The Third Gateway to the Heart: The Thoughts, Part 2: Honoring God with our Thought Life

As Christians our thought life should honor God first and foremost. The Greek word translated “honor” in Romans 1:21 means to make glorious, to adorn with splendor, to make excellent, and to cause the worth of something to be made known. Our thinking should glorify God and adorn Him with splendor. Our thoughts should magnify God daily and give Him the dignity He deserves. Our thoughts should be flooded with thanksgiving to God for His blessings, love, mercy, and grace.

Do your thoughts glorify God daily? Is your thought life a model of honor and thanksgiving to your God? We must never give the glory of our thoughts to another. We can never glorify God with our lives if we are not glorifying Him with our thoughts.

Noah’s thought life was different because he chose to walk with God. It must have been possible for all of those millions of people on the face of the earth to do the same. But in their thinking and ultimately in their hearts, they refused.

Before Noah, Enoch also walked with God for hundreds of years. So all these people had a choice to follow God and let Him govern their thought life, or to reject God and walk in alignment with their own sin nature. In the Hebrew, “to walk” is to form habit patterns that determine your way of life. It is the way we live our lives daily. To walk with God is to form a habit pattern of thought and action that conforms our way to God’s revealed truth.

It is impossible for any human being without God to make life work and keep himself from evil. We must walk with God for life to have true meaning. Walking with God on its most basic level is walking with God in our thought life. Our thoughts should be filled with God’s presence, truth, and nature. A thought life without God is ultimately an exercise in foolishness, and it always leads to dangerous consequences for the heart.

If we do not control our thought life, it has a tendency to run toward evil faster than a speeding train. Without God’s revelation to guide our thought life, it wanders aimlessly in darkness and stumbles into every trap of the enemy. A thought life not centered upon God always leads to rebellion against the way of God.

God cries out to His people to get their thought life in line with His revealed Word.

I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts. (Isaiah 65:2, NKJV)

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. (Isaiah 55:7, ESV)

Every day we should check our thought life and bring it to the feet of our Lord. Our thoughts should be preparing the way of the Lord in our hearts. Each day we should be doing a spiritual check-up of our thought life by asking God to examine our thoughts and reveal to us any trace of rebellion, selfishness, and sin that is dominating our thinking. We should forsake these thought patterns, ask God for forgiveness, and ask Him to cleanse our thinking with the blood of Jesus Christ and return our thoughts to the Lord.  Read and study the Bible daily, meditate upon it, ponder it, memorize it and keep it before your eyes. Spend time alone with God every day (one hour minimum) in prayer and praise. Practice the presence of God. Sing daily songs in your heart to the Lord. These daily habits will help you to develop a disciplined godly thought life.

The Devil is always trying to turn our thoughts away from the Lord, and he has a whole arsenal of weapons that barrage our minds with distractions, lusts, images, and temptations to accomplish this spiritual strategy. Thinking is the last filter that any image, word, or idea goes through before it enters the heart. We may be bombarded by images, words, or ideas, but we process them and ultimately accept or reject them by thought. We determine by our thinking what will enter into our hearts.

This is why our thought life is always on the front lines of spiritual warfare as we engage in a thought-by-thought combat for our hearts. We cannot stand for God against the powers of darkness without a vigilant and constant effort of renewing our thoughts and bringing them in line with Scripture. Allowing thought patterns of unbelief, fear, anxiety, anger, lust, and bitterness to govern our thinking is playing right into the enemy’s camp.

God is so concerned with our thought life that He stretches out His arms in love each day with the encouragement to think in a way that glorifies Him. Our thoughts should be holy, for He is holy. Our thoughts should be righteous, for He is righteous. Our thoughts should be just, for He is just. Our thoughts should be love, for He is love. Our thoughts should be peace, for He is our peace. Our thoughts should be joy, for He is our joy. Our thoughts should be compassion, for the Compassionate One lives inside us. Our thoughts should be kindness, for He is kind. Our thoughts should be built upon our great reverence for God. Our thoughts should rest on the mighty splendor and majesty of our God.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. 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. (Philippians 4:8, NLT)

This verse summarizes what should be the makeup of the thoughts that occupy a Christian’s mind. We can use this as a checklist to determine whether our predominant thinking is glorifying God.

What would the ingredients label look like on the thoughts that entertain your mind? Is truth an ingredient? Honor? Purity? Are the contents of your thoughts things that God would consider excellent and worthy of praise? Or does your thought life look like a fast-food restaurant full of spiritual junk food?

In our partnership with God, we need to become spiritual repairmen and begin to fix our thought life. We need to become spiritual health specialists and begin to detox our thought life.

Do you want to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? This love for God begins with your thought life. Do you want to have great faith that will move mountains? This mountain-moving faith begins with your thought life. Do you want to manifest the character and life of Jesus Christ in everything you say or do? Do you want to live with a passion for God and fulfill His purpose for your life? It all starts one thought at a time.

Toxic Thoughts Poisoning our Spiritual Life

As Christians we cannot afford to neglect our thought life. We cannot be fooled into thinking, Oh, it is just a thought. It’s harmless. Toxic thoughts are like a spiritual cancer to the heart.

Dr. Carolyn Leaf, in Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions, explains:

Toxic thoughts are like poison, but the good news is you can break the cycle of toxic thinking. You can reverse the effects of toxic thoughts. And once that cycle of toxic thinking has been broken, your thoughts can actually start to improve in every area of your life—your relationships, your health and even your success. A thought may seem harmless, but if it becomes toxic, even just a thought can become physically, emotionally or spiritually dangerous. Thoughts are measurable and occupy mental “real estate.” Thoughts are active; they grow and change. Thoughts influence every decision, word, action and physical reaction we make. Every time you have a thought, it is actively changing your brain and your body—for better or for worse….Toxic thoughts don’t just creep into our minds as a result of abuse or an especially horrible trauma. Toxic thoughts affect people in all stages of life, in every part of the world, every day. Even something as small as a minor irritation can become toxic, and these thoughts need to be swept away….You have been experiencing the effects of all of your thoughts your entire life and may not have even known it!…In fact, your thoughts create changes right down to genetic levels, restructuring the cell’s makeup. Scientists have shown this restructuring is how diseases are all to take hold of the body….You can take back control of your body and mind! It is possible to lead an emotionally happy and physically healing lifestyle simply by learning to control your thought life.[i]

Never underestimate the power of one thought as it can become spiritually dangerous and lead to an entire pattern of thinking that becomes toxic to the heart. One thought can open up the floodgates to a way of thinking that corrupts the way of God and is the access point for the Enemy to ride into our hearts. One thought can be the first drop of spiritual poison that erects an altar of unbelief in our hearts.

We must learn to think as God wants us to think if we want to have healthy spiritual hearts for the Lord. How we think influences every part of our life. We must become the watchmen of our thought life and with untiring vigilance guard it from being controlled by our sin nature or by the impulses of the world. The battle line is always drawn in our thought life. This is where the war for the heart is either won or lost.

No one understands the danger of toxic thoughts more than God Almighty. He saw toxic thinking grip the hearts of every man, woman, and child on earth. He saw toxic thinking destroy the hearts of the entire human race. He saw the evil that toxic thinking produces in people’s lives. The toxic thinking of men and women whom He created for His glory crushed God’s heart.

To understand why these thought patterns are so dangerous to the spiritual health of our hearts, we must have some understanding of what happens in our brains when we have toxic thoughts.

Dr. Carolyn Leaf, in Who Switched Off My Brain: Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions, says:

Toxic thoughts are thoughts that trigger negative and anxious emotions, which produce biochemicals that cause the body stress. They are stored in your mind, as well as the cells in your body….The surprising truth is that every single thought—whether it is positive or negative—goes through the same cycle when it forms. Thoughts are basically electrical impulses, chemicals and neurons. They look like a tree with branches. As the thoughts grow and become permanent, more branches grow and the connections become stronger. As we change our thinking, some branches go away, new ones form, the strength of the connections change, and the memories network with other thoughts. What an incredible capacity of the brain to change and rewire and grow! Spiritually, this is renewing the mind….The chemicals are like little cellular signals that translate the information of your thought into a physical reality in your body and mind, creating an emotion….Your thoughts create changes right down to genetic levels, restructuring the cell’s makeup….The first step in the process of forming a thought, gathering these electrical impulses, makes sense of the information coming from your five senses. The incoming information then travels through some astonishing brain structures that flavor, enrich and distribute the information all along the way. The information is taken to a place where you decide on the permanence of that information and whether it becomes a part of who you are. The most exciting facts of this journey are the brain’s ability to react to toxic versus non-toxic information and the many opportunities we have to accept or reject incoming information. You can control the incoming information and get rid of what you don’t want before it wires into your brain and affects who you are….After the gathering stage, electrical information created by our thoughts moving toward the front of the brain. The information stays in the hippocampus for 24 to 48 hours….The amplification means the thought is very conscious and becomes “labile” or unstable, which means it is moldable and can be changed….The science of thought demands that change must occur—either reinforcing the thought as it is or changing some or all of it….So if we don’t get rid of a thought we reinforce it. Thoughts are constantly remodeled by the renewing of your mind….When we do this, we actually change the physical structure (called neuroplasticity) of the brain, because thinking causes really important neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that carry electrical impulses) to flow. These neurotransmitters…cause changes deep inside the cell, affecting genetic expression and protein synthesis….Remember our behavior follows our thoughts. … Analyzing and addressing our thoughts are key components of conquering the habits and behaviors that seem to hold us hostage.[ii]

Think Like Christ

God sets the standard high for our thought life in the book of Philippians.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5, KJV)

Think the same way Christ Jesus thought. (CEV)

In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus. (NCV)

Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (GW)

God would not command this if it was not possible to accomplish with His divine help.

The Greek word translated “mind” or “attitude” is phroneo, and it means thoughts. It is the thought patterns of one’s mind. It is the deliberate setting of the mind upon something through the habit of thought. Phroneo emphasizes the content of the thoughts. It is thinking to the point that thought moves the will, the reasoning, and the emotions. It is thinking with a purpose and a direction as the thoughts bend the mind toward the object of their desire. It is a thought that is cherished to the point that a mental habit is built.

Phroneo is our frame of mind and attitude built by our thoughts. This Greek word is in the present tense, which indicates that it should be a continual, habitual action of our lives; it should be our lifestyle. It is also in the imperative mood, which means it is a command of God Almighty that calls for us to perform this action.

We are to have the same thought life that Christ Jesus had. We are to have the same attitude and habit of thought as Jesus. The purpose and direction of our thinking that moves our will, reasoning, and emotions should be the same as Jesus. We should have the same frame of mind as Jesus in every circumstance of life. The thoughts that Jesus cherished, I must cherish. The thoughts that Jesus fixed his mind on, I must fix my mind on. The thought patterns of my mind should be the thought patterns of Jesus.

The day-by-day habit of our thinking should be a model and reflection of the thought life of our Savior. If we have the same thoughts as Jesus, our hearts will be the same as His. Our hearts will reflect the love, compassion, and touch of Jesus in everything we do or say. What an amazing and inspiring goal! We must reject the toxic thoughts that try to dominate our minds, for Jesus never had one toxic thought. Check your thought habits at the feet of Jesus and ask God whether this is the type of thinking that Jesus had.

We must filter our thoughts through the heart and mind of Jesus Christ. When we are tempted to allow bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, hatred, covetousness, or selfishness to dominate our thoughts, we must stop this way of thinking, because we know Jesus did not think these types of thoughts. God commands us to not allow any thoughts to occupy our minds other than thoughts that would be worthy of Jesus. This is the gold standard for our thought life. We cannot do this in our own ability, but only through the power of Christ that is at work within us.

How did Jesus Christ think? What kind of attitude did He exhibit? What type of thoughts occupied His mind? The Bible is full of examples of Christ’s attitude and thinking in every circumstance of life. The four gospels give us valuable information about Jesus’ life and ministry, and we can vividly see the character of his thought life. Many other books of the Bible also paint a picture of our Savior’s attitude when He lived upon the earth, when He sat down at the right hand of God as our intercessor and advocate, and when He comes back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We must look at this full spectrum of Christ’s life, from His time in the temple at the age of twelve all to the way to the establishment of His eternal kingdom on the earth, to get the complete impact of His thought life. We need to go no further than the context in Philippians 2 to see what characteristics dominated the thought life of Christ.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3, 6–8, NASB)

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. (Verse 7, KJV)

No Selfishness in Thoughts of Jesus

Selfishness did not exist in the thought life of Jesus. Conceit, pride, or rebellion against God never entered His mind. Jesus emptied Himself and made Himself of no reputation.

How contrary this is to the culture of our day, where everything revolves around the exaltation of self. Everyone is trying to make a name for themselves; everyone is trying to be successful; everyone is trying to become the star of his own world; everyone is worshipping at the altar of self. So many relentlessly pursue fame, reputation, and self-glory. It’s all about me: what I want, what I need, how it makes me feel better, how it makes me look better, how it makes me richer, and how it advances my reputation. Everything people do and everything they think is to promote and advance self, often to the detriment of others. This is extremely dangerous thinking. This sets the heart on a path that ultimately leads to its destruction.

Eric and Leslie Ludy, in Meet Mr. Smith: Revolutionize the Way You Think About Sex, Purity and Romance, describe the danger of selfishness:

Selfishness…that’s the sickness. That’s the problem. It’s that simple to describe. Selfishness is the essence of everything wrong…on planet earth….Selfishness…works underground. Most people don’t even realize it is there, which is precisely why it is so dangerous. Selfishness works in secret, behind closed doors, on the black market, plotting and planning our destruction. Selfishness is the Mob boss of the soul. In fact, without selfishness, you wouldn’t have murder, hate, holocaust, slander, genocide, betrayal….Simply put, selfishness is the sickness behind all other sicknesses….Selfishness is you having the gall to actually sit in the president’s brown leather chair and try to rule over your life as if you were, in fact, the real authority. You are not the rightful authority over your life. God is. But you sat down in the chair and claimed it for yourself….Selfishness is a messy, miserable problem. But there is a way out….It involves giving up your life as you may know it. It involves giving the brown leather chair back to God and allowing Him to rule your life from this day forward.[iii]

Selfishness has contaminated the witness of the church. Spiritualized selfishness has infiltrated the churches and pulpits of our land. Christians often think, “Look how great my ministry is. Look at my good works. Look how much of the Bible I know. Look how much more spiritual I am than people in other churches. I’m glad I’m not like that poor fellow!” This baptized selfishness brings no glory to God. Jesus Christ is not being awakened in our culture by living self-indulgent lives. We have called Jesus Christ Lord in name only as we clothed our hearts in robes of self-righteousness.

Why are we so concerned for making a name for ourselves? Why does everyone have to sing our praises? Why are we so concerned about exalting self at the expense of others? Would we sacrifice our reputation for the Lord? Would we empty ourselves and make ourselves of no reputation?

Self-exaltation was birthed in Lucifer, as he was the first one who tried to exalt self above God. Selfishness is the dominant characteristic of our sin nature and is at the root all sin. Selfishness breeds pride and rebellion against God. We should never let selfishness be the guide of our thought life.

The Bible is clear that nothing we do should be done out of vanity, self-glory, ambition, and pride (Philippians 2:3) The Greek word translated “empty” in Philippians 2:8 was used to refer to pouring something out until there was nothing left. We must pour out of our thinking every vestige of selfishness.

