How Jesus Sees

Recently I was reading Prov. 15:30 and it led to some reflection on how seeing depends on looking. While that is obvious on the surface it does go deeper.

The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, And a good report makes the bones healthy. Proverbs 15:30 NKJV

What we see can lead to sadness, joy, indifference – a whole range of emotions. We can see the same things and draw different conclusions. The verses below are taken from the story of Jesus ministering to the Samaritan woman in John 4.

34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” John 4:34-35 NKJV

Jesus was clearly referencing a spiritual rather than a natural harvest but His point related to how we see. Jesus experienced joy in seeing the Samaritan woman coming to the well because He saw someone coming to encounter salvation. At this point His followers saw Samaritans as sinners from a despised race that they didn’t want to interact with. Jesus had been resting by the well while the disciples went off to buy lunch. The woman was gone when they returned but she returned with a crowd. Prior to the crowd showing up Jesus had sought to redirect their attention from seeing Samaritans to seeing a harvest for the gospel.

Jesus point is that we can see differently and in many ways what we see depends not just on the eyes we look through but on how our hearts are guiding our eyes. Look at Jesus comments below.

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure [g]of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. Matthew 12:33-35 NKJV

Implicit in Jesus comments is the idea that we are responsible for our heart condition that affects our seeing. So let’s pray that we will see as Jesus would have us see. That in an individual or a crowd we can look beneath the surface and see people who need ministry and a harvest for His kingdom.

The Blood of Jesus

Over the years I have heard many fanciful ideas about the power of the blood of Jesus, including the exhortation to ‘plead the blood of Jesus’ over situations. I suspect many of you have as well. So let’s go to the source and see what the scriptures say about the efficacy of Jesus blood and how it applies to our lives. The concept is introduced in the Old Testament where the blood of the lamb protects the Israelites from the death of their firstborn sons.

13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. Exodus 12:13 (NKJV)

23 For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. Exodus 12:23 (NKJV)

 The blood of the Passover lamb looks forward to Jesus sacrifice as the true Lamb of God. The fulfillment is seen in what the New Testament records.

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 (NKJV)

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 1 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,

And to open its seals;

For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

10         And have made us kings and priests to our God;

And we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:8–10 (NKJV)

There are a few things here. Jesus was the fulfillment of what every Passover lamb pointed to, a final sacrifice that would take away the sins of the world by paying the price for them. We also see that Jesus was sacrificed for His people, those who would believe in His sacrifice. The result of His redemptive sacrifice is that His people have been made kings and priests and shall ultimately reign on the earth. These are things that the blood of Jesus has accomplished, and will accomplish.

Let us now look at our present day application. We know Jesus shed blood paid the price for our sins, past present and future. Jesus shedding His blood on the cross inaugurated and sealed a new covenant. We can see the benefits in how Jesus shed blood takes away our sins and in the reality of an everlasting covenant. That is, Jesus blood is eternally effective.  

20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. Luke 22:20 (NKJV)

20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Hebrews 13:20 (NKJV)

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:7–10 (NKJV)

We can see that we are called to walk in fellowship, in community with others. In this context we experience the reality of the ongoing effectiveness of Jesus shed blood. We are cleansed from sin and can walk uprightly before Him. We need to confess any ongoing sin and seek His forgiveness, which He gives. John is pointing out that Jesus sacrifice is effective and that we are called to walk together. So, here is a simple prayer I have prayed for myself and others for many years that highlights what Jesus blood has accomplished. No pleading required, just simple faith.     

“Father, I thank You that we are bound to You by the covenant made in Jesus’ blood. I thank You that His blood is continually protecting us and cleansing us from all sin as we walk in the light of Your presence.”

Lessons from History

Most generations believe they are living in a unique time in history, and they are, for them. We are currently in a disruptive time in our culture. Yet as someone pointed out recently in a podcast, the unrest in the late 1960’s was more tumultuous than what happened in the US in 2020. That aside, it is important that we have a proper view of history and scripture provides an exhortation for us regarding how we are to view history. In recounting some of Israel’s history Paul draws the following conclusion.

