The world is not enough

You only have one heart, figuratively and literally. Have you ever seen those cheesy romantic movies where some guy or some girl tells their significant other that they couldn’t fall in love with anyone else because they already gave their heart away? There you go.

When you give your heart to someone, it’s not really easy to take it back. So you have to be careful who you give your heart to. And, no, I’m not going to talk about romance and love or whatever this morning. Giving your heart to someone has a lot more to do than being romantically involved.

In Western culture, the seat of the emotions is in the heart. We talk about our heart being broken. We talk about putting our whole heart into something. We talk about wishing with all our heart. What we mean when we say that is that we put our whole self into something.

In other countries, the seat of the emotion is in other vital parts of anatomy. It’s not the heart, but the concept is the same.

There’s only one you. So be careful who you give yourself away to.

I thought about this when I read todays verse, 1 John 2:15-16.

 15 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. 16 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.

You can’t give your heart away to God and to the world at the same time. It doesn’t work because the two are diametrically opposed. What the world wants from you will hurt you and leave you broken and empty and unsatisfied. But what God wants for you is truly in your best interest — though our own pride and vanity convinces us that He’s just out to spoil our fun.

You can only do one or the other. And if you choose to give your heart to the world, you will learn sooner or later that it can’t provide you with the things you need. Maybe it will give you everything you want at first, but eventually you’ll understand that it demands from you more than you can give. And what it takes from you is unequal to what you invest.

I guess I’m being metaphorical this morning. My coffee isn’t working yet.

When I say the world, I’m not talking about people. I’m talking about the base conditions of life that our world exists in. Drinking to get drunk. Having sex with anyone and everyone. Pornography. Anxiety. Gluttony. Laziness. Selfishness. Pride. If you give yourself over to behavior like that, it will seem fun at first but eventually it will come back and destroy you. Because, as James Bond’s family motto says, “Orbis non sufficit“: The world is not enough.

The world takes all your energy and your passion and your good intentions and drains you dry. And maybe at the beginning you will experience the physical pleasure you were seeking, but eventually that’s going to fade and you’ll be left with nothing but a craving for something you can no longer feel. The world makes you a bottomless pit, you want everything but nothing makes you happy.

Does anyone want a life like that?

I don’t.

I chose a long time go to give my heart to God because all He asks from us is faith — and even on the days when faith feels impossible He doesn’t leave us. And while giving your heart to God may not feel good or may cause you to make decisions sometimes that hurt, the end result is satisfying. Because you’ve invested yourself in something that is truly making a difference.

So if you’ve given your heart to the world, can you give it to God? Of course. But it can’t be a half-hearted attempt.  You only have one heart. And tearing it in two pieces never works, either figuratively or literally. And even if you’re in pieces when you give yourself to God, He still wants you. He works better with broken pieces anyway.

Am I talking about trusting in Christ? Sure. But this is a problem that Christians have. They choose to believe that Jesus saved them, but they leave their heart with the world. It shouldn’t be that way.

So check your motivation. I am. I only have one heart and I want to make sure I give it to the right person because taking it back hurts more than just me.

The heart determines your actions, not the other way around

Today’s verse is 2 Corinthians 7:1.

1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

As I was reading this, first I wanted to know what promises Paul was referring to. So I flipped back to the previous chapter. And basically, what that seems to be referring to is a section of Scripture Paul quotes from some different areas of the Old Testament: Leviticus 26:12; Ezekiel 37:27; Isaiah 52:11; and 2 Samuel 7:14.

 “I will live in them
      and walk among them.
   I will be their God,
      and they will be my people.[e]
 17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
      and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.
   Don’t touch their filthy things,
      and I will welcome you.[f]
 18 And I will be your Father,
      and you will be my sons and daughters,
      says the Lord Almighty.[g]

God is telling the people of Israel to stay away from the darkness of the world and that if they will do that, they will be His children. His people. So the promise is if we will abandon the things of the world–the things that defile our body and our spirit–God will welcome us as His children. And according to 2 Corinthians 7:1, we should do this because we fear God. (This instance of the word fear is more like reverence or awe instead of terror.)

So the next question I have is what defiles us?

I’m sure people can come up with all sorts of lists. Getting drunk. Pornography. Drugs. Sexual sin. Anything the world is into can probably be listed as something that will defile a person’s body or spirit.

Right?

Well, all of those things are bad. And in excess they’re worse. But there is no physical thing on Earth that can actually defile our spirit. Granted, those things aren’t very good for our bodies either, but if you ask me, the spirit is the part I’m most concerned about.

So what defiles a spirit if it’s not drugs or sex or alcohol? Jesus already gave us the answer in Matthew 15:11.