Are you willing to be counted as nothing in reputation and status in order to serve our Lord? Are you willing to be the Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael and C.T, Studd of this generation who gave up all for Christ?

God does not want one sliver of selfishness to occupy our thoughts.  He must increase and I must decrease in our thinking (John 3:30). The majesty, honor, and glory of God should be manifested to a faithless world through my thought life, as it molds my heart into a masterpiece that reflects the image of God in brilliant splendor. For Jesus Christ to be Lord of my life, He must first be Lord of my thoughts.

 

[i] Dr. Carolyn Leaf, Who Switched Off My Brain: Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009).

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Eric Ludy, Meet Mr. Smith: Revolutionize the Way You Think About Sex, Purity and Romance (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 19,20.

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The Thoughts: The Third Gateway to the Heart, Part 1: You Are What You Think

Nothing is more important to our Christian life than the thoughts that occupy our minds on a daily basis. If we are to walk with God and do His will on the earth, we must take control of our thought life. The critical question becomes “What are you thinking?”

Our hearts are built on the foundation of our thoughts. The heart is molded and shaped by our thoughts. In fact, the heart is the sum total of our thoughts. Thoughts are the blueprint of the heart, and the heart becomes the image of its thoughts. Scripture sums up this truth wonderfully in Proverbs 23:7: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” We are what we think. Our thinking is daily changing the composition of our hearts as it chisels our character and behavior.

However even for Christians, their thought lives are a hodgepodge of scattered confusion. The pattern of their thoughts is infused with fear, worry, impatience, and spiritual dullness. As Christians, we have become lazy and inattentive to our thoughts, which is a recipe for disaster for our hearts. We cannot ignore the importance of our thinking if we want to love God with all our hearts.

A.W. Tozer, in True Revivals Are Born after Midnight: Spiritual Renewal Comes to Those Who Want it Badly Enough, enlightens our understanding on the significance of the Christian thought life:

Our voluntary thoughts not only reveal what we are, they predict what we will become. Except that conduct which springs from our basic natural instincts, all conscious behavior is proceeded by and arises out of our thoughts. The will can become a servant of the thoughts, and to a large degree even our emotions follow our thinking….Anyone who wishes to check on his true spiritual condition may do so by noting what his voluntary thoughts have been over the last hours or days. What has he thought about when free to think of what he pleased? Toward what has his inner heart turned when it was free to turn where it would? When the bird of thought was let go, did it fly out like the raven to settle upon floating carcasses or did it like the dove circle and return to the ark of God? Such a test is easy to run, and if we are honest with ourselves we can discover not only what we are but what we are going to become. We’ll soon be the sum of our voluntary thoughts. While our thoughts stir our feelings, and thus strongly influence our wills, it is true that the will can be and should be master of our thoughts. Every normal person can determine what he will think about.[i]

As Christians, we must become masters of our thought life. We cannot let our thoughts wander aimlessly wherever they desire to go without boundary or limitation. We cannot become indifferent to what we are thinking because our thoughts are a true gauge of the spiritual condition of our hearts. Our thoughts determines how ablaze our hearts are for God and how tender our hearts are to His gentle touch. Our thoughts determine what direction our hearts will turn and what paths our hearts will follow.

Tozer encourages Christians to “form the habit of a holy thought life.”[ii] God has called us to think rightly, holy, and godly. Our thinking should be a reflection of our love for God and our obedience to Christ. Our thoughts should be a testimony that we treasure God and seek His face above anything else. We cannot have passion for God if our thinking is in the garbage dump.

God commands us to love Him with all our mind (Luke 10:27). John Piper, in Think, says this means “to direct our thinking in a certain way, namely our thinking should be wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.[iii]” He continues:

Thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God. Thinking is not an end in itself. Nothing but God himself is finally an end in itself. Thinking is not the goal in life. Thinking, like non-thinking, can be the ground for boasting. Thinking, without prayer, without the Holy Spirit, without obedience, without love, will puff up and destroy (I Cor. 8:1). But thinking under the mighty hand of God, thinking soaked in prayer, thinking carried by the Holy Spirit, thinking tethered to the Bible, thinking in pursuit of more reasons to praise and proclaim the glories of God, thinking in the service of love—such thinking is indispensable in a life of fullest praise to God.[iv]

Our thinking is to be borne from the Almighty, who is living in our hearts. It must be immersed in prayer, rooted in the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and built upon our intimate relationship with God. Our thought life should prepare our hearts for the Lord so that He might live and reign from its throne room.

Our thoughts condition our hearts to do either good or evil. King David, in his last admonishment to his son Solomon and the children of Israel, exhorts them to frame their thoughts carefully so God can prepare their hearts to love and serve Him above all else.

Thine, O Jehovah, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Jehovah, and thou art exalted as head above all.

O Jehovah, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee; And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart. (I Chronicles 29:11, 18–19, )

The Heart is A Mirror Reflecting the Image of Our Thoughts

The Hebrew word translated “imagination” means to frame, form, or shape a purpose or desire. Forming an image in the mind drives the heart toward to it. Every thought in its most basic sense has an image as its foundation. This image could be a person, object, idea, or desire. The image is the fuel of each thought.

When certain thoughts begin to dominate our minds, they carry their images into our hearts. The heart begins to take the form of these images. The image formed in the heart can be amazingly purifying or incredibly destructive.

The heart is like a mirror, reflecting the image of its thoughts. God should be the only image that dominates our thinking. He is the pole star, the rock, and the focus of our thoughts. Our thinking provides a framework for our entire life, as it continually molds and shapes our hearts.

Our transformation into the image of Christ, and our spiritual growth into a mature Christian, always passes through our thought life.  Our hearts become complete and perfect in Him when God is the center of our thoughts. We must become keenly aware of what images our thoughts are bringing into our hearts. Ask yourself what image is directing my thoughts? How easy it is for this image of our thoughts to become skewed in its focus and a breeding ground for evil.

The first use of this word “thoughts” in the Bible sets the pattern throughout all of Scripture, It illustrates what happens when we do not control our thinking and our thoughts are fashioned according to the wrong image.

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. (Genesis 6:5–6, NLT)

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually. (Verse 5, AMP)

It is sobering to see what happened to the human heart because of a reckless thought life.

It did not take long after sin had poured into the human race in the Garden of Eden for men’s and women’s thinking to go down the tubes. Almost immediately Adam and Eve let fear dominate their thinking when they hid from the presence of God. God was no longer the focal image of their thoughts.

Corrupt thinking only worsened, as Cain murdered Abel when thoughts of jealousy and anger shaped his heart into a murderer. Sin was crouching at the door of Cain’s thought life, and he failed to master it. Each succeeding generation continued to allow sin to crowd God out of their thinking.

The Days of Noah: The Point of No Return

In Genesis 6, people’s thought life had so corrupted their hearts that it reached a point of no return. Every thought, imagination, and intention of their human thinking was consistently and totally evil from morning to night. The Bible does not say some of the imaginations and thoughts of the human race were continually evil, but all of their images, desires, intentions, and inclinations, in every single thought, were evil.

The Hebrew word translated “continually” means daily or at all times, which emphasizes that this was not just some weekend fling. It was their thinking from the time they got up in the morning until the time they went to bed at night. There was not a moment in the day when this evil thought process was not actively controlling their minds and shaping their hearts. Their hearts were ready to do evil at all times because they refused to think rightly according to God’s holy standard. The image that they fashioned in their thoughts was pure evil. It poisoned their hearts so that they would never repent, turn to God, and forsake their evil ways. Evil had completely consumed their hearts, and they wanted absolutely nothing to do with God in their thinking, actions, and ultimately in their hearts.

The psalmist affirms this destructive habit of wrong thinking to the human heart:

The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts. (Psalm 10:4, NKJV)

In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (NIV)

This wicked and rebellious people in the time of Noah did not seek God in their thinking. God was not in one single thought. God is the most awesome, majestic, and honorable thing we can ever think about, but these people were so deceived that they did not believe they needed God. They simply had no room for God in their thinking, and this opened the door for every kind of destructive thought that eventually shaped their hearts into a monument of evil.

This is the tragic height of selfishness. This is the ultimate ego trip. This is the most dangerous thinking pattern on the planet. Without God in our thoughts, we have written the death sentence to the magnificent purpose God has prepared for our lives. To never know Him is the greatest catastrophe of the ages. He deserves the honor to be first in our thinking.

God cried out day after day to this generation’s rebellious hearts to forsake their unrighteous thoughts and turn their thinking to the Lord. If they had done so, He would have had mercy and abundantly pardoned. But they turned a deaf ear and cleaved unto their evil thoughts which led to their destruction.

In Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clark, he describes this destructive condition of thought:

All the imaginations of their thoughts were evil—the very first embryo of every idea, the figment of every thought, the very materials out of which perception, conception, and ideas were formed were all evil; the fountain which produced them, with every thought, purpose, wish, desire, and motive, was incurably poisoned.[v]

The catastrophe of the flood in the days of Noah was caused by wrong thinking. The seed and root of every single thought was evil, and it produced desires, motives, and deeds that were only evil. The fountain of their thought life became corrupt, and as its waters flowed into the heart, it poisoned every purpose, desire, and action.

James Allen, in As a Man Thinketh, says:

A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts. As the plant springs from and could not be without the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them….Cause and effect is as absolute and undeviating in the hidden realm of thought as in the world of visible and material things. A noble and Godlike character is not a thing of chance, but is the result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of long-cherished association with Godlike thoughts. An ignoble and bestial character, by the same process, is the result of the continued harboring of groveling thoughts….In the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself.[vi]

Our Thought Life: A Weapon for Good or Evil

Our thoughts are a mighty weapon that can forge our hearts into a steel fortress for our God, or they can be a stealth bomber that penetrates our inner life and destroys our hearts. Thoughts are a much more powerful weapon than any nuclear bomb. They are the critical component to our spiritual growth. We must have a disciplined thought life that is focused like a laser on God and His Word, or our hearts will become a mush of spiritual apathy and worldly lusts.

The Devil is a master general at attacking the thought life of a Christian. His war strategy involves tactics of deception, pressure, and enticement to turn our thinking away from God and toward his kingdom. The Devil knows that every action that flows out of the human heart originates from our thoughts. He knows that our moral character is an exact image of our thinking. Our thoughts determine whether our character drifts toward good or evil.

The Devil knows that in order for a person to do evil, he must first think evil. He attacked Eve’s thought life in the Garden of Eden with subtle suggestions that caused her to entertain thoughts of doubt about God’s Word. When Eve followed the Devil’s way of thinking, sin poured into her nature and separated her from God. Eve’s careless thought life caused devastating consequences to the human race.

The Devil continued his relentless attack on the thought life of human beings. Within ten generations he was so successful that only one person on the entire earth had godly thoughts. The population of the earth at the time of the flood was between 235 million and 7 billion people. In approximately 1,656 years after the fall in the garden, sin had spread like wildfire and contaminated every single thought of what was probably billions of people. To imagine that only one person out of this massive population had his thought life together is mind-boggling.

The thoughts of every human being other than Noah had become worthless to God because they were always evil. Nothing in their thoughts reflected the image of God and not one thought brought glory to God. They were wise, rich, sophisticated, and cultured for their time, but the defining characteristic of their age was wickedness because of their thinking.

A civilization that is centered on an ungodly thought life is built on sinking sand. This civilization in the days of Noah received the fruit of their thoughts, which was wickedness and corruption that multiplied on the face of the earth. This rotten thinking caused the heart to become so saturated with evil and so hardened with unbelief that nothing could alter it.

Only Noah was thinking rightly and found favor with God. No one else held the image of God and His words as the standard for thoughts. No one else was guarding their thoughts. No one else cared that their thought life had nothing good in it, but was a breeding ground for evil. Only Noah had righteous thoughts that built his faith and fueled his obedience to God. Noah’s thought life was pure and free from evil because he walked with God.

Is Your Thinking Breaking God’s Heart?

Genesis 6:6 reveals how the toxic thinking of the human race affected God’s heart. These verses contain the first usage of the word heart in the Bible, and they describe a heart that is in deep sorrow.

And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:6, NKJV)

The toxic thought life of His precious creation, men and women, broke God’s heart.

Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible in Genesis 6:6 says, “It grieved Yahweh that he had made man in the earth and he took sorrow unto his heart.” The Hebrew word translated “grieved” means to draw the breath forcibly, to groan, to sigh, and to lament. It is a heart in agony, a heart that is full of terrible pain.

The Hebrew word for “sorrow” means to hurt, to be in pain, to be vexed, to be distressed and to be tortured. Words fail to describe just how hurt Almighty God was over the evil that penetrated every thought of His children whom He had lovingly created for Him. God’s heart was in horrible agony and pain as He groaned in sorrow over the condition of the heart of every member of the human race. God’s heart was crushed in pain as He cried in agony that His people refused to honor Him with even one thought.

Is our thought life any better? Does our thinking bring great agony to the heart of God? How God must grieve today over the thought life of so many Christians. How it must hurt God’s heart when He sees the way we think.

In this first usage of the word heart in the Bible, God is sounding out a clarion call to all who would listen that what we think is critically important to the heart of God. He knows He cannot have your heart if He does not first have your thoughts.

I don’t want to break the heart of God because of my toxic thinking. I want to bring glory to God with my thinking. I want to honor Him with every thought. I do not want any virus to infect my thinking and take out the operating system of my heart.

Could God have made it any clearer how concerned He is with the content and images that dominate our thoughts? A reckless thought life led to the annihilation of an entire civilization. Do you see how significant your thinking is to God?

Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon “Thoughts and Their Fruit,” expounds on this truth:

The Lord is constantly watching our thoughts. He knows them before they are known to us. “Thou understandeth my thought afar off.”…Do not, therefore, make light of evil thoughts….A steeled and seared conscience may look upon them with indifference; those whose hearts are not right towards God may sneer at the idea of any evil consequence coming from what they simply turn over in their minds; but if you have a tender heart…you will say at once, “O save my soul from base and wicked thoughts!” That thoughts are of the utmost importance may likewise be inferred that God makes them here the grounds for punishing his people. He speaks of the fruit of their thoughts….The thought in itself may not be a very great thing, but what will it come to? It may even be a very little thing, but what will be the end thereof? …The thought of evil paralyzes the finer faculties of the soul….I do not believe that a man becomes a villain all at once. He puts his soul to school, his thoughts are his teachers, or rather they are the school-books in which his soul reads; and at last he becomes capable of transacting the deeds of a scoundrel. If you think long upon any sin, the chances are that, as soon as the temptation to that sin comes, you will commit it….If you introduce these evil thoughts into your habitation, you cannot wonder at the consequence….It is certain that thoughts are the eggs of sin. These are the embryos out of which sins spring—the spawn in which every form of iniquity is developed….Therefore as God takes cognizance of our thoughts, let us be mindful of the responsibility they entail upon us.[vii]

All of us are responsible before God for our thought life, but reasoning based upon thought cannot save us. The wisdom of this world proclaims that it can reason away evil and come up with a solution outside of God. Ecclesiastes 7:29 declares that men have “engaged in too much reasoning,” and 1 Corinthians 1:20-21 declares that the world in its own wisdom cannot know God for He has made foolish the wisdom of this world. Reason alone cannot get us out of our dilemma. Our thought life must be based on the revelation of God to deliver us from evil and to keep our hearts pure.

