Gearing Up and the Place of the Heart

Steve Viars August 5, 2006

- If I asked you to make an inventory of everything you brought with you to church this morning, what would you write down?...
- you’d probably say...well, I came in a car...
- and I brought my purse or my wallet...I brought my Bible and perhaps a notebook...
- I brought what I’m wearing...Maybe, I brought some mints...
- now, if you do carry a purse and decided to list everything in there, I realize it might be a bit more extensive...
- fingernail clippers, Kleenex, gum, an appointment book, throat lozenges, pictures...but still it probably wouldn’t be a terribly long list...but please think about those items...

- then if we said...now look at everything you brought to church this morning and organize it from the perspective of what’s  most valuable...what is most important...
- and let’s say, you could not count your Bible as the answer...put that off to the side for a moment...
- in your list of items that you brought to church with you this morning, what’s most valuable...what’s most important?...

- now, let’s look at it from a slightly different perspective...in that list of things you brought today...which one of them is most important for you to take care of...to maintain properly?...
- and when I say...important...I mean from the perspective of how it will impact your spiritual future, and the future of our church...of what God wants to accomplish in and through us?...

- how would you answer that?...
- it surely couldn’t be maintaining your car...or maintaining your clothes...
- what did you bring that would reach the level of significance that its maintenance would affect your spiritual future, and the future of our church?...
- think about your inventory one more time...what do you have that could possibly be that important?

- here’s the answer...your heart...your inner person...that part of you that nobody else can see...
- and here’s what we are after this morning...
- beginning next week we’re going to start our fall series on the Old Testament book of Jonah...
- we’re calling that – What Happens When a Gear Gets Jammed
- that gives us today as sort of a stand alone Sunday which we thought would provide a great opportunity to study about the issue of Gearing Up and the Place of the Heart.
-see, we’re about to enter a time in the calendar where there will be a whirlwind of activities....and a tremendous number of ministry opportunities...
- the future is bright for a lot of reasons...if we are committed to giving careful attention to an area of life that often escapes the attention of many Christians...the heart...
- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Matthew chapter 14?...page 13 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you – page 1219 in our Chinese English Bibles...]
- in this passage we find Jesus healing a group of people who were sick...
- and then some of the Pharisees come and they begin fussing because Jesus’ disciples aren’t following all their ceremonial rules about these washing rituals before they eat...
- that gives the Lord a great occasion to speak to everybody around about the centrality of something many people forget they even have...they forget they are carrying it around...they forget they are responsible for maintaining it...Jesus talks with them about the centrality of the heart...

- with that in mind, let’s read this passage together...Read Matthew 14:34-15:20

- in the time we have remaining, let’s think about 3 Key ways to relate to your inner man.

I. God Wants Us to Be a Church That Understands the Heart.


- I recognize that some here today might say, PV, I’m not even sure what we’re talking about when we use the word “heart”...
- that’s OK...we all start somewhere...
- but the beauty of the Word of God is that it seeks to teach us what we need to know...
- it is an extremely practical and helpful book...
- in Scripture, the Word heart is used over 700 times...
- in your notes, we just gave you a sampling of some of what God teaches us...
- and I realize that if you got a handout beforehand...your heart might have skipped a beat...”honey, we should have packed a lunch”...
- We wanted you to have these for future study if you desired, but let just highlight a couple of them at this point...
[A. By knowing the way the word is used in Scripture.]
- for example, the Bible says that you...
1.  You draw conclusions in your heart.
- Eccles. 7:2 tells us...
Ecclesiastes 7:2 - Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart.
- see, over the course of your life, you have come to all sorts of conclusions in your heart...that’s what it means to “take something to heart...”
- you may have come to additional conclusions even this week...
- and some of God’s people are very careless about the conclusions they are drawing...about the thoughts/ideas they are “taking to heart...”