11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV)

Paul’s exhortation is neither that we long for or seek to erase history. His focus is on us learning from what happened. History is an anchor point, not as something to long to go back to but as a foundation to move forward. Good or bad, if we learn the lessons of history they become stepping stones to make our move forward easier.

At the bottom are two pictures of paths on a trail I recently hiked in the mountains. People who went before me did a lot of work that made my hike easier. In one case trees and shrubs were removed. In the other heavy rocks were hauled. I have bushwhacked in the mountains and it is not easy hiking while trying to make a trail in heavy bush. I could have ignored these trails and tried to make my own but that would have made for a far more difficult hike.

What these trails represent is a history in the area. In our culture we have a history. I have often said over the years that we can’t change the past but we can change how we view it so that it the impact of our past, our history, has a different effect on our present and future. Whether our failures or accomplishments to walk in what He has called us to our call is to embrace the lessons and leave the past in the past as we press on following Jesus. Paul put it this way.

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12–14 (NKJV)

So, in our current culture wars we can look to history and how the church has continued to move forward in spite of the shifting attitudes of culture. We can look at how the church has continued when it has focused on Jesus calling to be the church and live lives of faith and integrity no matter what happens around us. We can continue to use the freedom we have to promote truth and righteousness while much of our culture rushes headlong into madness. We can stay on established paths and call others to join us as we walk. We can be confident that the One who has begun a good work in us will continue it if we continue to follow Him (Phil. 1:6, Col. 1:27-29).  

The Same Mind in the Lord

Currently we have a lot of conflict in our world and differing views over a lot of subjects. In the last year we have had riots, marches, protests and ongoing online battles on social media. There is a good deal of discussion of ‘polarization.’ Mores so in the US than in Canada. So, let’s take a look at how we see others.

Some of you may recognize that the title is a quote from a portion of Philippians 4:2. We know from what Paul wrote that there was some disagreement between Euodia and Syntyche (any of you have friends or children with these names?). We also know from 4:3 that these two women were co-labourers with Paul in spreading the gospel.

We learn from these two verses that people who are serious about the gospel can have conflict. We also have a record in Acts of conflict between Paul and Barnabas that led to their separation after they had been friends who journeyed together and taught together (Acts 15:36-40). What I want to address here is what we do with conflict. Howver, I am not going over the process Jesus presented to us in Matthew 18. Instead I want to look at our perceptions.

Our first impulse in addressing conflict seems to be determining who was right and who was wrong. However, that is not the most important piece. In fact, there may not be a right and wrong on some issues. We don’t know what the disagreement was between Euodia and Syntyche or whether it was resolved. We know that while Paul and Barnabas had a significant disagreement over John Mark, later Paul was working with the one he rejected.   

10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), Colossians 4:10 (NKJV)

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. Philemon 1:23-24 (NKJV)

In addition to traveling with Barnabas and Paul, is believed to have also spent time with Peter in Rome where he wrote down the Gospel of Mark. A record of what was passed on to him by Peter.

Paul being reconciled to Mark does not however tell us whether Paul or Barnabas was right. It does tell us that the Lord brought something good out of the conflict and there was a later reconciliation. What we need to do in our relationships is draw on His grace to walk in wisdom. We may understand scripture passages differently. We may be Calvinists and have friends who are Arminians – two conflicting theological positions. Yet if we embrace something else Paul taught, we can walk in love and fruitfulness in the midst of differing theological positions. After all, scripture exhorts us to a unity of faith and Jesus prayed for this unity. Not a unity of dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s of our theological positions, but a unity of the Spirit.

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. John 17:20-23 (NKJV)

1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NKJV)

We do well to consider that many conflicts may be less a matter of right and wrong and more the inevitable outcome of fallen people living in a fallen world. People have different perceptions of the same event. At times someone is clearly wrong in their behaviour but having been involved in doing mediations for decades I could tell many stories. I have seen people who didn’t want to be in the same room together suddenly have their conflict evaporate when I got them to listen to one another. I have seen people suing one another riding home in the same vehicle after a mediation. I have seen someone who was the aggrieved party offering to help organize the wedding of the person they were suing.