Reason without the boundaries of God’s revelation leads us over a cliff just like Noah’s generation. No matter how enlightened and how intelligent we think we are, without God’s revelation we still end up in the grave right next to the fool.

Scripture declares in 1 Corinthians 3:20, “The Lord knows the thoughts and reasonings of the humanly wise and recognizes how futile they are.” God knows that thoughts of human reasoning and wisdom that ignore His instruction are worthless in directing the heart in truth and righteousness.

Skip Moen, in Spiritual Restoration: Volume 1, declares:

One of the fundamental differences between the Greek worldview and the Hebrew worldview is the place of reason and the place of conduct. For the Greeks, reason was the supreme path to salvation. “As I think I am” would be a very Greek motto. The Greeks believed that correct thinking was the solution to life’s problems. Therefore, the truth was found in correct thought….The Hebrew worldview takes a completely different approach….From the Hebrew perspective, dependence on thinking alone is dangerous. The Bible cautions us to not lean on our own understanding….From a Hebrew perspective, men are riddled with sin and so is their thinking. The truth is not discovered by thought. It is appropriated by action—and that action must be in accordance with what God says is true. From the Hebrew perspective, I do not have to think my way out of the box. I have to obey God, who has already told me the right actions to get out of the box….I cannot think my way into correct action because all my thought is tainted by sin….I must depend on God’s revelation of true and faithful behavior….No man sees the big picture well enough to know how to solve the problems of life. What man can do is to listen to God and obey Him. Rather than rely on my mind, I must rely on God’s Word, even if I don’t always understand what God is doing. … For me to rely on any other source for decisions that affect life or death is not only utter stupidity but outrageous arrogance….Left to my own reasoning and human wisdom, I can’t find my way to the personal God. His holiness is completely beyond me. I don’t have the spark of the divine within. What I have within is the result of thousands of years of distilled disobedience. I was born in a swamp of human arrogance and I have been drinking and breathing that environment since conception. Unless God reveals the wisdom I need from above, I am lost even if I win one Nobel Prize after another….The only real wisdom comes from God. [viii]

Exaltation of Human Reasoning Above God

The book of Romans describes what happens to the thinking of a person and their heart when human reasoning is exalted above God.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21–23, ESV)

The human race has no excuse for a thought life that excludes God and exalts human reasoning. The human race has no legal defense before the throne of God.

The entire creation bears witness to the awesome nature of our God and He should be occupying our thoughts. The revelation of God in His creation and revealed Word should be the food that our thoughts are feeding upon. Yet their foolish thoughts were I don’t need God! I can do this on my own. By their thinking they rejected a relationship with God as their thought life robbed them of intimacy with their loving Creator. Their thinking enslaved them to a life of hopelessness with a gnawing emptiness that clung to their souls.

God says in Romans 1:21 their thinking became futile and it caused their foolish hearts to be full of darkness. The Greek word translated “futile’ means to be worthless, empty, devoid of truth, and to have no intrinsic value. They thought they were wise; they thought they had the world by its horns; they thought they were successful and had everything they needed. But they played the fool. The great exchange had taken place in their thought life. They exchanged the glory of God for an image representing the glory of mortal man and other earthly things. This was a raw deal for the human race. This futile thinking had a profound and lasting impact on the heart, causing it to be darkened and lifeless toward God. Their hearts did not reflect the image of God or His glory, not even in once crevice.

The word translated “darkened” in the Greek means without insight or understanding, unintelligent and to be covered in darkness. The word was used of a heavenly body that was deprived of light. Their foolish thought life caused their hearts to be covered in darkness, with no spiritual understanding. The heart was deprived of the light of God that it needed so desperately to grow and be spiritual healthy.

The thought life of the world has caused the hearts of people in every community, city, and nation to be covered in darkness. When the heart is covered in darkness, it is blind to the direction it is going. It gropes around helplessly in its search for truth. It cannot see the beauty and wonders of God all around it. It cannot live, function, and grow in the way God intended.

Evil thrives in a heart covered with darkness, and many people become so used to this condition that they run from the light, refuse deliverance, cringe at truth and mock salvation. This sad state all begins with futile, worthless thinking that refuses to give honor and thanksgiving to God.

[i] A.W. Tozer, True Revivals Are Born after Midnight: Spiritual Renewal Comes to Those Who Want it Badly Enough (Camp Hill: Wing Spread Publishers, 1959), Kindle Edition, 448,480.

[ii] A.W. Tozer, The Price of Neglect (Camp Hill: WingSpread Publishers, 1991).

[iii] John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 19.

[iv] Ibid., 27.

[v] Adam Clark, Commentary on the Bible, Volume 1 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1810).

[vi] James Allen, As a Man Thinketh (New York: Tribeca Books, 1910), 10.

[vii] Charles Spurgeon, Thoughts and their Fruits, Sermon 3257, published on July 6, 1911, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

[viii] Skip Moen, Spiritual Restoration: Reclaiming the Foundations of God’s Word (Maitland: Xulon Press, 2008), 44.

Excerpt from “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life” https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/1483447928/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499477494&sr=1-1&keywords=heart+key+to+everything

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The Prince of the Power of the Air: The Spiritual Battle for the Ears

Scripture is clear there is another voice, that is not the voice of God, that desperately seeks to dominate and control the human heart. We have studied this in some detail, but there is another aspect of this truth revealed in Ephesians that we must look at to fully understand the devil’s influence over the ear of mankind. Paul calls Satan “the prince of the power of the air,” and indeed the devil has shown himself to be the great broadcaster to the world in the media age:

And you [He made alive], when you were dead (slain) by [your] trespasses and sins, in which at one time you walked [habitually]. You were following the course and fashion of the world [were under the sway of the tendency of this present age], following the prince of the power of the air. [You were obedient to and under the control of] the [demon] spirit that still constantly works in the sons of disobedience [the careless, the rebellious, and the unbelieving, who go against the purposes of God]. (Ephesians 2:1–2, AMP)

The New English Bible calls the devil in this verse “the commander of the spiritual powers of the air,” while the Concordat Literal New Testament calls him “chief of the jurisdiction of the air.” Jurisdiction is a legal term that defines the limits or territory where authority may be exercised. The devil exercises his authority and power in the air as well as upon the earth. As a ruler, commander, and chief of this world, he moves with extreme influence and power in the atmosphere.

Air is the common name for the atmospheric gases that surround the earth and are vital to the sustaining of human life. Oxygen enters the blood through the air we breathe and is carried to every part of the body. Without air it is impossible to have physical life.

Air is also the realm through which most communication travels, as air makes both audible and electronic communication possible. Sound is possible because of the vibration that travels through the air as a sound wave. Radio electromagnetic waves are broadcast through the air and received by your radio. Satellites relay television and radio signals around the world, and these communications travel via the air. Cellular phones and wireless networks also send their signals through the air, allowing us to communicate through computers, the Internet, and countless applications of our mobile phones.

We have seen through Emoto’s work that spoken words are vibrations that travel through the air and have the ability to bring life or destroy as evidenced by their effect on crystal formation in water. We have just touched the surface in understanding this type of communication, but we know that the devil utilizes words to his advantage.

The Rebellious Broadcaster Who Never Goes Off the Air

As Prince of the Power of the Air, the devil broadcasts his rebellious attitudes to the world, and air is the medium of his corrupting communication. The devil rules the airwaves, and he compels the human heart to tune into his wavelength. His ungodly words and pictures can now be communicated instantly through the air, and the devil is always broadcasting. Within seconds, the Prince of the Power of the Air can bombard the human heart with his twisted, evil thoughts, ways, and purposes.

Satan’s programming never takes a break. His broadcast has no commercials (or rather, most commercials encourage sinful thoughts and are an important part of the devil’s program schedule). It is uninterrupted broadcasting of rebellion and chaos against God and his truth twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The devil’s agenda is brilliantly wicked and subtly adapts its messages to appeal to the hearts of every man, woman, and child. These messages may subtly or grossly promote rebellion, distrust, indifference, and disgust against God and the truth of His Word, while drowning hearts in lust, jealously, anger, pride, envy, greed, selfishness, ingratitude, disobedience, and impurity.

Just as everywhere you go in this world, there is air that we breathe in, so the influence of the Prince of the Power of the Air is felt in every city, nation, and continent. Paul says that before we were Christians, we walked according to the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:1–2, NKJV). The Greek word translated “walked” means “to order your behavior or conduct your life.” It can be illustrated as a sphere in which a person regulates, conducts, and lives his or her life. The Greek words translated “according to” are indicative of domination and control.

It’s incredible to think that most people live their entire lives regulating their behavior according to and in the sphere set up by the Prince of the Power of the Air. He dominates and controls the unrepentant heart, shaping it to his wicked blueprint by controlling the sphere in which it lives, breathes, and functions.

The Course of This World

In this same passage from Ephesians, Paul also says that the unrepentant walk according to “the course of this world.” Have you ever seen an oval racecourse? Once the race begins, the cars all follow the same course, around and around the racetrack. The course does not take them anywhere, but the drivers just go around in circles as fast as they can in an attempt to win the race. Likewise, the devil has set up a course where people lost in sin wander aimlessly in circles, trapped, moving in a hopeless journey in one direction.

“Course” in this passage is translated from the Greek word aion, which gives us the English word “eon.” But this word is not simply a span or period of time. Rather, aion emphasizes the characteristics, culture, and heartbeat of an age. It refers to the signs, the energy, the essence of the times. “Atmosphere” is a great word to describe it. It’s an entire living, breathing atmosphere that is absorbed into the heart through the eyes, ears, and thoughts. It can overwhelm you, mesmerize you, hypnotize you, and draw you in like a magnet. It can become the essence of your hopes, your dreams, and your aspirations. But in fact the course of this world is a black hole, a swirling abyss that can suck you into its vortex of ungodly ideas, opinions, and fashions.

The course of this world can so easily become a person’s god. It can seize the throne of a heart with great subtlety, but also with great fanfare. Its iron tentacles wrap around the heart and squeeze the very life out of every fiber of a person’s being. It is as big and pervasive as the atmosphere, which surrounds us and is present every place upon the earth. I have seen many Christians swept away by this mighty surging river of the course of the world, destroying their witness for Christ and their God-given calling.

Do not be fooled. This is extremely powerful and influential and must be resisted by the Spirit of God and His Word in our hearts. We must guard against the “course of this world” by remaining vigilant and alert as to what our eyes are beholding, what our ears are hearing, and what our minds are thinking. Whose wavelength are we tuned into? Whose broadcast are we watching and listening to? On which course are we running the race of life?

John Ritenbaugh, in his Forerunner commentary “Communication and Leaving Babylon,” writes that this is what Germans termed zeitgeist, the spirit of the age.[i] The Apostle Paul’s usage of the word “course” comprises the whole mass of elements that encompass the conduct and attitudes of the times, the aion, the zeitgeist. Of course, the zeitgeist would not be the same all over the world, because its expression among different peoples would differ depending upon many factors. However, according to Paul, its elements will invariably be carnal and evil because the spiritual source, Satan, is himself evil.

The Prince of the Power of the Air sets up an atmosphere in every age and culture where people breathe it in and it becomes their life, the essence of their conduct and manner of thinking and speaking. The aion is molded after Satan’s twisted heart and is a reflection of his intense hatred for the things of God. The aion is built on deception and fascination and has a powerful, magnetic influence designed to draw in and capture us. We absorb the Prince of the Power of the Air’s influence through the communication of the beliefs, values, and practices of the culture we are born into. Many of these characteristics and values are instilled within us, meeting little or no resistance because is a course that is burned deep into the culture.

The World System of Evil

The Greek word translated “world” is kosmos and in this verse means “the satanic system of world order with its seductive system of values, priorities, and beliefs that excludes and actively opposes God.” This world system is set up to draw one’s affections away from the one true God and His goodness. It’s interesting that the word kosmos can also refer to an ornament, decoration, or dress.

At its root is a word meaning “to polish, cut, or carve into a perfect arrangement.” The devil’s world system of evil is highly ornate and looks so pleasing to the human eye. This is part of the subtle attraction that deceives people and pulls them into its snare. But if you peel away the layers, this system is dark, empty, and totally devoid of God.

Marvin Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament says kosmos is “the sum-total of human life in the ordered world, considered apart from, alienated from, and hostile to God, and of earthly things which seduce from God.[ii]” Kenneth Wuest, in his Word Studies of the Greek New Testament, defines it as follows:

The word kosmos is used to refer to the world system, wicked and alienated from God, yet cultured, educated, powerful, outwardly moral at times, the system of which Satan is the head, the fallen angels and the demons are his servants, and all mankind other than the saved, are his subjects. This includes those people, pursuits, pleasures, purposes, and places where God is not wanted.[iii]

In fact, the world system that frames the spirit of the age can appear cultured, sophisticated, and civilized at one end of the spectrum, while at the same time being lustful, animalistic, and lawless on the other end. But it is driven by one central aim, which is to continually squeeze the heart into its unholy mold of godlessness and selfishness so that people will live and act accordingly.

This world system has infiltrated and dominated the hearts of the great majority of all peoples upon the earth. Unfortunately, this holds true for many Christians. Because God’s people do not put up much of a fight, this kosmos molds the moral character and attitude of the nations and extends its sway into all segments of society, including politics, education, religion, entertainment, and the economy.

Yet not one iota of this world system dwelled in the heart of Jesus Christ. In John 14:30, He called the devil “the prince of this world,” for Jesus knew beyond any shadow of doubt that the devil was the ruler of this kosmos and that God had no part in it. Jesus clearly taught that He is not of the world, that His kingdom is not of the world, and that the fallen world hates Him and everything He stands for (John 15:18). The world always stands in direct opposition to Christ and has relentless hostility for the one God ordained as its Savior and Redeemer. The world absolutely detests the Word of God and its message of truth and sets itself up in opposition to every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

This world system has never known God in any intimate manner, and it is committed to driving hearts away from knowing and experiencing Him. This world system is His sworn enemy, and Christ is considered a forbidden outlaw whose presence is not wanted.

Jesus had absolutely nothing to do with this world system of evil. He did not conform to it. He did not declare a peace treaty with it. He did not soften His teaching so the world would like Him more. He stood against the kosmos in word, action, and character and refused to be contaminated by its pollution. Jesus Christ lived among us as the exact opposite of everything the world worships and adores. The intense bitterness and enmity of Lucifer, the fallen archangel, fuels this world system and its objective to oppose Christ at every level of its operation.

William McDonald in Believer’s Bible Commentary says:

The [kosmos] is the system which man has built up for himself in an effort to satisfy the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. In this system there is no room for God or His Son. It may be the world of art, culture, education, science, or even religion. But it is a sphere in which the name of Christ is unwelcome or even forbidden, except, of course, as an empty formality. It is, in short, the world of mankind outside the sphere of the true church. To be a friend of this system is to be an enemy of God. It was this world that crucified the Lord of life and glory….How unthinkable it is that believers should ever want to walk arm in arm with the world that murdered their Savior! [iv]

We dishonor the Lord when we allow our hearts to become so receptive and open to the communication and atmosphere of the world that they begin to reflect an image of the world. We must make sure our hearts are centered in the sphere of Christ and not the sphere of the world if we are to be spiritually vibrant and of value to the advancement of His kingdom. Oswald Chambers said “Satan’s great aim is to deflect us from the center. He will allow us to be devoted to the death to any cause, any enterprise, to anything but the Lord Jesus.”

