Sunday, November 16, 2014

God Looks at the Heart

"Good morning!" Pastor Brad welcomed us and then indicated that today's message was about this: What does it mean to be a good person?

~ Thursday November 20 we will be at the Washbucket in West Duluth to do laundry for poor and needy in that community.
~ Wednesday we will be packing Operation Christmas Child boxes.
~ Walt came forward to share a few words about the building progress. It's quite evident that we're making progress across the street. The walls are framed and the next big project is hanging drywall. First, the electrician must get the building wired and the heat going so the mud and paint will dry once we start.
~ In two weeks we will have our first Christmas program practice.

Darlene ushered us into worship with a beautiful medley. Brad then led us as we sang contemporary versions of Amazing Grace, How Deep the Father's Love For Us and Take My Life. The offering was taken followed by a time of prayer.

God Looks At The Heart

Pastor Brad stated that his aim this morning is to attempt to get at the idea of what does Jesus want for us or from us. What does a good person look like in God's eyes.

The source passages are from the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5 begins with the Beattitudes. Then Jesus talks about what we are to be like. "You are the salt of the earth..."

Then Jesus addresses the matter of sin from Matthew 5:21-30. If your eye violates the commandment, pluck it out. If your hand sins, cut it off.

Jesus isn't really proposing dismemberment as the path to holiness. What He is saying, first, is that sin is serious.

But the purpose of these hard words is to highlight something that was a problem in His day, the matter of how to be holy. How to be good. How to be pleasing to God.

The Pharisees valued the law, but they went through extreme contortions to use their willpower to be good. This carries over to what we have today where holiness is not a positive, but a life of avoiding the bad stuff. Don't do this, don't do that.

Jesus is saying God's plan for being a good person is not just sin avoidance. If the problem were that simple, we'd cut off hands, feet, eyes, tongue and just roll into heaven. This problem isn't the things we do. The problem is the heart. You can cut off everything and still have ugliness and bitterness in the center of your being. And what's inside of us will always leak out.

Our human condition is the problem. It's what comes out of us is what makes us unclean.

The community of faith is not a self-help group.

Brad then cited Mark 7:20-22: And He said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.

The world is a mess because of the human heart. And there is no self-help that will fix this, as is underscored in Luke 6:43-45.

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

God is not some mean guy up there in the clouds trying to keep us from doing the things we want to do.  And what we need is not more willpower. What we need is to want something else more than we want sin. What we need is a new heart.

Holiness means that I become the kind of person who actually wants to to what is right. And to be honest, this is what our hearts want when the Holy Spirit enters us.

What God wants to do is change us within so that we naturally want to do what is right and good.

"Abide in Me," Jesus says.

God is not opposed to effort. He's opposed to earnings. That is, our deeds do not "earn" us salvation. By means of our efforts we can never attain what is required of us. Ultimately it all comes down to grace.

Brad then challenged us to focus on one thing. He chose to have us focus this week on controlling our tongues. "This week I want to challenge you not to say anything that is negative. No complaining. No whining. Not even in your body language."

He challenged us here to do this because he knows it is impossible.

* * * *
We closed the service with Hymn #296, All Praise To God Who Reigns Above.

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