11 It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”

This is another area where Christians get caught up in, I think. Religion usually is able to get a foothold in our lives in this area because we buy into the lies that doing something or saying something or taking something will defile us. But that’s not true. It’s the condition of the heart that will defile a person. I’m going to go ahead and put the whole section of this interaction up because I think it’s so revealing:

Matthew 15:1-20

1 Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, 2“Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”

 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? 4 For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[a] and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 6 In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents.[c] And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

 8 ‘These people honor me with their lips,
      but their hearts are far from me.
    9 Their worship is a farce,
      for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’[d]

 10 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 11It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”

 12Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”

 13 Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, 14so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”

 15Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”

 16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

See what I mean? The Pharisees were throwing this big fit because the Disciples hadn’t washed their hands before they ate (it was a big ceremonial deal apparently), and Jesus pointed out to them that even though they were extraordinarily strict about keeping the laws, they didn’t understand why the laws are important.

So because I fear God and because I believe in the promises He made, I want to get as far away from what will defile me as possible–namely, a proud and unyielding heart that wants its way and refuses to listen to God.

God gave me a new heart when I chose to accept Christ, but my old nature still holds on. And I struggle with it every day. I’m still a work in progress. God is still working on me, helping me get through each day, learning more about Him and His mercies, and one day I won’t have to struggle with it anymore.

But until then, I want to have a pure heart. Because if your heart is pure, your actions will be too.

Judging

Christians are really good at judging people, which is pretty incredible because that’s not something we’re even capable of doing. It seems easy to look at someone who is doing something we don’t agree with and to levy judgment against them simply for the reason that we don’t like their actions. But there’s a big difference between disliking someone’s actions and judging them as a person.

I find it interesting that many people who say they follow Christ think it’s their mission in life to judge other people, whether they’re making the right choices or not, whether they’re living their lives the right way or not. They say they follow Christ when they do this, but we don’t have a record of Jesus judging anybody. Because that’s not why He came. Jesus came to save people, not condemn them.

The verse today comes from John 3:17.

17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

 Christ was here on a rescue mission.

So where do Christians get the idea that we’re supposed to walk around telling people what they’re doing wrong and how that affects their worth as a person?

Now. I should probably clarify what judging actually means. Judging is passing sentence on a person’s heart based on what their actions.  And if you think about it, that’s all a judge in a court room does. Based on the evidence of a person’s actions or behavior, a judge makes a ruling on whether a person meant to break the law or not . . . and whether he’s sorry about it or not.

Judging is about us determining someone else’s motivation. And that is impossible for us to do. We can’t know someone else’s heart, their reason for doing the things they do, their motivation for living life. That is hidden to us. All we can see is the results of their motivation.

Now . . . can we judge actions? Yes. If you believe the Bible, you believe in right and wrong. Stealing is wrong. Lying is wrong. Adultery is wrong. Homosexuality is wrong. Being jealous is wrong. Disobeying parents is wrong. But stating those facts isn’t being judgmental. That is what the Bible says. Many times. Over and over. The Bible declares that these things are sin. And in the same breath, the Bible turns around and says that all of us are sinners. One sin isn’t worse than another sin. So how can one sinner turn to another sinner and declare himself worth more or less? We can’t. Only God can determine the worth of a soul, and we already know the price He paid for us — His Son.

Now . . . is it wrong to call another Christian on their crap? No. If you know a Christian — someone who professes to follow Christ — and they are living a life that is obviously against God, you as a Christian have a responsibility to step up and talk to them. Christians, we’re family. We are supposed to keep each other honest. We’re supposed to keep each other accountable. And while we can’t see someone’s heart, we can see their actions, and a Christian’s actions should look different than someone who isn’t a Christian. Again, calling another Christian out on repetitive, obvious sin isn’t judging; it’s being obediant to Scripture.

Now . . . is it wrong to see someone sinning and immediately decide that they are not a follower of Christ? Yes.

Is it wrong to speak ill of a person as though you understand their heart and their motivation? Yes.

Is it wrong to see a person’s actions and decide that they aren’t worthy of God? Yes.

Many of us would say we’ve never done those things, but if we say that we’re lying. We do it all the time, whether we mean to or not. Yes, we can see someone’s actions and deem whether or not they are wrong by using the Bible as our moral/ethical compass. But to decide whether or not that person is worthy of being loved? To decide whether or not that person is worthy of being prayed for? To decide whether or not that person is “good” or “bad” person? Wow. Where do we get such egotistical ideas? There’s nobody good. There’s nobody worthy of being loved. Not even us.

So the next time you see someone sinning — whether it’s a little bitty sin or a great big sin — try to remember that while we can judge whether the sin is right or not, the sinner belongs to God. God has already judged. The law already declares us lost. Jesus came to rescue us. And it’s up to us to decide whether or not we want to be saved. And if Christ didn’t come to judge people, why do we think we need to?