In Love Not the World, Watchman Nee writes:

There is a spiritual force behind this world scene which, by means of “the things in the world,” is seeking to enmesh men in its system. It is not merely against sin therefore that the saints of God need to be on their guard, but against the ruler of this world….When we are faced with alternatives and a choice of ways confronts us, the question is not: Is this good or evil? Is this helpful or hurtful? No, the question we must ask ourselves is: Is it of this world or of God? For since there is only this one conflict in the universe, then whenever two conflicting courses lie open to us, the choice at issue is never a lesser one than: God…or Satan?[v]

Do Not Be Fashioned to the Image of the World

As Christians, we must never allow our hearts to become fashioned in the image of this world. God commands us in Romans 12:2 to resist the mold of the kosmos:

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs]. (AMP)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world. (NLT)

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. (MSG)

The Greek word rendered in most translations as “conformed” means “to form according to a pattern or mold, to fashion alike, to outwardly conform to something that is not a true representation of what is on the inside, to strike or imitate a pose and an inward assimilation of a mode of conduct.” It means to mold one’s behavior in accordance with a particular pattern or set of standards. The pattern or set of standards referred to here is the one set up by the Prince of the Power of the Air.

Have you ever poured something into a mold, like Jell-O or clay or the “plastigoop” used to make those Creepy Crawlers toys popular in the 1960s and ’70s? Once it’s poured into the mold, the liquid substance adapts exactly to the shape of the mold, solidifies, and emerges as an exact replica of the mold. It carries the design, details, and shape of the mold. We can never allow our hearts to be poured into the mold of this age, where it will set and harden.

The heart ultimately has two alternatives as to the image it will reflect and the mold it will represent. A heart can reflect the image of the world, or it can reflect the image of Christ. Those who are born again have the awesome beauty of Christ inside us, and we must let His splendor shine from our hearts to the world. But if we are not careful to protect and guard our hearts, the beauty of Christ can be veiled and our hearts corrupted and conformed to the image of the world. As the seventeenth-century English clergyman William Gurnall said, “It is the image of God reflected in you that so enrages hell; it is this at which the demons hurl their mightiest weapons.”

The world exerts tremendous pressure, usually through an appealing façade, to just give in and go along with it. But we must be nonconformist when it comes to the world and its way of thinking, for the world has no respect, awe, or adoration of God. Our heart is to be unspotted by the things of this world. For as we drift toward the ways of the world, our love for God begins to wax cold. Our affection for God begins to wane, and the flame of the Holy Spirit in our heart flickers dangerously low to the point of being extinguished. If we love the world, we cannot love God:

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. (1 John 2:15-17, NLT)

The heart was designed to love God above all else, and even after the Fall, this blueprint of love is a fundamental characteristic of the heart. The heart yearns to love. But through the influence of sin and the spirit of the age, this desire becomes skewed and directed toward another. Yet we must never give away our hearts to the world. The world must never become more precious to us than God. The world wants our love; the world demands our love; the world wants to be our exclusive lover.

The Greek word translated as “love” in 1 John 2:15 is agapao and means a love that is awakened by a sense of value in an object that causes one to prize and treasure it. This love springs from an appreciation of the value and worth of an object, its preciousness. It is to love with wonder and admiration, to cherish with reverence. It is a love that compels one to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of the one being loved. Are the things of this world so precious to you that you would sacrifice your relationship with God? Do you wonder and admire all the world’s trappings while forgetting the magnificent splendor of our Lord?

Yes, the devil has designed the kosmos with a great enticement to fall in love with it. It seems so harmless at first as we allow the world to draw our admiring gaze and tickle our ears with sweet nothings. But this infatuation will begin to grow and consume our hearts. The transference of our affections from God to this world may be slow and subtle, but it is a methodical, spreading disease that eventually deadens and hardens the heart. It’s a basic truth that what the heart chases after, what the heart loves, the heart becomes. The warning that echoes down every generation from the heart of God is to not fall into this treacherous trap. We must fight daily to protect ourselves from the molding influence of the world.

A Heart in the Hands of the World

You must never give to the world the agapao love that should only be reserved for God first and foremost. Your heart is either cherishing God or cherishing the world. Which is more precious to you? Where does the treasure of your heart lie? You cannot straddle the fence between God and the world for long. There is no neutral zone in the war for your heart. You cannot pursue the world, lending it your eyes and ears, and remain loyal to God. James 4:4 (PHILLIPS) declares this truth in no uncertain terms:

You are like unfaithful wives, flirting with the glamour of this world, and never realizing that to be the world’s lover means becoming the enemy of God!

Do not give yourself to another like an unfaithful lover. You were created to love and to serve only one master. It is impossible to love the world and love God at the same time. They are mutually exclusive. There is no way to have the best of both worlds. The master of your heart is either God Almighty or this world system orchestrated and manipulated by the Prince of the Power of the Air. Ultimately, you will love one and hate the other. You will choose to serve one and turn your back on the other.

Make no mistake: The world wants you. It wants your attention, your time, your money, and your affection. In return the world promises you satisfaction, fulfillment, riches, and control. But it is all lies. The truth is that world is dying. The world’s days are numbered, and its days of glitter are quickly coming to end. The glory of the world will soon turn to dust.

Nothing in this world lasts for long. Everything is changing, decaying. Indeed, it is an act of spiritual suicide to place your heart in the hands of the world. You must never forget that once you peel all the layers away, the world hates Christ and His devoted followers with an intensity that grows relentlessly with every moment. This hatred is the driving force of the spirit of the age. In his Forerunner commentary “The Christian Fight,” John Ritenbaugh writes:

The spiritual reality is that, as we might say today, “The world stands ready to eat us alive.” It chews Christians up and spits them out. If permitted, it can trash spiritual realities that may once have been cherished hopes and dreams. [vi]

Sometimes the world’s enmity for Christ and His followers is bold, direct, and even violent, as evidenced by the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Far East. Most times, however, the world’s approach is much more subtle. Ritenbaugh says:

Satan’s pitch to mankind is aimed directly at exciting human nature’s self-indulgent cravings. Due to this satanic effort, even though we are converted, we are apt to become misinformed, lackadaisical, disinterested, and discouraged. We must be aware of it and absolutely resist it. …“Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NKJV). Friendship with the world corrupts. [vii]

We cannot become lazy or indifferent when it comes to our affections. We must be spiritually aware at all times, for the heart is bombarded with Satan’s pitch and propaganda the moment we turn on a radio or television, log on to the Internet, or walk out the front door. We must become keenly aware of his messages—and resist them—if we are to keep them from taking root. We must always strive, as Scripture says, to keep our hearts from “being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). The world is toxic—a true environmental hazard—and its polluting contaminants can cause the glory and beauty of God to fade from our hearts.

You might find it enlightening to grab a notebook pad and write down just what you spend your day listening to and watching. Note how much time you spend on each activity. Compare this time with how much time you are spending with God each day, praying, reading and meditating on His Word, listening to spiritual songs that glorify God, reading Christian books, listening to godly sermons and teaching, and participating in worship activities with your church. Who is winning the war of time with your heart?

If your daily diet consists of cable television, secular radio, fashion or sports magazines, worldly movies and novels, and self-help books expounding the spirit of the age, your heart is getting “punked” by the world. The noise of this world is shaping your heart to reflect its own image, attitudes, and beliefs. The heart is an image bearer and will always reflect what it is seeing and hearing. We cannot allow our hearts to be consumed by the culture of this age instead of being consumed with God.

In his book Desire: The Journey We Must Take to Find the Life God Offers, John Eldredge provides some sound advice when it comes to the allure of this world:

We are at war, and the bloody battle is over our hearts. I am astounded how few Christians see this, how little they protect their hearts. We act as if we live in a sleepy little town during peacetime. We don’t. We live in the spiritual equivalent of Bosnia or Beirut. Act like it. Watch over your heart. Don’t let just anything in, don’t let it go just anywhere. “What is this going to do to my heart?” is a question I ask in every situation. [viii]

We must ask this question concerning everything our ears hear and our eyes see. What is this going to do to my heart? As Christians, our hearts are to be living proof that God is far more precious than anything the world has to offer. We must magnify God above the trinkets of the world.

Never Fear: Our God is Greater

The evil of this world is but a grain of dust compared to the power and might of our awesome God. God is infinitely greater in authority, power, influence, and grandeur. Always remember that He is the Creator of the universe and is so magnificent that even the heavens cannot contain Him. God is unlimited and unmatched in His greatness and majesty. The world looks like a cheap toy in His glorious presence. God is a trillion times more powerful and glorious than the entire world system that the devil has set up in the kosmos and the aion of these present times.

God is love (1 John 4:8) and everything He does is motivated by love. The kosmos is evil, and everything this world system does is motivated by evil. God so loved us that He sent His Son into the midst of the kosmos to offer redemption, deliverance, and eternal life to all the peoples of the earth (1 John 4:10). God has given us an overwhelming, crushing victory in Jesus Christ over the devil and all the influence, power, and destruction of this world.

Never fear the world for the limitless, almighty God lives within us and He is our Rock, our Protector, our Refuge, our Warrior, our all in all (1 John 4:16–18). All the anxiety, fears, worries, oppression, and darkness of the world melt in His presence. We must never forget just how awesome our God is. Nothing in the heavens or the earth compares in greatness to Him. Therefore we must rise up with the heart of a lion and the courage of a thousand armies and brilliantly display the beauty and splendor of a son or daughter of God in the midst of this crooked and twisted world:

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4, NKJV)

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33, AMP)

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:4–5, NIV)

And the secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all glorious things to come. (Colossians 1:27, PHILLIPS)

No matter how powerful, influential and dominating this kosmos seems, as born-again sons and daughters of God the power and glory of Christ that rests in us is infinitely greater in strength and ability. We have been filled with all the fullness of God. What a power source! What an incredible amount of authority and ability! Do you realize how much power is living within you as a Christian? This is not the power to destroy, hate, condemn, judge, or ridicule. This is the power to live like Jesus did upon the earth, the power to touch and change the hearts of people with the love and compassion of God.

Jesus Christ overcame this world system of evil by His victory on the cross, permanently crushing the power of the enemy, that crafty serpent and deceitful slanderer. Our Lord has set us free indeed (John 8:36), obliterating every yoke of bondage that held us in its grasp (Galatians 5:1). We have been given a new destiny. Sin, death, and the Prince of the Power of the Air no longer have any hold over us, any claim on us, but we must claim this victory in Christ by faith in His finished work and the promises of His Word.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the kingdom of Satan and all the spiritual forces of evil. We must put on the whole armor of God if we are to effectively stand against the powers of this dark world and walk in the sphere of Christ’s magnificent work on the cross (Ephesians 6:11–12). We must never give ground to one ounce of fear when it comes to this kosmos, yet we must be wise as to its enormous influence in our culture and its ability to capture and turn the human heart. We must remember who we are in Christ and, having no fear, do battle against the Goliaths of this world. We breathe in the transforming presence of God, confident of His protection and power, knowing we are more than conquerors through Christ in any circumstance of life (Romans 8:37).

The allure of the kosmos pales in comparison to what pleasures of Jesus Christ. The gaudy winds of the Prince of the Power of the Air are deflated by Jesus Christ, who exposes Satan’s schemes of the kosmos and aion. He has dismantled the devil’s power to hold the heart in bondage for all those who would believe on His name. Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, shaming them publicly by his victory over them on the cross (Colossians 2:15). There is no excuse for allowing the world to mold our hearts into its image any longer. The choice is quite clear.

God has delivered us from the dominion of darkness, and now we must rise above the world and let our lives shine with the glory of God. What will it matter in the end if we gain the whole kosmos and lose our heart and soul? All the wealth, all the glory, all the fame in the kosmos are not worth a fraction of the value of your heart. Is it worth sacrificing your heart to enjoy the pleasures of the kosmos for a season? Is anything worth giving your heart away to the Great Pretender and letting your eyes and ears serve him?

The World Never Satisfies Like God Satisfies

The world will never love you like God loves you. He will never leave or forsake you, and He will always lead you in the path of true righteousness. Isn’t He worthy of owning ALL your heart and not just part of it? Why give away even the smallest part of your heart to the world? The world will never satisfy like God satisfies. It will only betray you in the long run like an unfaithful lover and lead you down a path of destruction.

Has your hearing become so dull, our eyes so blind, that you are giving leftovers of your heart to God? Francis Chan, in Crazy Love, says:

God wants our best, deserves our best, and demands our best….[Yet] God gets a scrap or two only because we feel guilty for giving Him nothing. A mumbled three-minute prayer at the end of the day, when we are already half asleep. Two crumbled-up dollar bills thrown as an afterthought into the church’s fund for the poor….We say to the Creator of all this magnitude and majesty, “Well, I’m not sure You are worth it. You see, I really like my car or my little sin habit or my money, and I am really not sure I want to give them up.”…How can we think for even a second that anything on this puny little earth compares to the Creator and Sustainer and Savior of it all?[ix]

This is the great deception of the kosmos, that God is not worthy of our best love, our first love, our greatest love. We give God only leftover scraps from the table of our hearts and forget His majesty and grandeur and how much how much our hearts need Him. Jesus declares to the church at Ephesus, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Everything about the spirit and heartbeat of this age, this kosmos, is designed to deceive us into forsaking our first love. We are told daily that God is not necessary, that He is distant (if He exists at all), and that He does not love us or care about us. The devil wants to divert our attentions, to make us think there are better things to love and treasure.

So many in the church have been tricked into believing this great lie! The beautiful and mighty purpose that God has ordained for our lives turns to dust and is blown away by the breath of the kosmos. The magnificent works and glorious blessings that God had destined for us before the world began have been carelessly tossed aside and fade into the night as we wallow in the garbage of the kosmos.

I am not advocating that we run for the hills and isolate ourselves in some remote cave far removed from civilization. God wants us to shine our light in the world with all the magnificent glory of the Christ. He has commissioned us to reach out to the lost, to break the power of Satan and the kosmos in people’s lives by the mighty demonstration of the love of God. Jesus prayed on the night before His crucifixion:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (John 17:15–18, NIV)

Jesus has sent us into the world with His words of truth to deliver the message of the gospel to every corner of the earth. But we can never be effective ambassadors of Christ if we allow ourselves to be in love with the world.

[i] John Ritenbaugh, Forerunner: “Communication and Leaving Babylon,” December 2005.

[ii]  Marvin Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Volume II (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1900), 45.

[iii] Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Volume 1, Ephesians and Colossians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company 1961), 61.

[iv] William McDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., 1980), 79432, Kindle Edition.

[v] Watchman Nee, Love Not the World, A Prophetic Call to Holy Living (Fort Washington: CLC Publications 1968), 19.

[vi] John Ritenbaugh: Forerunner: “The Christian Fight” May 2007.

[vii] John Ritenbaugh: Forerunner: “The Christian Fight” May 2007.

[viii] John Eldredge, Desire: The Journey We Must Take to Find the Life God Offers (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 209, 210.

