Monday, March 11, 2013

Our Hearts: Christ-Centered or Self-Centered?

At the beginning of 2013 our Pastor Doug Mulkey strongly urged every member to faithfully read the entire Bible in one year. He even had copies available of a carefully planned year-long reading program and it was  an easy-to-follow schedule printed on both sides of one sheet of paper. In addition, for those who enjoy technology, he suggested getting a cell phone app that also offered a year-long Bible reading program. He didn't want us to have any excuse for not having a schedule to follow so he also pointed us to an online reading program as well.
I don't know about the rest of the church family but I have found this discipline very challenging to keep up with the reading program. I find that I love it. I need self-discipline. And I'm finding unexpected blessings from doing it. I'm seeing God's story in a new way. I'm being taken deeper into knowing who He is. Wow. There is no god like our God. No one.
I have not only been spiritually challenged by keeping up with the program, but God is inspiring me to write more devotions for my third book, Totally Devoted 3, from the Old Testament!  As I'm reading the first few books of the Old Testament I keep observing that the people are so easily decieved and readily fall away from God. I'm seeing in a new way how awful it is that humans have the strong tendency to worship everything that isn't God. Somehow we take all the beauty that God has created and pervert it. We --our own hearts--choose to pervert it. They did in the Old Testament and we do today, too. Ok, maybe it's just me. But I can see it. God wants me to see this.
For example: The Garden of Eden was an actual glorious paradise of trees, flowering plants, lucious fruit trees, birds, fish, livestock, and wild animals (Genesis 1: 12, 20, 24). Then God created man in His image and gave him the privilege to name and rule over the created beings (Genesis 2:19). And then He blessed Adam with Eve, his wife. (Genesis 2:15, 21, 22). All that beauty, all that freedom, all that peace -- and only one rule: God told Adam not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for they would die. (Genesis 2:17). Well if you know this story, they ate the forbidden fruit and paradise was lost. Eve was decieved by the devil that she could become like God (Genesis 3:4) and Adam fell into sin with her. Why do we give into temptation so quickly?
Because "The heart is deceitful above all things..." (Jeremiah 17:9). Eve wanted to be like God. It's pride. It's so destructive because it's totally self-centered thinking. The Garden of Eden was a perfect place to live. It was ruined by a deceitful heart.
When the Moses led the Israelites to freedom from torture and slavery in Egypt, they fussed and whined during their passage to a land flowing with milk and honey! Imagine. God led them with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. (Exodus 13:21). On their 40-year journey the Israelites saw God create miracles through His servant Moses with all the plagues upon the Egyptians and then the crossing of the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:21); generously providing the perfect food for their journey,  and even their clothes never wore out! How is that possible that all these spectacular things happened? God. And yet they decided to create a golden calf to worship and said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." (Exodus 32:8). God is always faithful to His promises of provision and protection toward His people and yet we, yes, we even today, look to other gods to worship! Why? We were created by God to be worshippers. WE were created to be HIS worshippers,  but our hearts easily turn away and throughout Scripture He warns His people to keep His commandments and to "Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:23)
Repeatedly, throughout history, sins unashamedly rose up in people's hearts instead of the the outpouring of love and worship of God. In Genesis 6:11 Our long-suffering God had enough rebellion and planned a devastating flood that would cover the earth. "Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways."  Noah and his family had favor with God because of Noah's righteousness. He and his family were the only people who were not destroyed because God instructed Noah to build an ark that would save them. Just like those people who mocked Noah for his obedience in building a massive boat on dry ground, we choose not to believe God at times. Our hearts don't want to.
While we are still living on earth we will continue to have the battles of the heart. God wants our hearts to love and worship Him. The world calls us to worship of things of  that can be stolen, or will eventually rust or rot. Material things of this world cannot last but we seem to like to run after them. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23).
There is a way to improve this heart condition of destructive pride.  A healthy heart is a humble heart that lifts up the name of Jesus with great love and joy. A healthy heart is a Christ-centered heart instead of a self-centered heart.   A humble heart is a heart that fully trusts God and finds rest and peace in trusting Him. "A heart at peace gives life to the body." (Proverbs 14:30)
There is great freedom in having a humble heart. All the burdens are given to the Savior  when we "cast all your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall." (Psalm 55:22).
God hears and answers the prayers of His people. "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me." (Psalm 51:10-12). God is a Redeemer and a Restorer. He changes hearts. He wants our hearts to shine for His glory.
God made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6)
For HIS glory,
Copyright 2013 Totally Devoted 3 by Polly Balint