My point, instead of looking through a lens of right and wrong I recommend we put on our 1 Corinthians 13 glasses and take our first look through the eyes of grace filled love that,

7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NKJV)   

We may find that we simply see things differently and can learn from one another – through grace filled love.

This World is not my Home

This is a line from an old hymn and it was a popular idea in the church for a long time. A related popular expression is that we are to be ‘in the world but not of it.’ Regardless of what we think it is important to see what the scriptures have to say regarding the issue so we can respond with a right heart.

Jesus did say clearly that His kingdom was not of this world

36  Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” John 18:36 (NKJV)

Note that Jesus spoke this prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. After His resurrection in The Great Commission, He spoke differently.

18  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

Here Jesus directs us to go under His authority to extend His kingdom in the earth. He wants us to contend for what He achieved through His sacrifice for us. I raise this issue because for much of the 20th Century the dominant theology in much of the evangelical community was the idea that things would get worse and worse for the church. Jesus would then come and rescue a weakened persecuted church from the ravages of the world |(the pretribulation rapture) and punish the evildoers while the church watched from heaven.

Aside from the above seeming to be a rather ‘unkind’ theology, I personally have never been able to find it in scripture and it seems to be at odds with The Great Commission. In fact, Jesus told us something else as well, a sign of His return.

14  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (NKJV)

Whatever our ideas are, Jesus seems to have the idea that the gospel is to spread to all nations all over the earth. While His kingdom is not ‘of’ this world it is designed to spread in the world and influence culture prior to His return. I do not have all of my end time theology settled. What I do have settled is that I need to heed Jesus over popular theology and do my part to live in and out of His kingdom while I am here and able. After all, when the end does come He is not taking us out of the world, He is bringing the fullness of His kingdom to this world, a renewed earth. The world will be our home.

1  Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:1-2 (NKJV)

Dealing with Dichotomy

In recent months I was listening to an interview on the radio. The host was interviewing a professor and researcher about mindfulness. The professor was lamenting how the practice of mindfulness had been commercialized. An example he gave was Google programming staff being trained in mindfulness so they could be more focused in their jobs. OF course the obvious irony here is that much of what they were doing was creating ads and programs to distract others! Quite the dichotomy.

In Hebrews we have an apparent dichotomy. From the end of chapter 3 to the end of 4 the focus is on entering the rest of the Lord. Here is a brief excerpt.

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:8-11 (NKJV)

Verse 11 is where our dichotomy shows up, being diligent to enter rest. The English Standard Version says, “strive to enter that rest.” No matter how the Greek word is translated into English, the point being made is that entering rest takes effort. Our task is understanding the effort required to enter rest.

Prior to the above verses the writer of Hebrews referenced what happened to the children of Israel in the wilderness with his primary point being that they failed to enter into rest due to disobedience and rebellion. His point being that they failed to trust God. We become His house and enter His rest not by accomplishing some work but by trusting in what Jesus has accomplished. Here is how the writer of Hebrews put it.

4 For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. 5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, 6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. Hebrews 3:4-6 (NKJV)

The diligence or effort required of us to enter His rest is retaining our confidence in Jesus and His finished work. In many ways the book of Hebrews carries the same message Paul presented in Galatians. A need to trust Jesus and not turn back to the works of the law for salvation. We cannot earn our salvation. We can trust in what Jesus has accomplished, maintain our focus there, and then have what it says in Hebrews. Free unfettered access to the throne of grace. 

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV)

So let’s focus or efforts on trusting what Jesus has already accomplished and live in and from that place of rest before the throne of grace.