- or, we should certainly note the second one...
2. Your heart guides your behavior.
Proverbs 4:23 - Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.
- if you want to understand why you do what you do...look no further than the thoughts, and desires, and beliefs, and intents you have cultivated in your heart...
- if changing and growing is on your radar screen [and I hope it is]...then guarding your heart is a key component of that sanctification process...
- the reason many of God’s people do not see the progress they would desire is right here...trying to change the behavior without addressing the heart...
- and if helping other people take steps of growth is part of our church’s responsibility and privilege...an emphasis on the heart is crucial...
3. Your heart can be wholly devoted to something/someone or divided in its loyalties.
Positively – Joshua 22:5 - But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.
Negatively - 1 Kings 11:4 - As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.
4. Your heart can be wise and understanding.
Psalm 90:12 - So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
5. Your heart can be angry.
Psalm 39:3 - My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned. Then I spoke with my tongue

- you could also take note of #6...
6. Your heart can be where God’s Word is stored.
Psalm 37:31 - The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.
- some of the people who will attend our services today have been slipping spiritually...and here’s one of the reasons why...it is because they are not putting the law of God in their hearts...
- conversely, some are progressing dramatically...because they have more and more of a biblical grid in their hearts through which to process daily decisions and challenges [cf. conversation with counselees from another church this week...]
7. Your heart can be bitter.
Proverbs 14:10 - The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.
8. Your heart can be broken.
Jeremiah 23:9 - My heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake. I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine has overcome, because of the Lord, and because of His holy words.
9. Your heart can be courageous.
Psalm 27:14 - Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!
John 14:1 - Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
10. Your heart can be deceived.
Isaiah 47:10 - For you have trusted in your wickedness; you have said, ‘No one sees me’; your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you; and you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’
11. You make plans in your heart.
1 Kings 12:33 - So he made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in the month which he had devised in his own heart. And he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and offered sacrifices on the altar and burned incense.
12. You can be discouraged in your heart.
Galatians 6:9 - And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

- one of the sadder uses is #13
13. Your heart can be dull and unreceptive to truth.
Matthew 13:15 - For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.
- I wonder how many people will step into Christian churches around the world today and simply go through the motions...because of the condition of the heart they took to the service...
14. Your heart is where enticement to sin begins.
Job 31:9 - If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor’s door

- There are a lot of positive uses...did you notice #15...
15. Your heart can be steadfast and faithful.
Psalm 57:7 - My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise.
- many of God’s people live lives that are faithful because they have developed steadfast hearts...
- there are truths they believe...and thoughts they have developed...and desires they have cultivated...that produces behavior that is dependable...
- and even when things are difficult, as they were for David in this Psalm as he was being persecuted by Saul...he responded properly because his heart was steadfast...
16. Your heart can be foolish.
Romans 1:21 - because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
17. Your heart can be glad.
Psalm 4:7 - You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased.
18. Your heart can be guilty.
a.  The state of guilt - Romans 2:5 - But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God
b.  The feeling of guilt - 2 Samuel 24:10 - And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”
19. Your heart can be hardened.
Proverbs 28:14 - Happy is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
20. Your heart can be fearful.
1 Samuel 28:5 - When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.
21.  Your heart can be hateful.
2 Samuel 6:16 - Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
22. Your heart can be turned away from God.
1 Kings 11:3-4 - And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.
23. Your heart can be idolatrous.
Ezekiel 20:16 - because they despised My judgments and did not walk in My statutes, but profaned My Sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols.
24. Your heart is your inner person (as contrasted to your outer man).
1 Samuel 16:7 - But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
25. Your heart can be pure.
1 Timothy 1:5 - Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith
26. Your heart is where lust occurs.
Matthew 5:28 - But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
27. Your heart is where lies develop.
Isaiah 59:13 - In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
28. Your heart can follow God’s heart.
Jeremiah 3:15 - And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
29. You meditate in your heart.
Psalm 19:14 - Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
30. You can make plans in your heart that are biblical.
Proverbs 19:21 - There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.
31. Your heart can be proud.
Psalm 101:5 - Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him I will destroy; the one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.
32. Your heart can be stubborn and rebellious.
Jeremiah 5:23 - But this people has a defiant and rebellious heart; they have revolted and departed.
33. Repentance begins in your heart.
Psalm 51:17 - The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.
34. You can be sad in your heart.
John 16:6 - But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.
35. You can set your heart in a particular direction.
Daniel 10:12 - Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.
36. Your heart can be sincere.
Colossians 3:22 - Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.
37. You speak in your heart.
Psalm 15:2 - He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart
38. Your heart can be tender.
2 Kings 22:19 - because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord.
39. Your heart can be filled with praise and thanksgiving.
Psalm 111:1 - Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
40. Your heart can be willing.
Exodus 35:5 - Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze

- now, every one of those uses could be studied to great profit...but the point this morning is that apparently the religious leaders in Matthew 15 did not really understand the importance of the heart...
- verse 8, quoting from Isaiah says...
Matthew 15:8 - These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.

