One of the clearest moments in the Bible where we learn this truth is in Isaiah. God is describing through his prophet a siege that is coming upon Jerusalem.  However, no matter how much the people hear of Isaiah’s words and God’s revelation, they will not really listen. They will be like a person who is given a book but cannot open it and like one who is given a book but cannot read (29:11-12).  So why this coming punishment? And why can’t the people understand the visions and warnings from God?  Here is where we get our clear picture of what God is after. Here is the reason.  “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” (29:13).  God is punishing and blinding his people because they are putting on a show of religion, but their hearts

Sin Doesn’t Come From Temptation

I grew up thinking temptation was where sin came from. On any given day, I would be going about my business and then temptation would spring to life: a pretty girl would walk by, a friend would launch into a dirty joke, a copy of next week’s test would fall into my hands. It was my duty, then and there, to fight temptation by saying no to it or fleeing from it altogether. Temptation was the enemy. Defeat meant sin. But the problem is not temptation. The real problem is in the heart where our desires lie.  Temptation cannot exist where desire does not first exist. You cannot be tempted to do something you do not first want. The Bible teaches that desire brings about temptation. “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death” (1:14–15). When does temptation occur? After the desires have enticed us. Temptations do not produce desires, but desires p

Good or Bad Comes From The Heart

What causes us to do good or evil? Most people seem to think that it comes down to the decisions we make. If you set your mind on doing good you will. If you choose to do evil, you’ll do that instead.  But Jesus teaches us that the real source of our actions lies much deeper. It all comes down to the heart.  “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Lk. 6:45).  Whatever is in your heart ends up in your life.  What you treasure, value, glory in, and enjoy will result in what you do. If you treasure good things in your heart, then you will do good. If you treasure evil in your heart, then you will do evil.  So how do we change what our hearts treasure? The answer, in Jesus’ words, is different than we might expect. We might expect a list of disciplines, habits, or meditations that would change what our hearts value.  However, the con

The Wrong Way To Fight Sin

When you want to stop doing a sin, what do you do?  Do you try to deprive yourself of something, keep away from tempting situations, or try to distract yourself with more innocuous activities?  You have probably already learned this through practice, but none of these techniques will ever work. You cannot deprive yourself, ignore your desires, or beat your will into submission. Why? Because your mind and will aren’t the center of your decision-making process. Your heart is. If you don’t love something you won’t do it. If you don’t hate something you won’t leave it alone.  Yet in so many of the self-help books and even sermons today, people are preaching this strategy. There is always some new “wisdom” for how to stop bad habits and start good ones. Many of them treat sin like a diet. Starve out the bad. Feed the good. But sin doesn't work like this.  In our passage for today, Paul is going up against similar religious tactics of his time. He is trying to help his audience fight the