The Illusion of Control

For anyone who has seen the movie A Few Good Men the classic climatic scene comes in the courtroom when Jack Nicholson, as Colonel Jessep, takes great exception to being challenged by the young lawyer and believing himself to be in charge begins to self destruct with the now famous line, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” The line has been repeated over and over because of what it conveys. Yet in the movie Jessep displays confusion when he is arrested after his speech. He stills saw himself as the one in charge, when in fact that ship sailed the moment he launched into his angry tirade and heated confession. It was the military judge, not Colonel Jessep, who was in charge, he simply failed to recognize that fact. The truth was something Colonel Jessep himself could not handle.  

We now switch to another courtroom scene with the illusion of control. Our court scene plays out in Acts 4. Peter and John are arrested and then brought before the religious court. They are challenged to give an account.

7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Acts 4:7 (NKJV)

The religious leaders recognized what had been done by Peter and John but they didn’t like the implications so tried to suppress any further acts. They saw the source as Peter and John rather than the God they claimed to serve. Here they had convened a court to judge Peter and John, believing they were in control and exercising the authority given them by God. In fact they lost that authority when they sat and condemned Jesus and now refused to recognize the hand of God in their midst. They acknowledged the miracle, yet because they recognized that it threatened their idea of control, they tried to suppress anything further. Like Colonel Jessep, they could not handle the truth.

15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” Acts 4:15-17 (NKJV)

Clinging to the illusion of still being in charge, they commanded nothing more be done in Jesus’ name. Peter and John rightly rejected their command because they had no illusions. They knew who Jesus was and that He was in control.

            18 And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed. Acts 4:18-22 (NKJV)

The religious leaders recognized their lack of power in practice but refused to let go of their belief they were the decision makers in spite of evidence to the contrary. Their focus was on political expediency not truth and justice. However, God is always concerned with truth and justice. As a result He is faithful and consistent, and what took place through Peter and John was simply a demonstration of His continued faithfulness. So, if we ever wonder who is really in charge we only need to look to Jesus and submit to His authority. We can then let go of any illusions of control by ourselves or others and rest confidently in His faithfulness.

Love Acts

‘Love.’ We use the word a lot. I think it is important to look at love in the context of how Jesus framed it in connection to obedience and abiding in Him. Much has been written on the lack of distinction between Christians and others in the surrounding culture in our time. This highlights the importance of how we live before others as a follower of Jesus. So, let’s take a look at what how scripture calls us to live from what John has written.

In chapter 15 John records Jesus exhorting us to abide in Him if we are to be fruitful.  

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Clearly to be fruitful we need to abide in Jesus so we need to examine what it means to abide.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

Jesus says we abide in Him by keeping His commandments, and that as we do we will find ourselves resting in His love for us. Jesus makes an important connection between love and obedience. Jesus said His abiding in the Father’s love was an outcome of Him keeping His Father’s commands. Now, lest you think this will move us to legalism, it isn’t a salvation issue, it is a love issue. Jesus is telling us that to abide in His love we need to be obedient.  

Jesus call to obey His commandments is not a call to the Mosaic Law. It is a call to action.

12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

Love in these verses is agape, a sacrificial benevolent love. Jesus said we are to lay down our lives for our friends and that if we obey His commands, we are His friend. We can interpret the laying down of our lives as dying for someone else but as Paul put it elsewhere, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). This is a better application. We love others as we live for others and seek to serve them out of that love. That is how Paul died daily. So, let’s follow Jesus and Paul, laying down our lives in love so that the world may know who we are, friends of Jesus!

Martha, Martha

Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus are famous in the church for their interactions with Jesus. Martha is famous for serving and being rebuked by Jesus for making the wrong choice of serving instead of listening, while Mary is famous for the good choice of sitting at Jesus feet and listening (Luke 10:38-42). At issue here is whether a single interaction should define our legacy and the need for a deeper look at Martha and her heart. After all, I suspect that most of us would not want our life defined by one mistake we made.