- now, I realize you might say...well PV, I certainly don’t want to be like the persons in this passage, but I’m still not sure exactly what we mean when we talk about “heart”...
B. By having a working definition.
- the reason I wanted us to see all of these verses, at least on paper...is to help us note that we are certainly not just talking about the seat of the emotions, though emotions are involved...
- this is also obviously not the physical organ...
- these verses talking about thinking in the heart, planning in the heart, speaking in the heart, desiring in the heart...
- it is the most comprehensive term in the Bible to describe the inner man...
- that is why so often in Scripture it is set up logically in contrast to our physical bodies...
- verse 8 – This people honors me with their lips, but their heart...
- verse 18 – the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart...
- verse 19-20 – For out of the heart come evil thoughts...to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.

- one of the best definitions I’ve ever heard for this term comes from Dr. Renald Showers – heart – the control center of man.

- now, why would it be important for us to study a passage like Matthew 15 during a year where we are talking about Gearing Up for Greater Effectiveness...
- friends, could what is being said of the people in this passage ever be true of us?...
- there might be a lot of activity...a lot of busyness...a lot of plans...and construction...
- but lost in the shuffle was a genuine biblical understanding of the heart?...

- now, if we understand that...then the next logical corollary is...


II. God Wants Us to Be a Church That Emphasizes the Heart.


A. Instead of attempting to rationalize the sin of our hearts.
- you might say, where did that come from?...
- that’s the point of verses 3-7...
- of course these religious teachers knew the fifth commandment...Honor your father and mother...
- but here’s the little game the religious teachers had devised...
- they taught that you could look at your material possessions and say “I dedicate that to the Lord...”
- not actually give it to the Lord...not take it to the temple...just say that I am dedicating that to the Lord...the gospel of Mark adds the technical expression that would be used...pronouncing it Corban...dedicating it to God...
- then if your elderly parents came to you with a financial need...where you would have an opportunity to especially keep the 5th commandment...you could get around it by saying...sorry mom and dad...I would have given that you but I’ve already dedicated it to God...
- to make matters worse, they also taught that you could later take the dedication back...
- so you say “I dedicate that to the Lord”...then you refuse to help your parents in need [whom you are supposed to be honoring], then later you just take the dedication back and use the material possession yourself...
- and it all sounded so spiritual...they were honoring God with their lips...but all they were doing was rationalizing their sin...their hearts were far from God...
- boy, I sure am glad that’s the last time that temptation existed, aren’t you?...to rationalize our sin...to come up with all sorts of reasons to excuse our disobedience?...
- we’ll talk about this more in a moment...but the apostle James said this... James 4:8 - ...purify your hearts...
- and I wonder if for many of us, we have come up with all sorts of twisted logic to justify various ways we disobey God’s Word...that if evaluated, would sound about as lame as what we are reading in this text...
- and perhaps it is time to say...what does that disobedience say about the condition of my heart?

B. Instead of majoring on the minors.
- that was the other problem in this passage...
- there were all wound up about hand washing rituals...
- their rabbis had devised an extensive method of holding your hands a particular way and letting water run down, and then changing the position of your hands and letting the water run the other way...
- and you say, was any of that in the Bible?...no, verse 2 makes it clear, it was the tradition of their elders...
- and just because it had been tradition doesn’t make it bad...but it certainly doesn’t make it good...especially when those ideas are elevated to the level of Scripture...
- and please think about the context...though we don’t know for sure, the word “then” in chapter 15 verse 1 would seem to indicate that the events of the end of chapter 14 were linked to what we’ve been studying...
- and even if there were a few days or weeks in between, these people still were aware of the fact that Christ had demonstrated His deity by His ability to heal people and His compassion by taking the time to do it...
- but instead of chapter 15 being a praise service rejoicing that the suffering of so many had been relieved...or a time of asking questions to learn what they could from the Son of God...they wanted to gripe about hand washing rituals...
- that’s the point at the end of verse 0 – they were teaching as doctrine the traditions of men...
- and by majoring on the minors they were completely missing the importance of the heart...

