Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Looking at the Heart

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.” 1 Samuel 16:7  ESV

God got the attention of the Apostle Paul and forced him to see the truth about his life. Has God done that to you?  The interesting thing about Paul’s story that sets it apart from almost every other story in the bible is that when Paul was converted, he was already very religious.  He wasn’t running from God, He was trying to serve God.  He was doing everything he could to please God, he was zealous for God.  Only one problem, he was very misled about what it meant to serve God. And that makes the story of Saul who became Paul, the most relevant possible story for our society today.

People in the US are really pretty religious, but does that mean they have the power of God working in them.  Well: when you put it that way, I don’t think so. Not for most people who call themselves Christians. You see, there’s a big difference in being religious, and in truly loving God.  Many are pretty religious, but they are missing God.

It’s ironic that Paul had gone several years spiritually blind to the teachings of Jesus but when his eyes were opened spiritually, he became blinded physically.   Some of us grew up in church, and so we’ve been learning about God all our lives. I grew up in a Baptist church and I appreciate that upbringing and all I learned.  But the problem is, we learn a lot, along with those Bible stories, that doesn’t have anything to do with what God is really like, and some of those things blind us spiritually.  We learn that a quote “Christian” looks and acts a certain way, that there are rules and regulations that you can follow to please God.  We learn that if you act a certain way, especially when you’re in church, then people will think you’re a good Christian.  And we’re taught certain ways of doing religion. You’ve got to sing this certain kind of music, or we get taught that certain versions of the Bible are OK.

Whenever you get a certain picture in your mind of what a Christian looks like, and then you start trying to look like that; you’ve just taken your first step away from grace, and toward legalism.  Because that’s not how God looks at us.

In 1967 in the midst of the hippie movement in the US there was a huge revival of interest in God that started in the U.S., which is now usually called the Jesus movement. It started on the West Coast and spread to the rest of the U.S. but all these long haired hippie types started getting saved.

But they weren’t getting saved in churches, they were getting saved on the beaches, or on the streets, or in bars, as a result of work of organizations like Youth for Christ, and Campus Crusade, and Youth With A Mission, and others.  All these hippies were turning their backs on drugs and sex, and turning to Jesus to find meaning in their lives.  The Jesus Movement had a huge impact between 1967 and 1975.  In fact, in 1971, this Jesus Movement ranked number three in Time Magazines story of the year poll. Thousands and thousands of the most unlikely people turning to Jesus. 

I can imagine God looking down from heaven, and he is so excited, because all of these lost, desperately needy people, are turning to Jesus, as the answer to life. And all the angels are having a party as they look down and see this great revival happening across the US.

Now, the problem was that after all these people got saved, on the beach, or wherever, they started thinking, we ought to start going to church somewhere. So they’d find a church nearby and show up on Sunday morning.  And these churches were not ready for anything like this.  They expected people to dress up when they came to church, they expected them to cut their hair, and behave normally, and look like they look.  So they weren’t too excited about all these new converts.

You see, the problem was, these churches were too religious.  They had all their ideas of what it meant to be a Christian, or what a Christian looked like, and they were blind to what was really important.  For these churches, the external appearance was so important, but they forgot something – they forgot that what God looks at, is the heart.  God doesn’t care what you look like on the outside, he looks at your heart.

Jesus told the Pharisees in Matt 23:27-28 You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. He was trying to tell them You Pharisees are completely missing it. God looks on the inside, at your heart. That’s where you need to be beautiful.  On the inside; not on the outside.  God doesn’t care about your outward appearance.

Scripture to Claim:
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
1 Peter 3:3-4  ESV

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