[ix] Francis Chan, Crazy Love, Overwhelmed by a Relentless God (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2008), 90, 91, 96, 97.

 Excerpt from “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life.” https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/1483447928/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499477494&sr=1-1&keywords=heart+key+to+everything

 

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The Ears: The Second Gateway to the Heart: Part 4: Have We Lost Our Hearing of the Voice of God?

The Importance of Spiritual Leaders

So often spiritual leaders fall away because they have lost their hearing and alertness to the voice of God. They are not listening. They have tuned God out. His words are falling to the ground, as they cannot take residence in His people’s hearts. It is written that in the times of Eli, the high priest, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days” (1 Samuel 3:1). God’s voice is rare today for the same reason it was rare then. It’s not because He isn’t speaking. It is rare because no one is listening.

Why is this so important? History is replete with this lesson that one leader can lead the heart astray; one leader can turn the heart to destruction or to life; one leader can move the heart into an indifferent and callous hardness against God and deafness to His words; one leader can lead the heart to the altar of an idol, or one leader can lead the heart to the feet of Jesus where the captive and broken of heart are set free. What leader have you opened the door of your heart to by lending them your ear?

God’s stern judgment against the prophet and the priest was due to their ultimate failure to lead the hearts of God’s people to the heart of God revealed in His words. The beauty of a heart that belongs to God and in which His glory is manifested is unparalleled in human history. A leader can bring the beauty and glory of God or the ugliness of a counterfeit god into the heart and both ride into the heart by the words the leader speaks and the example the leader provides. The leader brings either light or darkness into the hearts of men, women and children and the spiritual health of the heart either flourishes brilliantly or suffers miserably because of it. The leader can incite the heart to action in either the service of God or the rebellion against God. The heart becomes and reflects the image of its leader. What the heart beholds, listens too, and follows the heart becomes. This is why Jesus said in the gospel of Mark “be careful what you listen to” which in essence is be careful who you listen to, for the life and health of your heart depends on it. A. W. Tozer, in God Tells the Man Who Cares says, “The history of Israel and Judah points up a truth clearly taught by all history that the masses are or soon will be what their leaders are.”[i]

The devil is one of the most efficient leaders of all time. Leadership was birthed in his being since the day he was created. He knows how to capture the heart; he knows how to build an army of followers. He knows what to speak to captivate the ear. He knows how to fascinate, how to motivate, and how to birth desire in the depths of the heart. He convinced one third of God’s created angels to turn their backs on God and their heavenly responsibilities and follow him to war against their Creator. In the book of Revelation, the devil is bound and shut up in the bottomless pit for a thousand years while Christ rules perfectly on the earth with peace, justice, righteousness and love. The people living on the earth have never seen anything like it. When these glorious thousand years are ended, the devil is released from his prison and immediately begins to deceive the nations from the four corners of the earth to follow him in battle against God. His leadership skills are so effective that he quickly recruits an army so great that “their number is like the sand of the sea” (Revelation 20:8, ESV). He leads his newly converted follows into a frenzy as they march over the broad plain of the earth and surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city of Jerusalem. They are absolutely blind and deceived by their leader as they walk into their own destruction, from which there will be no escape.

The devil is wise beyond human comprehension in the ways of leadership. He uses his leadership skills to entangle the human heart in his snare. He is a cruel puppet master that through the eyes and ears enslaves the heart, pulling strings to get people to do his bidding. The devil has always had human leaders in every sphere of influence that carry out his bidding without their even realizing who they work for.

But no one who has ever lived on the earth, strode through hell, or graced the halls of heaven is a greater leader of men and women than Jesus Christ. No one has more power to change and transform the heart. Jesus came to lead hearts into glorious freedom by breaking the chains of sin, disease, bondage, and oppression and bring them into rich fellowship and intimacy with God. He came to rebuild the ruins, to restore what was devastated, and bring the heart back to a vibrant new life where it reflects the splendor of Almighty God. Out of the ashes of hurt, rejection, addiction, and oppression, the Lord heals, cleanses, and transforms the heart, bringing it into the glorious liberty of a child of God. What Jesus Christ can do for the heart is nothing short of miraculous, and there is no heart, regardless of its condition, that He cannot touch and change.

Look in Mark 5 at the man living among the tombs. No one could help him; no one could subdue him. He lived among the dead, and the beast within roared in torment and agony. He would cry out in anguish and desperation every night and day from the tombs, cutting himself with stones, and the world was helpless to do anything for this man’s twisted and chaotic heart. Jesus spoke eight words and completely healed him. His heart was touched by the Prince of Peace and became calm, peaceful, and full of joy. His heart was released from darkness, and light flooded the depths of his soul. This was a miraculous transformation of a chaotic heart into a heart full of love for Jesus. The devil’s chains were shattered and the prison door kicked wide open so that the man could once again breathe free. He tuned his ear to just eight words from the Lord, and his heart was changed forever.

Nicky Cruz, a poor child from Puerto Rico who was raised in the occult and became a violent gang leader on the streets of New York, tells the story of the effect Jesus Christ had on his bitter, angry and violent heart in his book One Holy Fire:

In my heart I still see myself as a helpless and needy nineteen-year-old boy, kneeling before the altar, weeping in repentance and asking God to come into my heart and be my Savior. Like a baby longing for its mother’s milk, I drank deeply of God’s love and forgiveness. I could almost feel his gentle arms wrapping themselves around my cold body, comforting, warming, snuggling. For the first time in my life I felt loved … When I speak, I often search my vocabulary for ways to express this supernatural sensation, the moment when Jesus stepped in and changed my life, but I’ve yet to find a way to do it justice … I tell people that I felt as if I were on an operating table, cold, angry and confused, and Jesus was the surgeon standing over me. My heart was broken. He gently reached over and closed my eyes, then he opened my chest and reached deep inside me and pulled my heart out. He held it in his hands, a heart filled with hatred and anger and bitterness that consumed me—the brokenness of my past and the curse that was destroying my life and soul. Then Jesus slowly took my heart, brought it to his lips and kissed it. He caressed it and mended the wounds. Then he placed it back in my chest and closed me up. I knew in an instant I was better, that my heart was no longer broken. At that moment I knew I was a new creation. I had a new heart—a heart of love and compassion and repentance. All the feelings of hate and resentment were gone. My sins were forgiven. At long last I was free … I look to Jesus for help and guidance in everything I do, and he has never failed me. He has always been there when I needed him.[ii]

What a Savior! What a Healer! What a Leader of restoration to the human heart! Jesus Christ is the flawless model of leadership and the head and leader of the Body of Christ, and the church is in desperate need of leaders who imitate the heart of Jesus. O how these leaders must take heart to the words of God: “This is my beloved Son, hear him!” (Mark 9:7).

The Fall of Leaders

The spiritual anemia in the hearts of so many Christians can be traced directly to poor leadership in the modern church. Our leaders have cared more about ambition, money, fame, and earthly glory than about the hearts of their flocks. Contemporary Christian leadership has failed miserably, which has caused the hearts of believers to become weak and malnourished.

Hearts are broken, crushed, and hurting in every pew around the world, as we all desperately need a leader in the mold of Jesus Christ who teaches the words of God, who comforts people in times of sorrow, who turns hearts from the darkness and leads them into the light. Sadly, the leaders of the church—like the prophets, priests and Pharisees—have not watched over and taken care of their own hearts. They have been careless with their own eyes, ears, and thoughts, which has caused evil to develop a stronghold in their hearts and the hearts of their people. This has caused many pastors to simply quit the ministry and fall away from their calling.

David Ravenhill, in Surviving the Anointing: Learning to Effectively Experience and Walk in God’s Power, shares some sobering statistics on ministry leadership:

God’s army of soldiers are “dying” at a faster rate than ever before. According to John Maxwell, only one out of every ten people entering the ministry today will still be in it at the age of 65. That’s a 90 percent dropout rate. Dr. James Dobson estimates that there are some 1,500 ministers a month leaving the ministry. If the body of Christ continues to hemorrhage at this rate, we’ll soon be the laughingstock of the world, not to mention the evil hordes of darkness … The devil’s strategy is both old and reliable: “Strike the shepherd and scatter the flock.”[iii]

No one knew better than our Savior the importance of a keen ear spiritually alive to the voice of God. Without it, a pastor can never truly lead with the heart of Jesus Christ:

“For the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes for they see; and your ears because they hear.” (Matthew 13:15–16, NASB)

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-and great was it fall.” (Matthew 7:24–27, NASB)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27, NASB)

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28, NIV)

There has been a great fall of leaders from pulpits across our land because the ears of pastors and teachers have become dull and scarcely hear the Word of the Lord. The noise of the world has crowded the voice of the Lord from their hearts, so they do not act on His instructions. The storms of life have slammed their ministries, and they have crumbled like sand and collapsed because they were not built upon the Rock, Jesus Christ. All their God-given abilities, all their potential to do the works of God, fall by the wayside and are swept away by floods of sin, pride, and arrogance. It’s one of the great tragedies in church history that so many of our spiritual leaders have missed the magnificent blessing of hearing the Word of God and obeying it.

The destruction of a leader’s calling and ministry almost always begins with the eyes and the ears. Pastoral burnout is often a direct consequence of having undisciplined eyes and straying ears. Their failure in turn causes the hearts of God’s children to turn away from Him. I can only imagine how deeply this must grieve God’s heart. He so wants to show Himself strong on behalf of His children (2 Chronicles 16:9)! He yearns to be their first love and their only God, that their hearts would be completely devoted to Him. I can feel God’s heart crying out, “My children, my children! Why have you forsaken my embrace and thrust me from your presence? Why am I not good enough for you? Why am I not everything you need? Why won’t you hear me? Why do you forget me days without number? Why do you love something more than me?”

Listen to His heart’s cry to Israel:

Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth! This is what the Lord says: “The children I have raised and cared for have rebelled against me. Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—but Israel does not know its master. My people do not recognize my care for them … They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever? Your head is injured, and your heart is sick.” (Isaiah 1:2–5, NLT)

The children of Israel, the chosen people, amazingly did not even know God! They never experienced His goodness in their hearts. Despite all the magnificent and wondrous things He did time and time again to demonstrate His love and mercy, they cast God aside like a dirty rag. They were blind and did not recognize how much God cared for them. His children turned their backs on God, covered their ears, and ran in the other direction. Much of the Old Testament is the story of the rebel heart of God’s children that turned against their Father God because they failed to open up their ears to His words. God was crying desperately to their ears and hearts, “Must you rebel forever! Are you ever going to grow up and see my heart! Don’t you realize how much of a special treasure you are to me? Don’t you know how much I long for you? Don’t you understand that I want to be joined with you at the heart and experience the deepest bond of love with you?”

Listen to Jesus as He wailed from the depths of His heart and burst into tears over Jerusalem and its children:

And as he came still nearer to the city, he caught sight of it and wept over it, saying, “Ah, if you only knew, even at this eleventh hour, on what your peace depends—but you cannot see it. The time is coming when your enemies will encircle you with ramparts, surrounding you and hemming you in on every side. And they will hurl you and all your children to the ground—yes, they will not leave you one stone standing upon another—all because you did not know when God Himself was visiting you!” (Luke 19:41–44, PHILLIPS)

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:36–38, NIV)

Christ heart was filled with sorrow over the great potential of Jerusalem’s people that had gone unfulfilled because their eyes did not see and their ears did not hear Him. He longed to gather His children under His protective wings and give them help and support in every season of life, but they refused and thrust Him away.

Forty years later, the Roman armies ran Jerusalem into the ground and caused the people to be a house of desolation, all because they stubbornly refused to believe that God would have conquered their every foe, lifted their every burden, and healed their every wound. They had stoned and killed those who spoke the words of God because they did not want to hear what God had to say. Jesus wept over this great tragedy of Jerusalem, that its inhabitants throughout history had not recognized God’s many visitations and pleas to return to Him. The ultimate slap to God’s face was soon to unfold in the rejection and murder of His only begotten Son, the promised Messiah.

Is Jesus Crying Over the Condition of Your Heart?

Is Jesus crying over you this day? Is He heartbroken over the condition of your heart? Is He crying out to you, ‘’Must your heart rebel against me forever? I gave my life for you. You have so much potential, so much promise, so much power because of my sacrifice! Why are you wasting it? Why are you not walking in my victory, letting me live through you? Why are you letting your heart become entangled in the trivial matters of this world that have no eternal value?”

Jesus weeps over the wasted potential of His church and what could have been. He weeps over the many hardened hearts. He weeps over those who have been deceived. He weeps over those who are enslaved to sin. He weeps over the hearts that have waxed cold and forgotten their first love. He weeps over those who have closed their ears to His voice because they are offended at His words.

To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it. (Jeremiah 6:10, NIV)

Yet it is still possible for us to know and experience the beauty and perfection of Jesus Christ in our hearts. He longs to lead us into the blessings of His victory and carry us to spiritual frontiers we haven’t imagined possible. Indeed, He is calling us to the greatest adventure on planet Earth, and that is to love like Him, to have mercy and compassion like Him, to touch lives as He did, to pray like Him, and to heal many as He did.

Be Still and Listen

One encounter with the voice of God can change your life forever. Moses, Samuel, Paul, and many others can attest to this truth. Nothing in the heavens or the earth compares to the voice of the Lord:

“Whenever this happens, my heart stops—I’m stunned, I can’t catch my breath. Listen to it! Listen to his thunder, the rolling, rumbling thunder of his voice. He lets loose his lightnings from horizon to horizon, lighting up the earth from pole to pole. In their wake, the thunder echoes his voice, powerful and majestic. He lets out all the stops, he holds nothing back. No one can mistake that voice—His word thundering so wondrously, his mighty acts staggering our understanding.” (Job 37:1–5, MSG)

“Pay attention heavens and I will speak; listen, earth to the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like the rain and my words settle like the dew, like gentle rain on new grass and showers on tender plants.” (Deuteronomy 32:1–4, HCSB)

God’s voice sounds throughout the earth with great majesty, power, and wonder. Nothing can silence it. Nothing can overpower it. Nothing can stop it.

From the beginning, when God spoke to the darkness and said, “Let there be light,” His voice thundered like a mighty storm and, at other times, softly like the gentle rain. Can you imagine being awakened each morning by the tender, gracious, and loving voice of the Creator of all things? It’s so much better than an alarm clock, a Starbucks coffee, or the morning newspaper! Nothing is more satisfying to the heart than to hear from God as a new day dawns. Can you imagine having your ears so attuned to God that every day you hear His voice encouraging and helping you to be your best in your service for His kingdom? We are so accustomed to spiritual deafness that such an idea seems far-fetched and beyond our reach, but God wants you to know His voice like a loving Father and faithful friend. Pray that God awakens your ear to His voice, for it is critical to the condition and health of your heart. If your ears are not awakened, your heart will become callous, indifferent, and of little use to our Lord.

Across the world the church needs an awakening to the voice of the Lord. Psalm 46:10 declares, “Be still and know that I am God.” We must once again develop this stillness of the heart that David knew. We cannot be so agitated, anxious, and stressed by the noise and commotion of the world that we miss the stillness and quiet beauty of His voice. We must be still to know the greatness of our God and experience His voice. For it is in these quiet times with God that renewal, confidence, peace, joy, and healing flood into the heart like a river and sweep away all the fears, doubts, and worries of this world.