We are told to not judge a book by the cover yet for most of us Martha being rebuked by Jesus is the cover of her book! Aside from this interaction in Luke 10 it is helpful to see what else scripture tells us about Martha. To attempt to discern her heart based on what scripture reveals. let’s leave Mary out of the picture and focus in on Martha. We have the following interaction just prior to Jesus raising Lazarus.

20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:20–27 (NKJV)

We learn from Martha’s interaction with Jesus that she had faith in Jesus ability to heal and that she recognized Jesus as the long awaited Messiah (the terms Christ and Messiah are interchangeable and both mean The Anointed One). Martha was confident in who Jesus was and trusted Him. We next see Martha after Lazarus has been raised.

1Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. John 12:1–2 (NKJV)

Martha had a heart to serve and she clearly loved and honoured Jesus. It is significant as this meal takes place at the home of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6-7, Mark 14:3). We can safely assume Simon had been healed as a leper would not be hosting a meal in his house. Thus we know that Martha is serving in the home of someone else. This time we have no record of any rebuke by Jesus and Martha is not contrasted with Mary who extravagantly pours perfume on Jesus. She is merely noted as one who has a servant’s heart.

A last look at Martha through the eyes of scripture. I doubt this short verse spring to mind when we think of Martha but there it is recorded in scripture for all to see.

5Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. John 11:5 NKJV

Knowing that Jesus loved Martha I think there are two primary lessons we can draw from what we know about Martha. First, serving Jesus and others is good thing. After all there are numerous calls to service in the scriptures. Micah 6:8, said to be a summary statement of the Law, it is a call to justice, mercy and a humble walk with God. A call to service. The second lesson is that serving when we should be sitting at His feet is the wrong choice just as sitting in contemplation when He is calling us to action is also a bad thing. Let us embrace serving and sitting, seeking Jesus heart and the wisdom to know when to serve and when to sit at His feet.

An Engaged Heart

If we have been in the church for any time at all we have probably heard about the wickedness of our hearts, often in reference to Christians. It is generally some version of these verses from Jeremiah.

9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:9–10 (NKJV)

When we read a message in scripture proper exegesis is required. We look at who it was written to and the context and culture. In this case Jeremiah was speaking to his fellow Israelites and confronting their idolatry and failure to trust Yahweh. What Jeremiah spoke was true, in the context in which he spoke it. For our situations we need one of those maps that says, ‘You are here.’ I do a lot of hiking and the national parks have small maps in the backcountry but they are of little help if that little dot that locates your position relative to the rest of the map is not there.

For our spiritual walk we need that dot on the map of our journey with Jesus. To that end let us look at what the scriptures tell us about our hearts and where we are. We will start with what Jesus had to say.

43 “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:43–45 (NKJV)

Notice here that Jesus was addressing people who had not been born again by the Spirit. Yet He stated that people could bring forth either good or evil from their hearts. His point was that what was dominant in our hearts is what would come out of our mouths and be reflected in our lives. So those who were not born again but were committed to the Lord could bring good things out of their hearts. Our next step is looking at the hearts of those who have been born again. Here is some of what Peter and Paul had to say about our hearts at conversion.

And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Acts 15:7-9 (NKJV)

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NKJV)

At conversion our hearts encountered Jesus as we were born again and our hearts were purified and made new. Paul did warn about the dangers about what we could fall back into if we did not guard our hearts (see also Proverbs 4:23).

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Ephesians 4:17–19 (NKJV)

While Paul presented this as the way in which unbelievers in general lived, and warned that Christians could fall to this, his regular practice focused more on encouragement and how to walk with Jesus. One of the more practical teachings Paul gave to keep our hearts anchored in Jesus is in Colossians.

14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:14–17 (NKJV)

Paul informs us that if we choose to walk in Jesus love and engage in a lifestyle of worship and encouragement we can learn to live out of hearts that are at rest in His shalom. This creates a continuous circle of looking to His peace, leaning into it, our hearts being full and overflowing with worship, then leaning into His peace and so on. So let us live lifestyles of worship and intimacy that out of the abundance of our hearts others will encounter Jesus.