- how does that apply to where we are right now as a church?...
- a lot of ways, but one of them is---we should really cry out to God and ask Him to teach us the skill of majoring on the majors...and letting the small things go on by...
- we had a good example of that this week...we had some sort of mix up this week with our visitor letters where a letter that was addressed to one person was placed in an envelope addressed to somebody else...and since I have a hand in that process, it was probably me who messed it up...
- but we received a delightful call from the person who had visited letting us know what had happened in case we wanted to send another letter to the person with the corresponding envelope...
- but the person said several times...its no problem...we understand with everything going on there...we just wanted to let you know...
- that’s the kind of graciousness that ought to, and that has to characterize a group of people who are going to accomplish something for God...
[could talk about the contrast – person who pitched a fit because we got their name wrong in a thank you letter...]

- here’s one of the bottom lines...with everything going on around here...we are going to have to let a lot of small things go...
- and I don’t mean ignoring sin...
- when things happen that violate Scripture and love should/cannot cover them, we need to stop and get them ironed out...
- but many churches are not getting much done for God because people have bees under their bonnets about things that aren’t particularly important...like hand washing rituals...[“but mine is more important than that...probably not to them it wouldn’t have been...]

- now, what are the take aways from this study?....


III. God Wants Us to Be a Church that Cultivates the Heart.

 

A. Be sure that you received a new heart by trusting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
- Ezekiel 36:26-27 - I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

[develop]

B. Cultivate a Heart that truly is growing in your love for the Lord.
- Matthew 22:37 - Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
- [develop specific ways to do that this fall...meditating regularly on His character/attributes, focusing on the beauty of the cross and the empty tomb, filling your mind with good music, looking for His hand in trial...avoiding sins that would diminish your love for Him...]

C. Take specific steps to draw near to the Lord in your heart.
- James 4:8 - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you...
- Genesis 5:24 - And Enoch walked with God...
- I hope every person from our church will leave today with this prayer and commitment...Lord, I want this fall to be a time where I learn to draw closer to You...to walk with you in a more meaningful way...
- not just more busyness, or activity, or even ministry or construction projects...but cultivating a heart that “draws near to God”, being amazed in His promise that He will draw near to you...

D. When fighting sin, do not be satisfied with simply modifying behavior.
- we mentioned a moment ago the next portion of James 4:8...
- James 4:8 - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

- there are some great resources to help you understand this area better...
- Ed Welch – Motives: Why Do I Do the Things I Do? (pamphlet)
- Elyse Fitzpatrick – Idols of the Heart (book)
- Brent Aucoin – Heart of Change (DVD series)

E. Seek to participate in corporate worship in a wholehearted fashion.
- many of the strongest passages in Scripture that discuss the heart speak about worshipping God in a way that is shallow and superficial and therefore displeasing to God...we saw that kind of worship here in Matthew 15...
- 15:9 – But in vain do they worship me.
- John MacArthur wrote in his commentary on Matthew - One of God’s supreme commands is: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Ex. 20:7). That command obviously prohibits profanity or vulgarity in which the Lord’s name is used. It also obviously prohibits flippant, irreverent use of His name. But more than those obvious things, it also forbids any use of God’s name that is superficial, indifferent, insincere, or hypocritical.
It has been said that God’s name is taken in vain more often inside the church than outside. His name is taken in vain whenever it is mechanically used in repetitious prayers and liturgies, in singing His praise while having no thought of Him, and in praying thoughtlessly and without genuine devotion. His name is taken in vain through empty worship perhaps more than in any other way.

F. Commit yourself to developing a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 - So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

G. Develop a heart and lifestyle that is more singularly focused.
Joshua 22:5 - But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

H. Avoid pride in your heart.
Psalm 101:5 - Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him I will destroy; The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.

I. Ask the Lord for a courageous heart.
Psalm 27:14 - Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!

[apply to both our individual lives and the way we try to help others change...]

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video