Be still and know that He is God. Still your heart and hear His voice! Quiet your heart and experience His presence! Let your heart come home to Him. We must have a modern day prayer closet where we can spend time alone with God and still our hearts. Make time to meet Him there. This is not an option for the modern Christian! Find a place to spend quiet time with God daily and praise, worship and pour your heart out to Him in prayer. I converted a space in my basement to a prayer room where I can pour out my heart out to Him and listen for His voice.

Our culture is addicted to noise with our televisions, computers, radios, and iPods blaring nonstop. Our hearts do not know what to do with silence. Yet a quiet, reflective time with God where we listen to Him and meditate upon His Word is the greatest medicine and healing balm available to our hearts. Jesus would get up before sunrise to spend hours of quiet time with His Father. He showed us by example how important it is to still our hearts in the presence of God with an attitude of thankfulness and praise so that we can hear what He is saying to us.

Make time to find true rest in the embrace of God. This is how you begin to cultivate eyes that see and ears that hear. This is a time of full sharing where we meet God in the laughter, tears and pressures of life and bear our entire heart to Him. In the solitude of His presence, hold nothing back. Learn how to listen for His guidance, comfort, and instruction. If you can find time to spend with a favorite sports team or television show, surely you can make time for our awesome God. I challenge you to spend quiet time with Him daily and watch for the transformation that occurs in your heart and life. Your spiritual eyes and ears will become keenly tuned to the heart of God the more time you spend with Him.

God is waiting for you to know Him, to experience Him, and to love Him. But to do this, you must spend uninterrupted time with Him. He wants to spend time with you more than you could ever imagine. He is waiting and looking, like the father of the prodigal son, for your heart to come home to Him. If you are truly interested in guarding your heart, then nothing is more important than giving God some exclusive alone time. Your heart will never be healthy without it. You will not hear His voice without it. You will not grow spiritually without it.

Accept God’s invitation to come to Him and fellowship with Him in the deepest bonds of intimacy and love. Awaken each morning to His loving voice and His tender touch. Make God your greatest desire each day, and He will strengthen your heart into a mighty fortress for Him, untouched by the noise of this world.

[i] A. W. Tozer, God Tells the Man Who Cares (Camp Hill: Wingspread Publishers, 1993).

[ii] Nicky Cruz, Holy Fire: Let the Spirit Ignite Your Soul, (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2003), 142.

[iii] David Ravenhill, Surviving the Anointing: Learning to Effectively Experience and Walk in God’s Power (Shippensburg: Destiny Image Publishers, 2007), 14, 15.

 

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Seven Spiritual Battlefields

By Dan Gallagher

Most Christians are familiar with the phrase “the spiritual battle,” a term used to describe the war raging between the forces of good and evil. It is the ageless war between light and darkness, between God and His archenemy, the Devil. Unfortunately, all humankind—every man, woman, and child who has ever lived—is in the middle of the war, caught between the two great opposing armies. The war that started in the heavens above has spilled over the borders of the spirit realm into the Earth.

Wars between nations are generally fought for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s about acquiring new lands, seizing goods and riches, or simply increasing political power. In the case of the spiritual battle, the objective sought by both sides is the fertile soil of the minds and hearts of humankind. God’s ultimate plan has always been to have a kingdom filled with those who love Him and want a real relationship with Him, which He aims to accomplish through love and giving people the freedom to make their own choices. The Devil, on the other hand, is doing all he can to thwart God through coercion, manipulation, lies, and deceit. Although Satan desires to have followers who will openly and brazenly follow him, he will settle for much less. In his twisted thinking, he will accept the crumbs of people simply rejecting God as a victory for him.

As time marches on, Satan’s forces continue to promote immorality, rebellion, greed, and all manner of sinfulness, while the forces of Righteousness promote order, respect, love, and holiness. This makes the boundary line between the two opposing sides very clear. In this war, there is no safety afforded to those who prefer to sit on the proverbial fence—because as someone once said, “The Devil owns the fence.” Jesus made this crystal clear when he told his followers that whoever is not with him is against him, and whoever does not gather with him scatters (Matt. 12:30). In order for us, the children of God, to navigate the minefields of this war surrounding us, we need to be clear on the battlefields on which this war is being fought.

Strategies change but the battlefields remain the same

Over time, the various moves and strategies of the Evil One has changed, but the war continues to be fought on the same battlefields. When we step back from the frontlines of war, we can see the battles being waged on seven major battlefields.

1. Media & Communication
2. Arts & Entertainment
3. Education
4. Business & Economy
5. Government
6. Religion
7. Family

Many Christians have given little thought to these seven battlefields and the amount of influence they exert over them, despite the fact that Loren Cunningham, of Youth with a Mission, and Bill Bright, of Campus Crusade for Christ, first spoke of them in 1974—over forty years ago. As followers of Christ, we must become better at discerning the moves of the Enemy on these battlefields in order to aid the forces of God in this conflict. Doing so will help us all to improve in employing the proper countermeasures, which aids the forces of light in mounting effective offensive actions.

The Seven Battlefields

In the Book of Proverbs, God informs us that the two major ways that people’s hearts are influenced are by the things we see with our eyes and hear with our ears. This may be why God provides the reader of Proverbs with so many warnings to protect his or her heart by being very careful about what we look at and listen to.  Like any great war that involves many different battlefields, the one being fought for the hearts of humankind is happening in seven different arenas of life:

1. Media & Communication

The ability to exchange ideas and disseminate information, whether true or false, is one of the most important ways to influence and control people. This is why the battlefield of Media and Communication is a critical arena for the armies of light and the forces of darkness. Since the beginning of time, the Adversary has attempted to control mankind by shaping thought, which he does by controlling information. The story of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel is a perfect example of how the Devil was able to use mankind’s singular language as a means to promote his evil agenda of rebellion against God (Gen. 10-11). The fact that God stepped in and shook things up by limiting man’s ability to communicate demonstrates exactly how key this field of combat is in the spiritual war.

Since humankind’s dispersion following the confusing of languages at the Tower of Babel, our ability to freely communicate has been very limited. Even when translations into multiple languages could be made, in the past it still took time for hand-written or spoken royal edicts to filter through the empires, and for vital information from remoter regions to make its way back to the rulers.

This greatly changed in 1440 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Suddenly our ability to communicate exploded.  It was estimated that in the mid 1500’s the Reformation of Christianity was greatly fueled by Martin Luther’s 95 theses being printed over 250,000 times in a very short span. Bibles were the first thing to ever roll off the press, which allowed the masses to question the ruling powers by undermining their ability to control social thought.

In the past 100 years, the field of communication has exploded with the telegraph followed by the telephone, radio, and television. Just as the battlefield of Media and Communication can be used for good, it can also be a source of much evil. Today we are again seeing a great clashing of spiritual swords with the exponential explosion of communication through the Internet and social media. Ideas can now traverse the globe in mere seconds. It is no coincidence that false information dominates this stage.

2. Arts & Entertainment

The field of Arts and Entertainment, which includes the music industry, television shows, movies, and books, is very similar to Media and Communication in that it is about the transfer of information—although it is a much subtler way of influencing the minds and thoughts of humankind. God tells us that “bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33), which is why the kind of company we keep with our thoughts is heavily influenced by the things we see and hear.

Nowadays television, movies, and the Internet bring all kinds of ungodly content into our homes and workplaces as they promote sensuality, spread lies, or instill fear and a desire for vengeance. When used for evil, the Arts & Entertainment can desensitize the populace to all kinds of godless behaviors and ideas. It has been said that by age 18, children spend more time subjecting their minds to the influence of the arts and entertainment than they do in the classroom. On the other hand, these things can also be used to praise and worship the Creator and to spread the gospel. How it is being used depends on which army is winning the conflict.

3. Education

Most people readily understand the tremendous influence that the Arts & Entertainment and the Media & Communication have on people, but the battlefield of Education is equally impacting on minds and hearts. In the western world, a child begins formal schooling as early as four or five years old (children now attend formalized “pre-school” at age 4). Even just between the first and twelfth grade, the average child spends close to 11,000 hours[1] in the classroom. Consider too the additional time spent doing homework assignments, extracurricular activities, and additional years of schooling at the university level, and you can see how people can literally be programmed to think and act a certain way by such a constant environment.

It should be no wonder, then, why we are seeing an explosion in anti-Christian worldviews as children are bombarded by thousands of hours of secularism, scientism, materialism, pluralism and gender issues. Clearly the battlefield of Education is especially harmful when you have academia geared toward an anti-God environment.

In his book Invading Babylon, author Bill Johnson stated, “While it could be argued that the entertainers today have the greater role in shaping the minds of the young, it is the educators who generally shape the minds of the entertainers in their way of thinking.”[2] It is no wonder that we are now seeing more youth that are confused, lacking a moral anchor, and are becoming a generation of “nones”—no god, no morals, no genuine right or wrong.

Unfortunately, much of the intrusion of the various worldviews that promote anti-Christ type attitudes is the result of Christians not being more engaged in, or even abandoning altogether, the battlefield of Education. Turning the primary responsibility of the education of our children over to “professional” educators plays right into the Enemy’s hand. No parent would ever think of sending their child to a restaurant where 1 in 10 people die of food poisoning, but yet many never even think twice about sending their children into an educational system where they are routinely exposed to poisonous thinking and belief systems.  I am not against public schools, but parents cannot be absent when it comes to what our children are being taught. We must remain engaged in this battlefield if we are to counteract the forces of evil.

4. Business & Economy

Godly people conduct themselves ethically in business and the handling of money. For them, unlike the ungodly, the ends do not justify the means and acting with integrity is highly treasured, even if it means losing money in a business deal or an investment. Contrast that with the ungodly who will steal, cheat, and lie as they seek unjust enrichment, even when it comes at great loss and pain to others.

The battlefield of Business and Economy is vitally important to both the armies of God and the Devil because it’s often through the medium of money that good and bad is greatly promoted and sustained. Consider how the other battlefronts are supported through business and the economy. The bottom line is that Hollywood and the music industry are essentially just businesses; they cease work when the money stops flowing into them. Even television networks such as NBC, CBS, FOX, and others must be supported through advertising revenue.  Cut off the revenue, and their ability to promote their agendas shifts into neutral—it goes nowhere.

Money is power, and it buys influence, which is why there are so many verses in the Bible that speak of money and goods, and the godly way of handling of them. The importance of this battlefield can be inferred simply from the fact that there are about 500 verses in the Bible on prayer, but there are over 2,350 on the handling of money and possessions. [3]

There is a reciprocal, albeit almost a parasitic, relationship between the battlefield of business and the others. The kind of person who wins on the battlefield of Media, Arts, Communication, and Education determines the kind of person who will lead in Business, and the kind of person leading in Business in turn supports them. God has given us clear instructions concerning business and the economy;

Hebrews 13:5 NIV
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

5. Government

Government is the ultimate form of control over other people, and those who govern are determined and swayed by all the other battlefields (Media, Entertainment, Education, Business, Religion, and Family).

I do not believe there is one particular form of government that is good or evil in itself. While it is true that there are some that are more inclined toward evil, or are more easily manipulated by it, a righteous government exists whenever the leadership governs righteously. A dictatorship can be kind and benevolent, if you have a kind and benevolent dictator. Even a representative form of government, like the one we have in the United States today, can become corrupt when you have elected elites who are more devoted to self-interest and personal enrichment than they are to governing in accordance with God’s desires and ways.

The actual type of government is irrelevant, because a government simply reflects the nature of those who are in position to govern. God even tells us that there is a day coming when a sole King will rule, and it will be a great and wonderful time because that King will righteously administer justice and promote peace (Rev. 20:6). Speaking of the 2016 Presidential election in the United States, Dr. Lance Wallnau correctly stated in his book, God’s Chaos Candidate:

“This is not a conflict, as some would like to make it, between opposing political parties or economic views. It is a conflict of a much more fundamental and cosmic nature.”[4]

Clearly, as followers of Jesus, we need to pray for an increase in godly leadership in government.

1 Timothy 2:1-3 NIV
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.

6. Religion

Of all the various fields of spiritual engagement, Christians tend to be the most familiar with the battlefield of Religion. Here the enemy lines stand out distinctly with their erroneous beliefs and idolatrous falsehoods. Although Christianity continues to spread, so too does paganism. It is reported that out of a world population now approaching 7 billion people, there are about 2.2 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, and 360 million Buddhists [5]. Add to this mix the other minor world religions, plus the New Age movement, Spiritism, Mysticism, and Witchcraft, and you can see there is a formidable foe out there. All of these movements are violations of God’s first command: to worship the only true God.

One thing we can be sure of as we draw closer to the return of Christ is that false belief systems will increase. People will slurp up lies like cold milk to wash down yummy chocolate chip cookies. Despite the rising opposition, we must not grow weary in our attempts to reach others with the Good News of Jesus. Far too many Christians have gotten soft, becoming spiritual couch potatoes, as they fail to confront wickedness—tolerating, and even participating in it. Additionally, Christian leadership is often unclear on the teaching of biblical mandates, and in their fear of a loss of attendance—loss of money—they fail to be the collective conscience of society that they could and should be.

Like it or not, Christians are being pushed right into the middle of many social controversies. Losing the battle of religion will result in the collapse of all freedoms. In many ways, the Christian church has become “salt that has lost its savor.” (Matt. 5:13) We must fight fearlessly on this battleground or soon we will be seeing the signs saying, “Welcome to the Coliseum, Folks!”

7. Family

The family unit has been under attack since the dawn of man. Just a cursory look at families today shows a picture of fractured households, single-parent situations, abuse, hatred, and many other kinds of division. God intended for the family to be a unit with a father-mother team leading the children. We have biblical evidence since Genesis 4 of a spiritual attack on the family, starting with the very first family of Adam and Eve, whose first son murdered his brother. The Bible is full of stories depicting the assault on the family.

Why so much focus on the family? Because it is the most fundamental unit of society. Break the family down, and soon you will have a breakdown in society. This is why all the previously listed battlefields are aimed as attacks on the family—financially, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically, and even educationally. Fathers and mothers must step up and lead their families righteously, actively teaching and training their children in the true ways of God and His Son, Jesus. This is the most important battlefield of all, and it is the one place where we can exert the greatest influence over our children and the future generations.

Called to the battle front

After looking at the seven battlefields it can seem as if we are completely surrounded by the spiritual war—and the reality is that we are. Although this can be depressing, we must be careful not to over-spiritualize things and begin to see ghosts behind every post. We take comfort in knowing that the battle is between God and His Enemy, and victory has already been secured through Christ.  The point of understanding the seven spiritual battlefields is so that we properly discern what is happening. This equips us so that we never retreat from the battle line; instead, we can engage the culture for the forces of light on each front.

Endnotes:

[1] 5 hours a day x 5 days a week x 9 months x 12 years = 10,800 hours.
[2] Dr. Lance Wallnau & Bill Johnson, Invading Babylon; The Seven Mountain Mandate. Destiny Image Publishers, Inc. P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA17257-0310 2013, page 33
[3]  Sound Mind Investing, The Financial Newsletter for Today’s Christian Family, Volume 12, Number 3, March 2001
[4] Dr. Lance Wallnau, God’s Chaos Candidate; the American Unraveling. Killer Sheep Media, Inc. Keller, TX 76248, 2016, pg. 129
[5] The Global Religious Landscape,; Pew Research Center, Religious & Public Life, December 18, 2012; http://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/

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The Ears: The Second Gateway to the Heart: Part 3: Two Spiritual Languages

God commands in no uncertain terms that we “diligently keep” His words and commandments so that we can love the Lord with all our heart, walk in all His ways and cleave to Him (Deuteronomy 11:22, KJV). We cannot love God if His words have no place in our hearts. We cannot walk with God if our hearts are empty and void of His words. The Hebrew phrase translated as “diligently keep” is shama, shama. God emphasizes the supreme importance of this truth by saying it twice. When God repeats a word in close and immediate succession in the Bible, this indicates something that is vital for us to understand. E. W. Bullinger, in Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, says:

It is a common and powerful way of emphasizing a particular word, by thus marking it and calling attention to it. In writing, one might accomplish this by putting the word in large letters, or by underlining it two or three times. In speaking it is easy to mark it by expressing it with increased emphasis or vehemence. How important for us to notice, in the Scriptures, the words and impressions which the Holy Spirit has thus marked and emphasizes in order to impress us with their importance.[i]

God is sounding out the clarion call to every heart: “Hear! Hear! Listen! Listen! Obey! Obey!” He spoke the word twice so we would never forget just how important the ears are to our hearts. In the Hebrew culture, hearing was not merely a passive act. You were not considered to have heard something unless you responded and took action on what was heard. To hear God is to act upon His words so a transformation of the heart can take place. If my life is not changing and becoming a reflection of these words, then I have not really heard them. When God says to hear Him, He does not mean to simply hear the sound waves hitting our ears, but also to carefully listen, pay attention, and do what He instructs us to do. Every day it is our sacred duty and responsibility before God to hear, listen, pay attention, and obey. This is the formula for a healthy heart. Yet this simple formula has been so hard for the heart to follow because of the amazing levels of deception that are present in the world. This is perfectly illustrated in the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. In one of the most critical moments of all history, God repeated a word twice to the human heart in Eden. The destiny of the entire human race depended upon whether Adam and Eve would hear, listen and obey.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat of any tree in the garden; But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you shall surely (muwth) die (muwth).” (Genesis 2:16–17, ESV)

God could not emphasize the importance of this truth any more forcefully. Adam listen to me, hear me, pay attention and above all obey these words for if you do not you shall die! Die! Not soon after this strong command and warning from God, the devil, the master of deceit, came into the Garden of Eden and captured Eve’s ear and smoothly uttered the same word twice to the human heart.

But the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely (muwth) die (muwth).” (Genesis 3:4, ESV)

Satan was also forcefully emphasizing his lie and, in a sense, mocking God’s words as he sugarcoated his lie, crooning to Eve, “Listen to me! Pay attention! Hear what I have to say, for I know what is best for you more than God does. I’m not sure why God said those words to you or why He’s not telling you the truth. I am here for your benefit to make you better! You absolutely will not die, die! Trust me!” Eve had to decide whether God’s words or the devil’s words would take root in her heart. This decision affected every human that has since lived upon the earth. The most monumental decision in all of human history and was the result of a battle of words.

Whenever God’s words are rejected, it brings death in some way, shape, or form to the human heart. Words of life and words of death were set before Eve, and she had to choose which words she would believe.

John 1:1 declares, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” God and His words cannot be separated, for they are one. God is His Word. God speaks out who He is, and His words are an expression of the very essence of His being. John 1:4 says, “That in Him was life and that life was the light of all mankind.” God is life, and His words are life, and His words bring life and light to all mankind. God lives in His words; God breathes in His words; God moves in His words. God’s words always bring transforming life and power and never have one ounce of death in them.

Death, by the most basic definition, is the absence of life. The devil’s words are full of death, but they masquerade as words of life and light. In John 8:44, Jesus tells us, “When [the devil] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and father of lies.” The devil’s words are an expression of the very essence of his being, and the devil lives, breathes and moves in His words. He is always speaking the lie, the untruth, and the deceitful tale. His lies are extremely alluring, yet when all the layers are peeled away, all that is left is death and separation from the heart of God.

But oh, how the human heart loves a lie and wraps itself in it! O how Eve loved the lie more than the truth! A lie is sweet music welcomed by the ear of most of the human race. This is sadly illustrated in the lyrics of a popular song of the hour:

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn? But that’s all right, because I like the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and hear me cry? But that’s all right, because I love the way you lie.[ii]

We have fallen in love with lies in our culture. Lying has become the native language and doublespeak for the entire world. It is the terrible transaction described in Romans 1:25 where the world exchanges the truth of God for a lie. The devil makes his lies glimmer and shine so that the ear gladly receives them. Then he stands back and watches the heart burn in bitterness, disappointment, disillusionment, and destruction. The lie is the great weapon of Satan’s deception and the grand message of His kingdom. His lies always distort the truth about the heart of God and His awesome purposes and plans.

Deuteronomy 11 sets forth God’s great cry to every generation: “Take heed to yourselves that your heart not be deceived and you turn from me and serve other gods.” The words “take heed” are the same Hebrew word “shamar” that we studied earlier, and it means to exercise great care to watch over, to preserve, guard, keep an eye on, pay close attention and protect. The Hebrew word translated as “deceive” means to be persuaded, enticed, deceived and deluded by words. Its basic root means “to be opened and to spread out.” We must diligently protect and guard our hearts from Satan’s deception by not allowing ourselves to be enticed and persuaded by his words. We cannot open our ears to any of his words, for they will spread like cancer in our hearts.

The heart can be taken out by deception so quickly that it boggles the mind. How quickly the heart can turned away from God. Eve’s heart was taken out in a matter of minutes, and the consequences of her failing to take heed to the words of God and instead trusting the words of the serpent were disastrous for the entire human race. King Solomon’s beautiful heart was turned away from God to serve other gods by listening to the words of his pagan wives, and it had devastating consequences for the kingdom of Israel for generations. Samson’s mighty heart for God was taken out by listening to the sincere and deceitful words of Delilah, and it cost him his life and destroyed a mighty judge and warrior for God. Judas’s heart, as a friend and disciple of Jesus, was turned and destroyed by listening to the political and religious ideas of the age about money, power and the nature of the Messiah. These are sobering lessons in Scripture. We must be vigilant like a trained soldier, monitoring what is coming into the heart through the gateway of the ear, for the ears are the beginning point of all deception.

Test Every Word

But we don’t have to be deceived! The Bible declares that we are to test every word we hear to determine whether it is worthy to enter our hearts:

Hear my words, you wise men; listen to me, you men of learning. For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food. (Job 34:2–3, NIV)

The Hebrew word rendered as “test” in this passage means to search out, examine, try, and prove. The noun form of this word refers to a garrisoned watchtower from which the people were to guard their fields and cities. It’s the same word used in the Scriptures when God tests and examines the heart or when precious metals like gold or silver are tested or proved as to their purity.

We are to examine and test every word we hear to determine whether or not it meets God’s standard of purity, integrity, and truth. Our ear is to be like a watchtower, and no word should be allowed to enter the heart without going through this testing process to see if we should open the gate and give it entry.

Do the words you are listening to originate from the heart of God or the heart of the devil? Should the words be believed or trusted or followed? Do these words bring glory to God? Do they advance the kingdom of God or the realm of darkness? Does the word promote the will, purposes, and desires of God or the devil?

So many words enter our ears, and we must not let any sneak past completely unaware. Don’t allow the words of the enemy to circumvent the gate and begin to take root and residence in your heart. Instead, seek the voice of God and the words He is speaking. Otherwise, your heart will soon be ripe for rebellion against the Almighty. These words are still being said for our ears to hear: “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” Hebrews 3:15 (PHILLIPS).

The Closing of Israel’s Ears

From the first time that God’s covenant people Israel breathed life as a nation, their ears did not hear and their hearts did not understand their awesome God. Their ears were shut like an iron gate to the words of the Lord:

To whom shall I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it. From the least to the greatest all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. (Jeremiah 6:10, 13, NIV)

But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? (Jeremiah 23:18, NIV)

But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. (Zechariah 7:11, ESV)

This was their distinguishing mark as a people and a nation, that they were rebels in disobedience to the message and words of their covenant God.

Barnes Notes on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah says, “To open the ear, denotes a prompt and ready attention to what God says and to close the ear denotes an unwillingness to listen to what is spoken by Him.”[iii] It’s amazing that any person would voluntarily close his ears to the voice of God. Yet even though God taught what was best for Israel in every circumstance and dilemma in life and had promised to always lead them in the way they should go, they were unwilling to listen and turned their backs on Him. They were essentially telling the Creator of the heavens and earth to “shut up,” for they didn’t want to hear or understand what He had to say. God Almighty dwelt in their midst, but they paid no attention. This was the immeasurable, infinite, eternal, all-knowing, fathomless God! How could they not hang on His every word?! They had forgotten the words of David:

Therefore, you are great O Lord God; for there is no one like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all we have heard with our ears. (2 Samuel 7:22, NRSV)

Because they would not listen, and because they would not hear, God’s own people allowed their hearts to turn ice cold against Him and defied Him with rebellion and deceit:

“You have neither heard or understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth.” (Isaiah 48:8, NIV)

What’s even more amazing about this rebellion of Israel that the prophets and priests were leading the way! The prophets and priests were supposed to shepherd and nurture God’s flock, helping them to grow more intimate in their relationship with the Lord. Yet they led God’s people astray. God could not trust His spiritual leadership for their ears were dead to His words. O how they forsook their calling to represent the heart of God to His beloved children! O how they broke the heart of God and caused Him endless sorrow! All because they would not hear! All because they would not listen! They refused to allow God to enter their heart by closing, like a massive steel door, the gate of their ear to His words.

The Priest’s Ear: Set Apart for God

God set up the ministry of the priest in such a beautiful way to minister the heart of God to the needs of His people. The priest was the doorkeeper of the tabernacle and was supposed to tend to both God and His people in his sacred duties. The priests were to help restore the hearts of His people to the ways of God and keep them on the path of His righteousness. They were to teach the words of God to the nation of Israel so these words could take root and grow into fruit in the heart of His children. They were the great guardians of the heart for every Israelite. Not only were they to abide in the presence of God every precious moment that they drew breath upon the earth, but the glory of God was to rest upon their every work and every word from their mouths.

No one in Israel should have understood the heart of God more than the priests! No one should have been more completely devoted to God. The priests were chosen by God to minister to Him, pronounce His blessings on the people, and to resolve every controversy or dispute in Israel. What an awesome and humbling privilege to be a priest of God who created the heavens and earth whose greatness there is no end!

The heart of the priest was to be pure, radically loyal, and committed to God. The priest’s ear was to be always open and awake to His tender whisper. This is why the ears of the priest were to be consecrated to the Lord:

“Take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then splash blood against the sides of the altar.” (Exodus 29:19–20, NIV)

The ear of the priest was to be stained with the blood of sacrifice and cleansed from the impurity of sin and the control of the selfish, idolatrous sin nature. The priest’s ear was set apart for God and set above the world. The priest was to hear differently than the world, for he was to be attuned to the Spirit of God and receptive to His voice rather than the deceptive melody of the world.

The ear represents the priest’s intimate relationship with God, and the ability to hear from God and converse with Him. He had the covenant legal right to hear from God, to talk with Him and commune with Him. His ear was dedicated, consecrated, and sanctified, thus prepared to hear the voice of God first above any other word or noise he might hear. The priest’s ear was to be sensitive to hear God’s calling, and he was to always follow God’s voice in loyal obedience.

What an unbelievable tragedy occurred when God’s own priests were offended by His voice and stopped their ears from hearing His words! The priests refused to listen and took no delight or pleasure in an intimate relationship with God. Their hearts became like a barren wilderness without the waters of the Spirit to sustain it. The priests became the opposite of everything God intended them to be simply because they failed to give their ears to the Almighty.

The Prophets’ Downfall

Were the prophets any better? No one on earth should have had an ear more tuned to God’s words than the prophet. He was God’s spokesman, mouthpiece, and messenger. A prophet was never to speak his own words but only that which he divinely heard from the heart of God. They were to declare God’s will in no uncertain terms. To have the breathtaking and awesome honor to speak to men and woman on behalf of God is the highest service a person could ever render to the human race.

The prophet’s ministry was birthed and brought to light in the glorious presence of the Lord where he heard the words that describe the heart of God to His people. His ear was to be synchronized to the heartbeat of God, to be finely tuned to His voice. The prophet was to be ready at any moment to hear the sovereign Lord speak.

The Word of the Lord burned in the prophet’s heart like a flame, and by that word he would admonish, warn, encourage, exhort, reprove, and rebuke, urging the people to turn back to God and forsake their foolish ways. “Thus saith the Lord” was the great cry of the prophet, and his message would change the destiny of individuals, families, cities, and nations.

The prophet grieved over the sin of God’s people. He was zealous for God with a burning passion, and he fervently prayed to God with endless devotion. He saw the people and the nations from God’s perspective and felt God’s anger and pain. The prophet was uncompromising on truth and did not budge one inch from the Word of God. His soul would not rest until God’s word was proclaimed from the mountaintops to all who would listen. The prophet laid siege to the hearts of God’s people, and his words were like sword that pierced the callous layers of the heart or like molten lava that would melt away at their hardness. The prophet was a mighty man on the earth and a great warrior for the Lord of Hosts. O how the earth would shake and the nations tremble at the word of the prophet.

But the prophets of Israel and Judah, like the priests, became defiled and turned against God, rejecting his words as they closed their ears like an iron door to His voice. O what mourning echoed the halls of heaven when God’s passionate mouthpiece rejected the Almighty and ran after the ways of the world! O how could God’s flame of fire and zealous advocate forsake Him and run from His voice? Instead of speaking the thundering words of truth, they wrapped themselves in religious deceit.

From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. (Jeremiah 6:13, NIV)

Rebellion was never to enter the heart of the prophet, for above all people he was to be courageous and uncontaminated by the idolatry that runs rampant on the earth. Yet God saw the great folly of the prophets of Judah and Israel, whose hearts rebelled against the Him. In Jeremiah 23, God sounds out the severe indictment against them. These are some of the most somber and heart-wrenching verses in Scripture and stand as a grave warning to all who refuse to listen to the Lord:

My heart within me is broken because of the prophets … I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria: They prophesied by Baal and caused My people Israel to err. Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery and walk in lies; they also strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah. (Jeremiah 23:9, 13–14, NKJV)

How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart … Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:26, 30, NKJV)

What a chilling statement as to what can happen to the heart when the ears go astray! The prophets had allowed their hearts to become full of idolatry, lies, and wickedness. And by their actions, they had strengthened evil in the hearts of God’s chosen. God looked at their hearts and called them “the prophets of deceit” and made the somber declaration that He was against them.

With the prophets and priests falling away from God into the depths of idolatry, a severe famine struck the land. This was not a famine of food or water, but was a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. (Amos 8:11–12, NIV)

This is the most destructive form of famine because it strikes at the heart and causes the fabric of society to unravel. Sin and disobedience flourish when God’s words are not heard, and so Israel and Judah were plunged into darkness. The heart is blind without the light and guidance of the words of the Lord and is cursed to an existence of stumbling about, wandering aimlessly in the dark.

The priests and prophets brought about this famine because they despised the voice of the Lord. They fed the hearts of the people with words devised from their own imaginations and deceptive reasoning. But these words utterly failed to quench the people’s thirst or satisfy their hunger.

Only hearing the words of the Lord and obeying them out of a heart of love, awe and thankfulness can truly satisfy the hunger and thirst of the human heart. But if the heart continues in its folly, Amos 8:14 pronounces its ultimate end: “Even they shall fall, and never rise again.” How vital it is that we listen to and heed the words of the living God!

No Vacancy?

The religious leaders in the time of Christ followed the tragic example of the priests and prophets of the Old Testament, as they did not have ears to hear what God was saying through His written Word and, ultimately, through His Son, the Living Word. Jesus made the astounding statement that the Pharisees had no room in their hearts for His word (John 8:37). It is like the words of the Lord showed up on the doorstep of these men and were met with cries of “No vacancy! No room available! We are completely full!” What an indictment against those who call themselves God’s priests and elders!

Their hearts wallowed in spiritual desolation and darkness, completely void of life and light because they refused to allow the words of the Lord occupancy in their hearts. Their hearts were full of so much religious junk and prideful arrogance that they refused to give God any space there. Not even the smallest piece of their hearts was dedicated to God, and they simply didn’t want to hear what He had to say.

Do you have room in your heart for the words of the Lord, or is it just too crowded with other things? Is there a “No Vacancy” or a “Welcome” sign hanging on the door to your heart when the Lord comes calling? God wants to write on the tablet of your heart, and He earnestly desires that you lay up His words in your heart (Job 22:22); that you would hide His words in your heart so that you do not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11); that you bind the words of God to your heart so that when you walk they will lead you, when you sleep they will watch over you, and when you wake they will talk to you (Proverbs 6:21–22); and that the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16).

This cannot happen if you are not listening. This cannot happen if you are not spending time in His Word. This cannot happen if your heart is honoring someone else’s words above the words of the Lord. The heart is not a vacuum. It is always being filled with someone’s words, ideas, beliefs, desires, and values. What words does your heart treasure? What sign hangs on the door of your heart?

The Two Spiritual Languages

Jesus answers this question for us concerning the Pharisees, who were tuning their ears to the wrong spiritual father:

“I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you go what you have heard from your father. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire … When he lies, he speaks his native language … Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:37-38, 43-44, 47, NIV)

Jesus Christ spoke God’s beautiful language that was spoken into his heart during the times he spent in sweet fellowship with the Father and the Word. This language brings the very life of God into the heart, mending, restoring and healing it. Yet the Pharisees, the top religious order of the day, could not hear God’s language because they had sold out their ears to another father. They had tuned their ears to the language proceeding from the heart of the archenemy of God, the devil. They thought they were serving God, but their hearts did not belong to God. They thought they were devoted to God, but their ears betrayed them and showed that their commitment to the true God was just a visual show and a sham.

Our heart desires the things that our ear most attentively listens to. So whom are we listening to? There are two spiritual languages in life, God’s and the devil’s, and our ears are devoted to either one or the other. The desires of the heart are birthed from the spiritual language we are listening to.

The ear is a critical instrument to keep the flame for God burning in the heart. In order to keep a great longing and desire for God, the ear must be tuned to His voice and be attentively listening to His words. Fervent desire for anything in life is funneled into the furnace of the heart through the ear. Once desire for something is birthed in the heart, then the heart begins to bend towards its passion and produces works, actions, words, and habits arising from the heart’s desires. Desire is essential to all of life, including a life that is devoted to God.

The priest, prophet, and Pharisee were to be passionate for God above all else, and this flame was to be kept burning by the words God spoke into their hearts. But if the ear is not tuned to God, there can be no passion for God. Desire for God dies quickly and is replaced by a desire for the things of the world. Jesus exposed the hearts of these men who claimed to be the spiritual leaders of Israel and showed what trouble their ears got them into. Their ears had turned the desires and passions of their hearts to the devil and not to God. This is a profound and sobering truth to think about. These men, who claimed to represent God, willed and desired with great emotion to do the will of the devil. Satan’s words had given birth to the cravings, yearnings, aspirations, and passions in their hearts. They had become the children of a new father in word and deed. The devil was spreading his seed of death, destruction, and chaos through these children, these Pharisees, who had listened to his deceptive words and reasoning.

Your Life is Molded by Your Ear

God was forever crying out to His prophets, priests, and people, “Hear, O Israel” (Deuteronomy 6:4). God cries out to all generations: “Hear my words, hear my truth, hear my instructions, hear my warnings, hear my encouragement, hear my voice and hear my heart!” The great characteristic of a child of God is that he or she hears what God says (John 10:27). The ear is the beginning of a relentless passion and devotion for God in the heart. What you are is directly related to what you hear and obey. Our life is molded and shaped by our ear. Our great work and service for the kingdom of God starts with hearing and obeying the voice of the Shepherd. We will always fail in our divine calling if we listen to and follow another.

Indeed, one of the worst maladies that has plagued mankind since the beginning of the world is deafness to the voice of God:

For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. (Job 33:14, NLT)

When I called, why was there no one to answer? (Isaiah 50:2, NKJV)

For since the beginning of the world, men have not heard or perceived by the ear (Isaiah 64:4, NKJV)

When I spoke they did not listen. (Isaiah 66:4, NLT)

God is always calling out to the world to behold His majesty, His glory, and His love, but no one is listening. People cannot stir and arouse their hearts to take hold of God and cleave unto Him if they cannot hear His words. “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” Their hearts are swept away by sin and made hard to the will of God when we do not listen for His voice. This fatal heart disease is at the center of every rebellion against God in the history of the heavens and earth. God cannot revive, restore and purify the heart that has no ears to hear, because it refuses to be fed, nourished and transformed by His life-giving words. God gives the formula for a healthy spiritual heart in Proverbs: “Dear friend, listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice. Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart! Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they’re bursting with health” (Proverbs 4:20–22, MSG). Our hearts will burst with health when we tune our ears to His voice!

[i] E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968), 189.

[ii] Eminem, “Love the Way You Lie,” Recovery, 2010, CD.

[iii] Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Volume II (New York: Leavitt and Allen, 1853), 194.

Excerpt from: The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life: https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/1483447928/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499477494&sr=1-1&keywords=heart+key+to+everything

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“Yes Lord” is a Prayer

As Christians, we tend to spend a lot of time praying, “Please, Lord, do this” or “Please, Lord, do that.” We are constantly asking God to initiate something. “Please bring my son or daughter home. Please give me a better job.” Now those are good and valid prayers. However, there are times when God chooses to initiate something on His own, and all He is looking for is someone who will agree with Him—someone who will not only pray, “Please, Lord” but “Yes, Lord!”

For example, through the prophet Ezekiel, God said, “I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30). This was a time when God had already initiated mercy, and He was just looking for somebody to agree with Him.

Unfortunately, when society reaches a condition much like ours today, it is a lot easier to come up with reasons as to why judgment should come. However, what if God is willing to be merciful, and He is simply seeking for some among His people who will say, “Yes, Lord?”

ABRAHAM’S SERVANT

We see the impact of this “Yes, Lord” prayer in the book of Genesis when Abraham sent one of his servants to find a bride for his son Isaac. In fact, this turned out to be an interaction that changed the course of history! Rebekah, the bride he found, eventually bore Isaac two sons: Jacob and Esau. Jacob became the father of the nation of Israel, and through that nation came our Messiah!

Now before we get to the “Yes, Lord” part of the story, there are certain characteristics of this servant of Abraham that are noteworthy. First of all, the Bible tells us that “the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter” (Genesis 24:9). In other words, he was a man of his word; a person of truth. The truth of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (see Psalm 119:105). If you and I are people of truth, God can begin to lead us on a pathway that will bring great glory to His name.

The passage continues, “The servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, for all his master’s goods were in his hand” (Genesis 24:10). If you are a person of truth who wants to find a bride for the Master’s Son, God will put everything you need into your hand. He will give you wisdom, kindness, joy, peace, faith, and vision. God will always abundantly supply whatever is required for the work He has called you to do.

“And he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water. Then he said, ‘O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham’” (24:11–12). Notice how he asked that God would show kindness to his master. And so we have a picture of the kind of person God will use: the man or woman who is not looking for his or her own glory. Their prayers are not for their own sake but rather for the glory of God and the sake of others.

“Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac” (Genesis 24:13–14).

We see that this servant was given boldness to pray a specific prayer. When you value the commission of God, suddenly you will find yourself praying prayers that go beyond generic. The amazing thing is that in this case, before the servant had finished speaking, the answer came (see Genesis 24:15).

OBEDIENT TO THE PROMPTINGS

While the servant’s prayer on his side was, “Please, Lord,” on the other side was a young girl named Rebekah. Perhaps she was sitting at home when suddenly the thought to go to the well dropped into her heart. Imagine if Rebekah had said, “No, let my sister go. I went yesterday. I have a headache and I don’t feel like going all the way to the well.” How different history would have been! Fortunately, she was a young girl who obeyed the promptings of the Lord.

If only we, too, would learn to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit! There might be somebody across the hall in your apartment building today who is praying, “Please, God, show me if You are real.” And all God is looking for from you is, “Yes, Lord” as He moves on your heart to go visit them.

This reminds me of a time years ago when the Lord impressed upon my heart to start a Bible study in a little country church. Now, you had to be lost in order to drive by this church, for there was no way you could be going anywhere to pass by it. This small town called Pendleton was in an area of Canada with no Christian testimony for about forty square miles that we were aware of. I went to the board of the church and told them who I was and the reason I wanted to rent their church. They ended up allowing us to use the church free of charge, and they even provided a caretaker to turn on the heat and shovel the snow in the winter.

I immediately put together flyers advertising the Bible study and sent them out. The very first night, there was a snowstorm and nobody came! I ended up at the church with my six-year old son, Jason, and my brother-in-law, who was the worship leader. My brother-in-law asked, “Should we just go home?” “No,” I replied. “The Lord has called me to do this, so we are going to have a service tonight!” And we did. We worshiped God, my son shared his testimony, and we all had a great time! I continued to hold the Bible study week after week. Sometimes there were six people, sometimes only four. But eventually, over the course of a couple of years, the Bible study grew into a church. One church grew into two, plus a Christian school and a food bank—a testimony that still exists today!

What would have happened if I had just gone home on that first night of the Bible study? I could have said, “This is pointless— conducting a Bible study in the middle of nowhere with so few people is not worth the effort.” How sad it will be for some people when they arrive at the throne of God and realize that the Lord’s promptings were there to do something that would have brought honor to His name, yet they did not obey. Perhaps they could not believe God would use them or that it actually was His prompting. And so they stayed on the “Please, Lord” side of prayer and never moved on to “Yes, Lord.”

BEYOND THE MINIMUM

Returning to our passage, the Bible tells us that Rebekah was “very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. And the servant ran to meet her, and said, ‘Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.’ So she said, ‘Drink, my lord.’ Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink” (Genesis 24:16–18).

After she had finished giving the servant a drink, Rebekah offered, “‘I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.’ Then she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough, ran back to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels” (Genesis 24:19–20).

Now I did some research and learned that a thirsty camel can drink between twenty-five and forty-five gallons in one sitting. Let’s be generous and say it was only a thirty-gallon day for each camel. Remember, Abraham’s servant had ten camels, so that would amount to three hundred gallons of water! Note that many of the wells in the ancient Near East were essentially big square holes in the ground with some steps going down to the water. Assuming that Rebekah had a five-gallon pail, which would be about as much as a teenage girl could carry, that meant sixty trips down to the well for her! Obviously, this was a young girl who did not want to do just the minimum.

Sadly, many people never fully realize the potential that God has for them in His kingdom because they always settle for the minimum—the least amount of time spent in Bible study, church attendance, and prayer—just enough to make it across the finish line. And then they are left wondering why they are always dissatisfied, having an empty sense in their heart that they are destined for more.

KNOWING THE FATHER’S HEART

When the camels had finished drinking, Abraham’s servant asked, “Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please, is there room in your father’s house for us to lodge?” (Genesis 24:23).

I love Rebekah’s response: “‘I am the daughter of Bethuel, Milcah’s son, whom she bore to Nahor.’ Moreover she said to him, ‘We have both straw and feed enough, and room to lodge’” (Genesis 24:24–25).

Her father had sent her to get five gallons of water, yet she was coming home with ten camels and several servants! You see, Rebekah knew there was room in her father’s house and she was confident that he would never disappoint her. She was so generous and went far beyond what was required because she knew the largeness of her father’s heart.

And so I ask you today: Do you know the largeness of your Father’s heart? Do you know His willingness to show mercy? Do you fully understand the longing in the heart of God to see this nation turn back to Him?

The Bible goes on to tell us that Abraham’s servant then “bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord” (Genesis 24:26).

Incredible! In the same way, I believe that many people today would bow and worship God if you and I would learn to say, “Yes Lord!”—if we were willing to show kindness beyond what is convenient; if we were willing to pray specific prayers; if we were willing to walk in obedience. When our society finally sees the Church fully engaged with the true work of God—reaching out to the lost, going the extra mile, showing kindness to those who do not necessarily deserve it—suddenly people will bow their heads and begin to worship.

THE “YES, LORD” SIDE

I am convinced that God is initiating something truly significant in this hour; He has decreed a moment of mercy for America. No matter how set against Christ people’s hearts have been in the past, God is now presenting an open window.

And so I do not want to spend all my prayer life on the “Please, Lord” side. I want to live on the “Yes, Lord” side and find out what my part is! “Yes, Lord, what do You want me to do? Yes, Lord, how do You want me to do it? Yes, Lord, what do You want me to say? Yes, Lord, where do You want me to go?” “Yes, Lord” must be our prayer today!

When God spoke to Rebekah, she had to move from where she was and go to where God was calling her in order for the miracle to happen. Similarly, God is speaking to people today, telling them to get up and out of certain things. So rather than constantly saying, “Please, Lord, give me the grace to get out of this relationship. Give me the grace to cease this practice,” it is time to start saying, “Yes, Lord, You have called me to something deeper. You have called me to make a difference in my society. You have called me to be a person who can boast of You to the point where others cannot help but bow their heads and worship. So I am no longer going to say, ‘Please, Lord’ while merely sitting in unbelief. I am going to agree with You, get out of where I should not be, and go to where You are calling me!”

Perhaps you already know what God is asking you to do. If He has already spoken to your heart, begin with those things. If the Lord is asking you to forgive, then forgive. If He is asking you to speak truth, then do so. If He is asking you to go beyond what is convenient in your service to Him, then do not hesitate to go the extra mile. Until you obey what He has already told you to do, the other leadings of the Lord will remain hidden.

Remember, all that God has ever asked of His people is that we walk with Him in agreement. Of course, we will not always know exactly where our “yes” to God will lead us. However, we do know that it will lead to the miraculous. It will usher us into places of impossibilities where God is able to display His power— places where we, as well as those around us, will begin to truly understand the largeness of our Father’s heart!

Carter Conlon ©2017 Times Square Church

Courtesy of http://www.tscnyc.org/sermons/47989_sermon-newsletter-201705-yes-lord-is-a-prayer.pdf

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